Earning Junior Olympics Invitations

USAS JO Logo

There are two completely different “Junior Olympic” national championships which complement each other. What are they and how does an athlete earn an invitation to participate?

The first program is the USA Shooting championships for the Olympic events in rifle (precision air & .22), pistol (air & .22), and shotgun. USA Shooting (USAS) is the national governing body for Olympic target shooting in this country, who develops and selects World Cup, Olympics, and other international teams. This program is open to all junior (under age 21) shooting athletes.

The second program is the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) Junior Olympic championships for the youth development (non-Olympic) event of three position air rifle (sporter and precision). The CMP offers this championship in cooperation with USA Shooting. This program is open to all scholastic (high school age and younger) three position air rifle shooting athletes, club teams, and scholastic (school) teams. In conjunction with this event, the CMP also offers their own CMP National  3P Air Rifle National Championship.

Shotgun: Please see the comments to this post for information about the shotgun discipline.

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The USA Shooting National Junior Olympic Shooting Championship (NJOSC) is a very popular and hotly contested competition. The national events are held at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. Participating in the NJOSC is a very exciting and inspiring event in a junior athlete’s life.

There are separate men’s and women’s events for air rifle (unsupported standing position only), smallbore (.22) three position rifle (kneeling, prone, standing), air pistol (unsupported standing position only), and sport (.22) pistol. Men’s free (.22) pistol also used to be offered, though is not currently on the NJOSC program. (This blog post will address rifle and pistol, although the information link above also applies to shotgun.)

Athletes earn invitations to the national event by posting qualifying scores at State Junior Olympics Championships. All invitations to the national event are based strictly on score.

There are three ways to earn invitations:
– State Champion
– Automatic
– At-Large
These three qualification methods, and their related cut-off scores are listed at the end of this blog post.

State events are held during November through January. Host sites for this year’s cycle were announced by USA Shooting on Fri 17 Oct 2014. See the National Junior Olympic Program information page, which includes a link to the 2014-2015 host sites (with contact information so you may request a program and entry information) and the complete schedules for the USAS JO national championships. Note that registration for state events is NOT online with USA Shooting. Contact the appropriate state match host via phone or email.

This year, the national events will be held in late April through early May 2015. Women’s Rifle: April 18-23; Pistol: April 24-29; Men’s Rifle: April 30-May 6. **Note that these dates are subject to change!

See also the Georgia – State Junior Olympics – Rifle & Pistol blog post for details on the events we are hosting in January 2015.

All athletes, regardless of experience or skill level, are encouraged to enter the state level championships each year. Athletes, coaches, and parents who believe that the athlete shouldn’t participate unless they have an excellent chance of winning or earning an invitation are actually holding back the athlete’s development – and diminish the athlete’s internal desire and self-motivation in the sport. The ones who participate are the ones who excel the most.

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Print

Hosted and run by the CMP, the National Junior Olympic 3P Air Rifle Championship is a very popular program involving thousands of three position air rifle athletes (sporter and precision) from all over the country. Because many athletes are only involved in 3P air rifle, they are unaware of the Olympic events and the USAS Junior Olympics discussed above. They should participate in both programs if shooting precision air rifle.

Qualifying is via state championships.

State events are held February through March.

Qualifying for either of the CMP national events allows the team or individual to compete in BOTH CMP championships. Both events usually include generous cash prizes.

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cmp national logo with no year_s

In conjunction with the National Junior Olympic 3P Air Rifle Championship, the CMP also offers their own CMP National  3P Air Rifle Championship.

Qualifying is via postal championship or state championships followed by regional championships.

The postal event and state events are held November through January. The regional events are typically held in late March or early April.

Qualifying for either of the CMP national events allows the team or individual to compete in BOTH CMP championships. Both events usually include generous cash prizes.

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USA Shooting National Junior Olympic Shooting Championship
National Qualification Methods & Scores

NATIONAL INVITATIONS

USA Shooting will issue invitations to the National Junior Olympics Shooting Championship (NJOSC) events based on scores fired in state qualifier events. There are three ways to earn an invitation.

– 1) State Champion – The athlete with the highest score in an event in each state is automatically invited as long as their score meets or exceeds these minimum standards:

Women’s Air Rifle 300
Men’s Air Rifle 500
Men’s & Women’s Smallbore 500
Women’s Air Pistol 300
Men’s Air Pistol 490
Men’s & Women’s Sport Pistol 500

– 2) Automatic – All athletes who meet or exceed these score standards are automatically invited. These score standards are purposely set very high to ensure that capacity at the national match is not exceeded.

