Friday, March 05, 2010

End of an Era: "Tsk Tsk"?

Here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, we have something like a half-dozen clubs and shooting ranges where you can go on almost any weekend of the month to shoot a Practical Pistol match.

One of the most innovative has been Douglas Ridge Rifle Club.

At DRRC, a small group of experienced IPSC/USPSA competitors decided to try something new: instead of joining in the list of clubs who provide monthly matches for other 'experienced competitors', why not establish a venue for "new shooters" to try the IPSC/USPSA competitive format?

If the shooters didn't like it, at least they knew WHY they didn't like it.

And if they discovered that they liked IPSC/USPSA competition, then they already had sufficient experience (and training) to segue neatly into the regular match schedules provided by other clubs?

It was a bold concept, but unfortunately -- like many other innovative concepts -- it was dependent upon the energy and efforts of a single "key man".

And almost inevitably, when the Key Man found that the effort required to continue the program could not be turned over to a successor, the concept foundered, withered, and eventually died.

Here is the letter announcing the death knell of A Good Idea, from that Key Man .... Paul:
6 years ago I started with an idea that we should provide new shooters with an opportunity to try our shooting game in a setting more relaxed and with less pressure than a regular sanctioned match. New shooters could bring minimal gear and test the game and their gear and see if they wanted to follow on with our fun style of shooting. At the match they would receive shooting training and help following all the safety rules that we live by. In the last 6 years we have started and trained a lot of new shooters. Many have moved onto the sanctioned matches and are doing very well, others decided that the game wasn't for them but they had the opportunity to test the waters and not be out a lot and not be intimidated by large crowds of 70 or more shooters.

Phase 1 of my dream has worked and worked well. Phase 2 was a little more difficult as our section is always needing match directors. Phase 2 was to bring in a few shooters who wanted to step up to the match director level and help our section out. They could train on matches at DRRC, I would help them with what little I knew and they could gain confidence and skill in a small relaxed setting. When the candidate was ready they could step up and be a MD at Dundee and be watched and helped by Bill Marrs and myself along with Mike McCarter and given a chance to learn the MD duties and still be helped along the way. This would be a great learning experience, as opposed to being thrown into the fire style, and would help the section tremendously as we are always looking for help.

This is where my idea stopped. I asked for interested people to train for the MD position and nothing happened. Not finding help there I started asking for help in running these matches as I was hoping this was a growing project and I wanted to be able to get out and do a few outings with my family and friends.

After over a year of no response I decided that it was time for me to part and if nobody wanted to take over the project would have to die out. Sat will be our last match at DRRC until someone decides to resurrect it. It's been a good run, we have trained more new shooters than any club around and the new shooters have experienced beginning stages and have shot some stages that are way over their heads in difficulty. We have also designed stages that we have been able to shoot in the down pours of winter rains by pulling them in and shooting them from under a tent top cover. I can remember a few of those matches would have had everyone walk off at other clubs but we shot them dry.

Most of the time our crowd has been in the 15-20 shooter ranger, just right for new shooters but a few have been in the 30+ range which was a pretty good load for our range. Had we been able to build bays a few years ago as was my dream we would now have been a sanctioned club putting on a great show every month.

That was not to be, times change for some, some of us grow and move on, other groups stall and stagnate. That's life. We were able to put on a match of 6 stages on a flat field with no bays and pull it off. Our stages came close to matching club shoots with shooting bays so I was never embarrassed by our matches, they could stand on their own.

This Sat we'll have a stage or some stages, I'm not sure which or what at this time. My first idea was to put all the targets and props out on the field and everyone would shoot all their ammo together at the same time. Everyone would end with the same time and same score..... All winners on the last match. I had a dream and we got there.

See you Sat and I hope there are enough early birds to do the set up.
It's important to acknowledge that a six year effort is a laudable contribution. Nobody can fault him for losing heart when he has worked so hard. It's not his fault that the anticipated turn-over didn't happen.

And this is nothing new; in fact, it's almost axiomatic that a successful club is defined by the ability (and willingness!) of other club members to take over a successful program and continue it, to the mutual benefit of both the club and future participants who follow in the footsteps of the hundreds of folks who appreciated the unique opportunity afforded them.

It's also important to acknowledge that Paul has put at least as much time into the evolution of a 'standard' USPSA club, when he joined with a cadre of members to continue a successful USPSA/IPSC program at Dundee.

I don't blame him for eventually deciding that his life is too busy to continue bearing the burdens of more than one program. If I had the courage to attempt such an innovative program, I'm sure I would have bailed out the first year.

I am reluctant to label this "IPSC Burnout", but it's almost inevitable. We have see it so many times.

The common scenario is:
A visionary person has an original idea, makes it work, and when he turns around to turn it over to his successor ... nobody steps up to accept the mantle of Leader.

We in the Columbia Cascade Section of USPSA have been exceedingly fortunate that we have so many dedicated and energetic people that we can 'usually' expect to find some other masochistic person to pick up the torch and run with it.

But when there is nobody there, the result is that the Key Man runs out of energy and the program dies, no matter how valuable the program may be.

This is the point at which the author (in this case, me) should offer a simple, yet effective, solution.

I don't have one.

There is a finite pool of energetic entrepreneurial people in any group, and like most people I am not willing to assume the responsibility ... and, yes, the burden ... of running an IPSC/USPSA program.

The Good Lord knows that I'm not personally willing to accept the responsibility to run such a program. It's a game for me, and about all I want to do is play The Game. I'm not the man that Paul is, and few of us are.

We all have a life to live, and we mostly don't have the urge, the energy, or the strong sense of responsibility needed to run such a program.

So ... we are all too much like those voyeurs who slow down when they see an accident of the freeway; we watch something of value turn into twisted shards of no value; we shake our heads and we say:

"Tsk Tsk"

Monday, March 01, 2010


I received my copy of ISniper by Stephen Hunter on Friday, and I finished it on Sunday.

Why the delay in finishing the book?

No good reason, I just stopped to eat and sleep from time to time.

But here's some advice: If you want to understand all of the nuances (especially in the penultimate chapter 55), it is imperative that you listen to Marty Robbins' "Gunfighter Ballads". Especially cut#1 "Big Iron" (lyrics also available here).

I'm just saying, if you are a devotee of "Bob the Nailer", you won't be disappointed. But the Marty Robbins lyrics server to enhance the experience.

Oh, and Single Action Society members receive their just homage, as have reloaders, hunters, ex-military, IPSC and bench-rest shooters in previous Hunter books.

It's a good read. Buy it and read it. Encourage Stephen Hunter to write the next (and possibly last) BTN ... next year.

He has already sold the book. Now he must write it!