Photos courtesy Alex Richardson
USC Aiken shotgun team founder Alex Richardson is blazing a trail for shooting sports in South Carolina.
Alex Richardson is not only representing his college in the shooting sports arena, he’s also coaching students who may be holding a gun for the first time. Richardson, founder and president of the University of South Carolina (USC) Aiken shotgun team, humbly credits his experience in sporting clays and archery to the high school and SCDNR mentors who helped him along the way. And now he’s paying it forward.
During his freshman year of college, Richardson didn’t waste much time before he was introducing clay target sports to his new campus. By spring, 2016, he had formed a team and secured approval from the Campus Life Committee to establish the “USC Aiken Shotgun Team” as a student organization.
Richardson’s shotgun team hit the ground running. In addition to regular practices and a full schedule of tournaments, the USC-Aiken Shotgun Team has been involved in outreach, recruitment, promotion, fundraising, community service and volunteer activities, including the SCDNR Youth State Sporting Clays Tournament March 4, 2017. The team volunteered all day as trappers at the various stations along the three courses, pulling and scoring targets for the record-breaking 630 youth participants.
“We seek to recruit members who not only grew up like myself competing in youth shooting sports through the SCDNR, SCTP, 4H and SCYSF programs and wish to continue at the collegiate level, but to also introduce the sport to those that have shooting experience via duck, dove, quail or rabbit hunting,” Richardson says. “Success in our first year has meant a commitment to my vision for the USC-Aiken Shotgun Team which is supported by a network of University officials, the clay target shooting community, and partnerships with local, state and national sponsors. We have been innovative in leveraging funding to maximize our resources to make the most of them in fulfilling our operating needs.”
I aspire to graduate from the University in two years knowing I started a legacy team that will be successful and thrive for years to come.
To get the team started financially and to help defray student member costs to participate in the sport, Richardson wrote and submitted a grant application to the National Shooting Sports Foundation through its Collegiate Shooting Sports Initiative program designated specifically for first-year collegiate teams.
“The $10,000 grant was a blessing that allowed us to cover most of our expenses,” he says. “Nationwide, only ten are awarded each year. We were extremely fortunate to be grant number nine for the 2016-2017 project period. Being awarded one of these grants is as competitive as the sport itself.
Richardson and his team have already celebrated many successes and accomplishments, and they are looking forward to becoming even bigger and better in the year ahead. “We have built a strong foundation during the trailblazing first year to support future growth in knowledge, numbers and adventures. I aspire to graduate the University in two years knowing I started a legacy team that will be successful and thrive for years to come.”
“I look at where I am today and think back that only a short five years ago, my relationship with SCDNR all started by being a part of the National Archery in Schools Program,” he adds. “I am fortunate to have had the experiences and opportunities through the SCDNR education outreach programs. Along the way, I have made new friends and learned life skills that equip me in my goals to aim for higher targets each and every day. Thank you SCDNR! You are such an intricate part of my life and who I am today.”
Richardson’s involvement in shooting sports goes back to his years at White Knoll High School in Lexington School District One. He recalls the Outdoor Living class which taught hunting and boating safety. As part of this class, he was introduced to archery through the National Archery in Schools Program (NASP). He joined the school’s archery team, soon becoming a strong contender in both regional and national tournaments.
I look at where I am today and think back that only a short five years ago, my relationship with SCDNR all started by being a part of the National Archery in Schools Program.
It was during his senior year on the archery team that the SCDNR sponsored a contest to design the 2015 state tournament archery t-shirt. Richardson’s design was selected for the shirt, and SCDNR presented his prize, a new laptop, at the state tournament.
“The Chromebook has been a valuable tool for college life,” Richardson said. “Every time I use it, I’m reminded of how much SCDNR has impacted my life.”
Richardson followed the advice of his SCDNR mentors and decided to join the Newberry County 4H Shotgun Team. He competed in twelve sporting clays, skeet and trap tournaments during the 2013-14 season. He placed gold and silver several times on three-person squads, and personally took home an individual shooter award for Highest Overall Average. Richardson also shot for the Mid-Carolina 4H Team his senior year where he held a leadership position as safety officer.
Over the years, Richardson has represented many shooting teams, held a wide range of leadership positions and won many awards. In 2015, he shot his first “25 straight” in skeet and was honored with the Aaron Michael Powell Youth Shooting Memorial Scholarship. Today, Richardson continues to assist SCDNR law enforcement with the Take One Make One (TOMO) trailer, archery competitions, the Palmetto Sportsmen’s Classic or FLW (Fishing League Worldwide) events.
“I always enjoy working the TOMO Trailer with Officer Junior Matthews who has traveled the entire state taking the education trailer to many events and youth hunts; he is an inspiration and I always learn life values from him,” he says. “These events are wonderful opportunities to introduce youth to archery and talk to families about SCDNR’s education programs designed to introduce hunting, fishing, shooting and archery sports to youth who have no previous outdoor experience.”
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.