Ready, aim, fire!

Trap shooting thrives in rural Gowanda

Submitted Photo The Gowanda Panthers trap shooting team, part of the New York State High School Clay Target League, offers a unique sports experience that many other schools in the area cannot provide.

GOWANDA – Athletics have spurred students to do better, motivate them to attend class and gave an opportunity for scholarships and pursuing a post-secondary school degree. However, athletics have omitted some students that may not be a fan of soccer, football or even baseball.

In Gowanda, a rural village that brews outdoorsmen and women, Ryan Schwarzott has seen this underutilization of sport and found a way to get more unison for those who don’t like the tradition sports: trap shooting.

Schwarzott, a licensed hunter since the age of 12, noticed that the New York State High School Clay Target League started up three years ago and thought Gowanda could benefit by joining. This past spring, Schwarzott presented to the Gowanda Board of Education the need and want from students to have this unique sport.

The league began with only five teams and, Schwarzott said, it is growing from 19 teams in 2017 to almost 50 this upcoming season.

“That’s pretty huge,” Schwarzott said. “They doubled their growth in almost a year.”

The team will begin its first season with a meeting on April 7 and shoot twice a week, Tuesday night and Saturday morning (where the scoring will take place) at Evans Rod and Gun Club, 846 Cain Road, Angola.


“I sent a survey out a little while ago to all the students that already registered and out of all that who replied, which I think is 15, 100 percent of them said that this would be an incentive for them to do better in school,” Schwarzott said.

This was only the beginning of the benefits Schwarzott can list off. The addition of a trap shooting team helps incentivize athletic success with academic success.

Ron Wight is an assistant coach of Schwarzott and he has seen the direct impact it can make on a student in his home.

“It gives them an opportunity that is not traditional sports like my children; they don’t play baseball or football,” Wight said. “They hunt and fish, they’re outdoorsmen. This gives them an opportunity to further their experience.”

Gowanda is one of the first schools to create a team in the area. Some schools in the Erie County area joined as well including Eden, Lancaster, Holland, Perry, Warsaw and maybe Alden, Schwarzott said.

Also, shooting a gun doesn’t require a specific skill or asset one must possess. A boy or girl could thrive in the sport, even if they have a disability.

“What’s nice about this, too, is that it is a co-ed sport, it encompasses from middle school to high school,” Schwarzott said. “What’s awesome about it is that you can have a disability and be a full participant, even if you’re a person in a wheelchair and you had upper mobility and you are able to safely shoot a firearm – or with limited assistance because the league allows limited assistance – then you can be a full participant. Not many traditional sports allow that.”

Twitter: @Kuczkowski95