What I Have Learned From Joining The Clay Target Team

What I Have Learned From Joining The Clay Target Team

You don’t have to be a redneck to shoot.

As I stumbled into Norris Hall one September afternoon, I scanned around for anyone that looked like they were just as lost or confused as I was. Days earlier, I had given my email to a very energetic president of the Virginia Tech Clay Target team and awaited the first meeting. I had no idea what to expect, picturing people adorned with camouflage, southern accents as heavy as syrup, and people only described as “agrarian”. When I crammed myself into a hot welding room, some people spoke, words that only blurred together from the summer heat. On the first day of practice, I mounted my gun confidently, yet quizzically, and fired at the soaring bird. Bang! I shattered the first bird. With a stupid grin and overconfident attitude, I thought, “Well fuck, this is pretty fun", and proceeded to miss almost every bird after that.

I never imagined that I would join the shooting team. As a runner and swimmer for pretty much my entire life, I imagined myself pursuing that in college. I once trained and even dreamed of swimming competitively in college; now, the thought makes me nauseous. As a lover of change, I wanted a change of pace; I wanted to try something new, exciting, and even daunting. When I heard about the Clay Target team at Hokie Focus, my interest peaked and my thoughts quickened. I had been shooting pistols for 5 years and thought that it would be an EASY transition (boy was I wrong). As the end of my freshman year and the shooting season comes to a close, I can’t help but ponder how much I have changed in such a short time, how much has happened in such a short time, how much I have learned in such a short time. I can’t help but say that the team has made the largest impact on my college experience thus far.

You don’t have to be a redneck to shoot. People of all walks of life, class, age, gender, and ability can and do shoot, even a little Fashion major like me. Not only have I learned how to obviously shoot a shotgun (quite an improvement from my first practice), but also, I have learned how to be a part of something bigger than myself, a team for lack of a better word. I have never felt that with any other sport, any other club or organization, or any other extended group of people. I constantly felt that I was just an outsider in something, but never a cog, working collectively together. They have taught me how to encourage others and constructively help someone without bringing them down. They have taught me that everyone, man or woman, has the same capability and potential as anyone else.They have brought me into this quirky little family and taught me that family doesn’t have to be blood, truly. They have taught me to empathize, to be compassionate, to open myself up and really form a connection with someone. I came into college, never believing that this is where I would make life-long friends. I learned that everything I came to Tech thinking was bullshit. I was so closed minded to enjoying the college experience, really hesitant to be a part of any Kum Ba Yah moment. Now, I can’t picture it any other way, with my fucked up, crazy, little family.

Thanks guys.

Cover Image Credit: Rachel Kiser

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To The Coach Who Ruined The Game For Me

We can't blame you completely, but no one has ever stood up to you before.

I know you never gave it a second thought, the idea that you're the reason I and many others, never went any farther in our athletic careers.

I know you didn’t sincerely care about our mental health, as long as we were physically healthy and our bodies were working enough to play. It’s obvious your calling wasn’t coaching and you weren’t meant to work with young adults, some who look to you as a parent figure or a confidant.

I also know that if we were to express our concerns about the empty feeling we began to feel when we stepped onto the court, you wouldn’t have taken the conversation seriously because it wasn’t your problem.

I know we can't blame you completely, no one has ever stood up to you before. No one said anything when girls would spend their time in the locker room crying because of something that was said or when half the team considered quitting because it was just too much.

We can't get mad at the obvious favoritism because that’s how sports are played.

Politics plays a huge role and if you want playing time, you have to know who to befriend. We CAN get mad at the obvious mistreatment, the empty threats, the verbal abuse, “it's not what you say, its how you say it.”

We can get mad because a sport that we loved so deeply and had such passion for, was taken away from us single-handedly by an adult who does not care. I know a paycheck meant more to you than our wellbeing, and I know in a few years you probably won’t even remember who we are, but we will always remember.

We will remember how excited we used to get on game days and how passionate we were when we played. How we wanted to continue on with our athletic careers to the next level when playing was actually fun. We will also always remember the sly remarks, the obvious dislike from the one person who was supposed to support and encourage us.

We will always remember the day things began to change and our love for the game started to fade.

I hope that one day, for the sake of the young athletes who still have a passion for what they do, you change.

I hope those same athletes walk into practice excited for the day, to get better and improve, instead of walking in with anxiety and worrying about how much trouble they would get into that day. I hope those athletes play their game and don’t hold back when doing it, instead of playing safe, too afraid to get pulled and benched the rest of the season.

I hope they form an incredible bond with you, the kind of bond they tell their future children about, “That’s the coach who made a difference for me when I was growing up, she’s the reason I continued to play.”

I don’t blame you for everything that happened, we all made choices. I just hope that one day, you realize that what you're doing isn’t working. I hope you realize that before any more athletes get to the point of hating the game they once loved.

To the coach that ruined the game for me, I hope you change.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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5 Places In Madison, WI For The 'Outdoorsy Type'

If you love spending time outside, this one is for you!


I have always been an avid fan of the outdoors. From camping, to hiking, to canoeing, I love it all! In an effort to get to know my new home of Madison, WI a little bit better I decided to compile a list of some great places to check out around the city if you're one who enjoys time outside. I asked several of my floormates, friends, and classmates what some of their favorite outdoor destinations around Madison are. I combined these answers with a few of my personal favorites and came up with what I think are 5 of the top outdoor spots to check out in Madison.

1.Picnic Point

On the far reaches of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve lie Picnic Point. UW students and community members alike flock to Picnic Point year round to enjoy an escape from bustling city life and a breath of fresh air.

2. Allen Centennial Garden

Located in the Lakeshore neighborhood of the UW campus, the Allen Centennial Garden is a beautiful spot to enjoy expertly crafted floral arrangements. The garden is open from 8AM-8PM Monday-Friday and is available to the public!

3. The Lakeshore Path

Running from the Memorial Union terrace all the way through the Eagle Heights neighborhood, the Lakeshore Path is an easy, and visually stunning way to get across campus. A walk, jog or bike along the path down the shores of Lake Mendota is guaranteed to put you in a great mood.

4. Lake Wingra

Lake Wingra is a bit further away from the UW campus than the other places that I've listed, but well worth the journey. It's beautiful shores provide a calming place to unwind and explore.

5. The Memorial Union Terrace

I would be remiss not to mention the famed Memorial Union Terrace. A shining landmark of Madison, the terrace is the perfect place to relax with friends and provides a beautiful view within the midst of the city.

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