Neosho High School students may soon have the opportunity to refine their firearms skills by participating in a school-sponsored target shooting team.

The Neosho R-5 board of education discussed the issue in May during both a study session and at the school board’s regular monthly meeting.

Corey Roy, activities director, told the board that the district’s new FFA advisor Austin Steele expressed an interest in forming a target shooting team, and that fellow agriculture instructor and FFA advisor Jennifer Thogmartin thought such a team would garner much interest from ag students. Roy reported that Branson High School has a large program.

Andy Pike, Newton County Sheriff’s Department deputy and weapons expert, reported during the study session that target shooting is not yet recognized by the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) as an official sport, but it is an emerging activity.

“You need so many schools to participate to become eligible for district and state competition,” Pike said. “Several area schools are also looking to start up programs. I thought Neosho might have many students who would like to.”

Pike reported the school would need a trap field to practice, and they must have certified teachers. He said kids would use their own guns. Pike said the program at Logan-Rogersville High School is self-funded, adding the Willard School District pays a stipend to the coach and provides transportation for the team, who own their own guns and hold fundraisers to purchase ammunition. Pike said some ammo is donated by manufacturers.

As a weapons expert, Pike told the school board he is interested in helping with the team.

School board president Brett Day said, “Any activity we get is a carrot to keep kids in school.”

Roy echoed that sentiment.

“It’s just another activity the kids can be a part of,” he said. “There’s a big interest, and it just gets kids more involved in the school and being part of something and feel that they’re part of a team and work together.”

Roy said adding an activity will get more kids involved.

“We try to get kids involved in extracurricular things because when they are part of that, they want to be at school and they feel better about themselves and their education gets better,” he said.

Roy feels MSHSAA will soon sanction target shooting as an official school tournament activity in the state.

“These things are gaining popularity and I think in our area of the state that it’s more popular because kids are more involved with these type of things, so I think it’s going to be something that takes off,” he said.

Pike reported that shoots are held from March through September. Though not sanctioned yet by MSHSAA, he said the largest shoot of the year in the state was held in April when over 800 seventh through 12th grade students competed at the Lake of the Ozarks in a competition sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Roy reported to the board during the May 19 meeting that formulating a target shooting team would not affect insurance costs to the district. The issue to add the activity for Neosho High School students may be presented to the school board as an action item this summer.