The strength of any successful National Governing Body or any non-profit organization for that matter is directly proportionate to the strength of its volunteers. USA Shooting prospers and thrives as the result of the arduous work done by their volunteer base year after year.

Working daylight to dark these volunteers toil in relative obscurity to help ensure the success and ultimate survival of the competitive shooting sports. Without them, there are no Junior Olympic Shooting Championships, Olympic Trials, National Championships or World Cup events in our sport.

Attributing success to the annual Junior Olympic competition begins and ends with the commitment of a strong volunteer base. Volunteers that are eager to provide youth shooters the best conditions possible as they step onto the national stage, some for the first time and others as a stepping stone to bigger and better. Often times, their experiences with our sport are shaped by the way in which they’re treated by the staff and volunteers.

“We are extremely grateful for a passionate, loyal and hardworking volunteer base that helps bring USA Shooting events to the masses,” said Pete Carson, USA Shooting’s Director of Events. “The attitude and dedication they bring to every event creates an environment that promotes healthy competition under the safest and strictest of guidelines. We are what we are as an organization because all of them care so deeply about trying to make a difference.”

The NJOSC for rifle and pistol spans three weeks and requires over 30 volunteers to ensure it runs effectively and smoothly. Long-time Chief Range Officer Earl Litherland (St. Francisville, La.) has been present for every single one of them.

Like so many of USA Shooting’s supporters, Litherland’s volunteer roots began as a parent of a competitive rifle shooter as he was looking for a way to keep himself busy during matches. Eight-plus years later and working too many matches to count, Litherland’s passion remains true.

“Working the big matches, it’s an honor to work with international shooters and I’ve met friends from all over the world,” Litherland notes. “I enjoy the Junior Olympics most of all. Watching the kids that are soon leaving this match, I’ve watched them for eight years. Year after year you’re watching a whole new crop of shooters come through, so it makes it kind of exciting. Hopefully I’m going to be doing this for many years – I haven’t gotten burned out yet and I enjoy it!”

Distinguished NCAA Rifle coach Newt Engle (Mogadore, Ohio) takes a two-week vacation to volunteer 12-hour days looking after the well-being of kids and the sport he adores.

“It’s the excitement of the Junior Olympics, you can see the sparkle in their eyes, and think ‘I could be the next Olympian,'” said Engle, who has guided the Akron Zips rifle program for the past 35 years. “I wish I could remember what year it was, there was this 13-or 14-year old girl and I was running equipment check downstairs and there was a problem with the riser blocks on her rifle and I asked her if she was here with a coach and she said ‘No’ and started to puddle up a little and I said ‘No, no, no, don’t you cry because you’ll make me cry too and we can’t have that!’ so we got her rifle into compliance and she went up and shot well and that was the first time that I met Jamie (Beyerle) Gray so you can see from these little kids that come in…I call them little kids but they’re young adults, and they want it so bad and they train and train and train, and every now and then like with Jamie they see the golden ring and they grab it and it’s just fantastic, I haven’t found it any place else.”

For an extended interview about Engle and his passion for volunteering at NJOSC, click here.

Chief Volunteer in charge of it all is Gail Shetler who handles her duties as match director with a stern but loving demeanor that somehow manages to keep 500 athletes, parents and volunteers functional over a three-week period.

“I like to keep actively engaged and keep the mind engaged,” she said. “I enjoy the kids; I enjoy the parents; and I don’t have to take them home! But really, it’s just fun to see these kids succeed. If it wasn’t enjoyable, I wouldn’t do it. And by being a volunteer, if something else comes up, I don’t have to be here. I have that freedom and I like that freedom. I worked for over 30 years and I can afford to volunteer, but I have freedom and I love that.”

Asked what she likes most about the sport, Shetler asserts: “It’s an individual sport – you succeed or fail on your own. It’s not like a team sport where ‘Oh, you didn’t do your job, or they didn’t do their job,’ you have to take responsibility for what you do and I’m really into that. And then there’s the challenge of it. It’s fun to watch people perform in this sport. It can be like watching paint dry – lots of people say that – but you get to know the athletes, you see them succeed at things, and you get excited for them.”

The Olympic Shooting Center is a special place each and every April as the future of the shooting sports unites and bring with them the bright-eyed optimism and vigor of youth. Witness to it all are a team of volunteers anxious to shepherd those feelings into safe, quality performances and ensure a joyful journey in the world of competitive shooting. From the people you talk to and the time invested, it’s often difficult to distinguish who derives the most joy out of this shooting month – athlete or volunteer?

2013 NJOSC Volunteers

Gail Shetler – NJOSC Match Director

Earl Litherland – Chief Range Officer

Ronald Morales – Chief Range Officer

Newt Engle -Chief Range Officer

Charles Platt

Bryant & Morgan Wallizer

In Kim

Russ Doucette

Steve Faught

Eric Pueppke

Lones & Mary Kay Wigger

Dan Brown

James Vessels

Wanda Jewell

Bud Kucera

Jim Shaver

Jeff & Bill Lutz

Angela Avril

Joel Martin

Carla Kay Switzer

Richard McCunney

Bill Dutton

Kevin Winters

Bobbi Gillio

Ron & Sylvia Wyatt

James Vessels

Greg Shaner

Image courtesy USA Shooting

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