Students in search of a new competitive outlet this year may want to shift their aim to the field of shooting sports.
The Quad-City-based Youth Shooting Sports Association offers a variety of programs for beginner, intermediate and advanced shooters, age 8-23.
"It's the safest sport there is," said Bill Peterson, president of the nonprofit organization he founded in 2013.
Trained coaches and volunteers provide hands-on instruction in the following disciplines:
• Air pistol/rifle
• Small-bore pistol/rifle
They also offer an outdoor skills class, which covers basic first aid, survival, wildlife identification and orienteering.
The Youth Shooting Sports Association hosts their classes at four locations in the area, including the YSSA Range & Academy in Moline, R&R Sports in Bettendorf, Bi-State Sportsmans Association in Colona and the Milan Rifle Club.
Those interested in learning more about the opportunities should attend an open house on Saturday, Sept. 16, at R&R Sports, 3250 Fields Drive, in Bettendorf.
Prospective participants may test their hand at archery during the event.
In conjunction with USA Archery, the Youth Shooting Sports Association runs Junior Olympic Archery Development practices at R&R Sports, which has a two-level indoor range.
While prices vary per class, Peterson said they provide the equipment.
"It's cheaper than drugs," he said, "and it keeps them busy."
Students will learn the fundamentals of safe gun and bow handling, marksmanship and equipment care. Additionally, they will have the chance to compete in nationally accredited amateur tournaments.
And it's a lifelong sport, Peterson said:
"They could be shooting until they die."