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Ara ATA memberships UP or DOWN inyour area?

Discussion in 'Shooting Related Threads' started by pyrdek, Jan 23, 2010.

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  1. pyrdek

    pyrdek Well-Known Member

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    In talking to a number of registered shooters around Northwestern PA, something I have noticed is that the number of ATA Annual membership renewals seem to be dropping. I know that I let my membership expire and did not renew last year or this current year. In my case it was a matter of trying to make the time to attend shoots. It got to the point some of the places I used to be able to get targets didn't throw ATA or in some cases any targets.

    Then the places that were still active had their shoots at dates/times that did not allow me to sit around for three or four hours then shoot one event and wait another couple hours for another event. Add in a couple hours travel time and it just wasn't worth rushing like the dickens to "relax". My last year I could only squeeze in a couple hundred 16s and about the same handicap targets. Then the price of ammo went through the roof and between these two things, I could not justify renewing. I figure if I do get a chance to go to one or more of the major shoots (Grand, Zone, State etc.) I will end up Penalty class anyway so if I join there I just look at the annual membership as a slightly higher target fee.

    Lately I have noticed more shooters seem to have lost interest or ability to continue ATA shooting. This reduced activity level is also related in non-ATA league shooting.

    Among the reasons I have been given for why they dropped their ATA membership are:

    Costs for shooting and travel
    Reduced income / job loss
    Health conditions (generally age related)
    Other activities competing for their time
    the moving of the Grand to a more distant location
    (Some shooters looked at the Grand as their shooting/shopping/vacation and lack of non-shooting facilities was mentioned)

    Now economic conditions in NW PA, contrary to what is being reported and said by politicians and other national figures, are not showing improvement. Layoffs and plant closings continue and the wages for the available jobs are getting lower so economics is definitely playing a part.

    I have not met any shooters who are new ATA joiners but there must be at least a few around.

    How have ATA membership levels changed, if any change took place, in your area? How has the participation level changed? Are you seeing any significant increase in new members?
     
  2. crusha

    crusha TS Member

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    How's this scenario for you?


    "Joe" is a weeknight club shooter and likes games. He attends his State Shoot only to shop at the vendors. He's never been an ATA member. He sees his buddies, and they have an open spot on their squad and talk him into joining ATA so he can shoot the Singles Championship with them. He does it, spends his $70 and likes it...but it uses up his entire day, and after his $70 worth of shooting, he finishes at the bottom of the board.


    Joe thinks, "Boy, that was an expensive day...it was fun, but I wouldn't want to do this all the time."



    When the ATA renewal notice comes in the mail, he tosses it and keeps shooting club-night with his buddies.


    ...sound about right?



    I bet the "new joiners" that we lose each year are still shooting trap, someplace. They're just not crazy about shooting "All-Day-$100-Registered-Practice" trap.
     
  3. Barrelbulge(Fl)

    Barrelbulge(Fl) TS Supporters TS Supporters

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    Buzz, you hit the nail on the head. That is exactly what I did. I only shoot occassionally. I have fun when I do go. Bulge.
     
  4. dzneff

    dzneff Member

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    Dennis from Arizona: ATA shooting and practice shooting is well ahead from last year.
     
  5. Jon Reitz

    Jon Reitz Well-Known Member

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    I would say down. My biggest bitch with them are the 200-singles events at the smaller ATA shoots, despite the fact that it was well documented on here a week ago how much sense they make. Not for my time or money...
     
  6. pyrdek

    pyrdek Well-Known Member

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    From what I see, the difference between membership/shooting going up or down comes down to a couple of factors. The exact factors depend on what type of shooter you are trying to recruit or retain.

    The first level ATA shooter is at least a little intimidated by going to the really big shoots as a competitor. This shooter is looking for smaller shoots that do not necessarily offer large prizes or cash payouts. What is wanted are a number of reasonably close shoots offered on a frequent basis in a non-intimidating environment. These are your local club type shoots. If there are not any shoots within an hour or two drive, this shooter will find other things to do. This level is not exclusively beginners but could have shooters that for one reason or another do not enjoy long travel times/distances or having to wait a long time to shoot. They want to shoot, oftem multiple hundreds and do it fairly quick. The secret, as Buffalo Gun Club seems to show, is having frequent shoots, run efficiently, near a good size population base to draw on. They enjoy 16s and start to develop interests in Handicap and/or doubles as they see others shooting in those events. In my case I would be interested in going to Buffalo GC if it weren't for the twenty hour or so (one way) drive to get there.