AIR RIFLE
Automatic Invitation Score:
Women 40 Shots: Men 60 Shots:
J1 390 580
J2 385 575
J3 370 560

SMALLBORE RIFLE
Automatic Invitation Score:
Women 3×20: Men 3×20:
J1 575 575
J2 565 570
J3 545 550

AIR PISTOL
Automatic Invitation Score:
Women 40 Shots: Men 60 Shots:
J1 360 550
J2 350 530
J3 340 520

SPORT PISTOL
Automatic Invitation Score:
Women and Men 60 Shots:
J1 540
J2 520
J3 500

– 3) At Large – Once all the State Champion and Automatic qualifiers are identified, then additional At-Large invitations are extended starting with the highest scores nationwide within each of the three age groups and working down until capacity is filled for each event. There are often two waves of At-Large invitations issued, though this can vary from year to year.

The actual minimum cut off scores vary each year based on how everyone shoots. Note that Sport Pistol did not have any At-Large invitations the last two years, though that can change year to year as with all the events.

Last year’s (Spring 2014) first wave At-Large cutoff scores are shown here, though are subject to change each year as scores come in. Note that there was a second wave of invitations in many events, so some lower scores did qualify. By definition, this year’s (spring 2015) scores cannot be known until all invitations are determined. The scores below are merely a rough guide. At-Large invitations, and the related cut off scores, are at the sole discretion of USA Shooting based on range capacity, dormitory space, and other match logistics.

AIR RIFLE
At-Large Invitation Score:
Women 40 Shots: Men 60 Shots:
J1 380 572
J2 379 562
J3 362 519

SMALLBORE RIFLE
At-Large Invitation Score:
Women 3×20: Men 3×20:
J1 567 565
J2 558 558
J3 500 542

AIR PISTOL
At-Large Invitation Score:
Women 40 Shots: Men 60 Shots:
J1 303 490
J2 280 481
J3 273 455

SPORT PISTOL
At-Large Invitation Score:
Women and Men 60 Shots:
J1 540
J2 520
J3 500

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The Empty Method

2014 PPP Cheyenne 1

With correct instruction, it doesn’t take long to learn how to properly and safely operate a firearm. With good instruction, it doesn’t take much longer to start to develop marksmanship skills. However, when a target shooting athlete strives to raise their game and thrive under pressure, then things can get exciting!

There are multiple paths and techniques to achieve great things. Some paths and techniques are longer and harder while others are… a little bit less long and hard. (No, I won’t say any are short and easy!)

In our culture, we are taught to take control, make things happen, pay attention, try harder, and so forth. Each of those ideas has appropriate applicator. Even where appropriate, how the ideas are applied can be more important that what is done – that “how” can make all the difference. We are also taught to use our mind and directly apply it to our activities.

In this teaching, we learn about and exercise only the “active thought” part of the mind. This is known variously as the “conscious” mind, or “thinking” mind, or “analytic” mind, or “slow” mind, or… more familiarly to our daily existence: the “talking” mind. This is the part of the mind we most often use when shooting; partly because this is the part of the mind we must use in order to learn anything, and partly because we are almost never taught that there is another – much more powerful – part of the mind.

This other part of the mind is what I call the “deeper thought” part of the mind. It is often know as the “subconscious” mind or “intuitive” mind, or “quiet” mind, or “fast” mind. This is the part of the mind that learns deeper patterns, sequences, and timings. Unless you are learning to tie your shoes, the “deeper thought” part of the mind is generally doing the work. Last time you tied your shoes or boots, do you remember actually doing the activity?

High level target shooting demands use of the deeper mind. We are culturally conditioned to not use that part of the mind, if we even realize it exists. The primary challenge we see with elite athletes, and improving athletes at all levels, is overcoming the cultural conditioning, learning about the deeper thought part of the mind, learning how to tap into its power, and trusting that manner of shooting.

About 1-1/2 years or so prior to he 2000 Sydney Olympics, Nancy Johnson’s performances and especially her consistency seemed to dramatically improve. Why? One reason that she and her national team coach Dan Durben will point to is her hard work. Hard, hard work, year after year. She never gave up despite times of frustration and sometimes even feeling like quitting. There is no substitute for experience! Another reason that she spoke about seemed unusual to some listeners. She said she had to learn to “just be” in order to shoot well. “I lived for my yoga class!” she once remarked. Nancy had taught herself to tap into the power of the deeper thought part of the mind.

