Coaches of A-A Trap Team reflect on growth
Nurturing the younger generation who may have little or no shooting experience, then taking them to competitive excellence is what Mike and Kelli Bartholomew have done for nine years. However, it is not really about attaining excellence, but rather is more about learning shooting techniques, being part of a team and experiencing the highs and lows of competing. Mike is head coach and Kelli is one of nine volunteer assistant coaches on the Alta-Aurelia Trap team.
The team began its new season last week and consists of local middle and high school students from a variety of backgrounds. There is not a “type” of student who joins, Kelli said. It all began nine years ago by the Bartholomew’s who continue to provide their pasture, located southwest of Alta, as a practice range.
“We formed our team by accident basically,” Mike said. Their oldest son was invited to watch an Ida County trap team meet which Mike, his son and a friend attended. “When it was over, both of them wanted to know if we could start a team, so we started asking some questions, and three days later I was headed to a coaching class,” Mike said.
In the first year, they had five high school students to start a team, and the second year they grew to 19 high school students. “The kids who went out those first two years were very gung-ho and really promoted it amongst their friends,” Mike said.
There was suddenly a huge interest in the sport from younger students and parents, and in the third year they grew to a team of 32. In the fourth year, they expanded to younger members, having a rookie division of fourth and fifth-graders. In recent years, the team has leveled off to numbering 20-25 students each season.
During the last four seasons, the team placed as a team or individually in every meet they attended. They participate in approximately 15 meets per year from April to June, competing with other middle and high schools, or whoever has a trap team, Kelli said. Some members have joined the team with zero shooting experience, but through hard work, focus and discipline, some have excelled at the state level.
“Boys or girls, athletic or not, anybody can be competitive and everyone gets the same opportunity,” Mike said, emphasizing that there are no bench-warmers in this sport. “I have had many parents come up to me and say how nice it was to know they were actually going to be able to watch their kid compete after traveling for 1-2 hours and not just sit on the bench.”
Some on the team have their own shotguns, but Mike has guns from his own collection that he lends to members, some of whom have experience with firearms, but some with no experience. “We have had a couple of those kids who have gone from zero experience to being some of the best shots in the state, one of which won the rookie division championship at the state shoot and won herself a brand new shotgun,” Mike said.
Why the local year-to-year enthusiasm for the sport? “Our sport has continued to thrive because anyone can participate,” Mike said. He believes that trap shooting is the fastest-growing sport in the nation and by far the fastest-growing sport in Iowa.
On their pasture range, they have both trap and skeet available and are considering opening a second trap field in the future. The Bartholomew’s are involved additionally in the schools with Mike as a school bus driver and Kelli a classroom teachers’ assistant. They have four children.