Right after she graduated from college, where she was an All-American and NCAA rifle athlete, Kathy Vaughan started shooting and coaching with us in the Atlanta area. She now coaches a small group of pistol athletes, including her daughter, along with another coach, the father of another of the athletes in the group. There are three middle school girls shooting pistol, each shooting international standing position now for a year or less, and all are doing very well. Kathy’s daughter, Cheyenne, said she wanted to write a short essay about something she had learned. With her permission, and her mother’s permission, we share her essay with you.

The Empty Method

by Cheyenne Vaughan

I grew up shooting air pistol. My mom, Kathy Vaughan, got me into shooting matches at the age of nine. I’m thirteen now, almost fourteen. This is an exciting year for me, going into my first year of the J2 age group. Shooting for about 5 years, I’ve learned that I can’t shoot well while I’m thinking. Last year with the help of one of my coaches, JP O’Connor, I figured out that if I empty out my head before shooting, I shoot better and group better. I try to empty my mind before a match, practice, and even dry-fire drills. I call this the Empty Method.

After figuring out how to process this method, it took me about a month to empty everything out without trying. My scores have gone up and it’s also helped me with my school work. I don’t hear voices in my head telling me to do this, or don’t do that; it’s all peace and quiet.

The empty method works on any kind of shooter, especially air pistol and air rifle, I have learned from experience. Almost every Tuesday night, at practice, JP comes to help coach. After shooting a target, or black card, we talk about our shots. When we first started this, my two team mates at the time, Katelyn Abeln and Nick McCoy, talked about their shots and how they felt when they released the trigger. It was my turn and I just sat there. I had to try and remember what I shot and how it felt, but really I didn’t know how they felt or what the trigger felt like when I released it. It wasn’t because I was stupid, it’s because I wasn’t thinking; my head was empty. Now, a year later, I’m able to shoot and remember a little bit about how it feels when shooting each shot.

There are a number of profound topics lurking deep within in this short essay. I also like Cheyenne’s name for this style of performing: The Empty Method.

The athlete must empty their mind of all the trash and chatter.

One of the keys to attaining an empty or quiet mind is separating “outcome” (in all its forms!) from “doing” in the mind of the athlete. Our ego wants to win, get a high score, not be embarrassed, and so on. All are beyond the athlete’s direct control and all are in the future – or in the past and the athlete is still dwelling on the good or bad result. Even the last shot is in the past, and the score for this shot is still, ever so slightly, in the future.

Which brings the next key to a quiet or empty mind. One must exist (“just be”) in the Present Moment without thought or care. One must learn to trust this method. When was the last time you tied your shoe or boot laces while worrying about whether or not you would mess it up? Don’t laugh; that’s what we do to ourselves in shooting, especially in a match!

There are many additional factors, too numerous to list or discuss in one already too long blog posting.

Notice how at one point, Cheyenne mentions that she cannot immediately recall and discuss what happened. “I had to try and remember what I shot and how it felt, but really I didn’t know how they felt or what the trigger felt like when I released it. It wasn’t because I was stupid, it’s because I wasn’t thinking; my head was empty.” This is very typical of deeper mind activity.

Have you ever had little to say, or little to write in your journal right after shooting, but a few hours later you could talk or write all about what happened? The active thought part of the mind is the one doing the thinking and speaking or writing. The deeper thought part is the one doing the shooting in the Quiet Method so there is nothing for the active thought part to speak or write about. After things process for awhile, the information is available to the active thought part of the mind and we can discuss the events. As a high school student and then already an excellent shooting athlete, Jamie Beyerle Gray noticed this same effect. No doubt many of you have had the same experience. Keep your journal handy!

Cheyenne may or may not yet be entering flow state (the so-called zone) at this point, though she is getting close, if not already there. We are patiently working the process. Her teammate, Katelyn Abeln is also working on this method and is now entering flow state at moments.

We will have a lot more to say about flow state and choke proofing in future blogs.

Feel Center!

Photos:

– Cheyenne Vaughan at Fort Benning competing in the 2014 PPP nationals.

– Katelyn Abeln, Cheyenne Vaughan, and Sandra Uptagraff at the 2014 PPP nationals.

Your comments and responses are always welcome.

To be notified of new posts, go to the “Home” page and select the small blue “Follow…” link on the right side of the page just above the search box. On mobile devices, scroll way down near the bottom to find the “Follow…” link.

2014 PPP Cheyenne Katelyn Sandra