    The second class of shooter is the one who enjoy large shoots with big prizes and lots of competitors. They are willing to travel and spend much more money to enjoy their version of ATA shooting. They have the time, money and desire. They are the ones more likely to compete at Sparta or large state shoots. They can, and often do, go to smaller shoots if a large shoot is not taking place at the time. Accommodating these shooters with pre-registration may encourage their attendance but at the same time it can discourage the shooter looking to move up from the first class since they may get the "what is left" shooting squads if they do not pre-register, often late in the day when conditions start to deteriorate.

    If the total numbers of ATA membership is to improve, the first group must have their desires accommodated. They can, eventually, in a longer or shorter time, convert over to the second type. The second type must also be accommodated if for no other reason, they are the ones who fill the leadership roles in ATA like state delegates, state association officers, handicap committees, etc.

    The problems come if the second group start dominating and intimidating the first group shooters by saying things like you need a K or a P gun to do any good and there should be no 16s since Handicaps (or Doubles if you prefer) are the only thing worth shooting. This can cause the first group to leave and never progress to the second group.

    The first group will leave if they feel there is to much hassle to get to a shoot or if they do not feel welcome when they go. Frequent, smaller shoots in many areas are key to keeping this group active. Having no shoots for six or seven months of the year and then having many clubs in the same general area all shoot on the same weekend for three months and no shoots on the next three weekends is not the way to schedule to satisfy the first groups needs and wants.

    In my area, having the Cardinal Center and West Virginia state shoot within a three or four hour drive allows the first group access to larger, but not quite as intimidating shoots as the Grand or PA State Shoots or Eastern Zone. It can provide one of the transitional opportunities for the shooter to move from type 1 to 2. The Cardinal Ohio state is getting to be a large shoot but there are a couple other shoots there that don't, at least when I was there, seem to be as big but are still bigger than most club shoots.

    Having been to the Grand a number of times, West Virginia state a number of times, and Cardinal Center it is revealing how many shooters I have met that I had only shot smaller shoots and were now looking to see what the next level looked like. They may come for the shopping and sight-seeing but at least they feel they are a part of the overall organization and eventually lose the fear and become shooting participants.

    At some time, the shooters who go into level two may drop back into level one for any number of reasons but embarrassing, or belittling them, does not do the entire sport any good. Elitist attitudes serve only to make it more certain that they decide not to return to a higher level of activity if and when the opportunity arises.

    I was an ATA member for around eighteen years (as I recall I joined in 1990) but, at least for now, no longer shoot ATA. If and when conditions allow, I just might be coming back. For now I will stick with the three different multi-club leagues I actively participate in. In my case I went from Level One to Level Two then back to Level One and now, I guess, I am a Level 0.
     
  7. maka

    maka Member

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    I heard on our local radio today unemployement in Wisconsin is 14%. Once a manufacturing mecca. Those jobs continue to leave our state. Present Gov. and his cronies feel they should tax mfg. companies profits from out of state facilities. I think you get my drift. Hope trap shooting continues.
     
  8. smsnyder

    smsnyder Well-Known Member

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    Pennsylvania its way down. Heck its tough just to get a practice squad at the local club. I think you are correct if a guy is an average shooter he will stick to shooting at the CC,WV or pa state shoot.
     
  9. ivanhoe

    ivanhoe Well-Known Member

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    pyrdek

    "The problems come if the second group start dominating and intimidating the first group shooters by saying things like you need a K or a P gun to do any good and there should be no 16s since Handicaps (or Doubles if you prefer) are the only thing worth shooting. This can cause the first group to leave and never progress to the second group."

    Just a couple of questions here if you have the time to answer them. Why would it matter to you or anyone what group two says about a Kgun or Pgun?? What difference does it make what they say about what targets there should be or shouldn't be?? Why would you let someone influence you as to the reason you attend a shoot?? You can only be intimidated if you let yourself be intimidated.

    I don't know what you're trying to say. I go to a shoot to satisfy me. I don't go to a shoot, any shoot to please those in group 1 or 2 so what is your point?

    You basically said you are a member of group 1. When was the last time you volunteered to help out at a shoot? So that the ones that don't want to spend the whole day there can get out of there sooner?

    I guess at this point I will ask again what is your point? What are you trying to tell us? You wrote a lot but as I see it you haven't said much I really wish I could find the point to this but I am missing something I guess because I don't really find a reason for your not shooting. I don't see anything that would tell me or anyone how to fix the problem you perceive.

    I am not knocking what you are saying as being wrong. I am just trying to understand why you seem to see your own personal choices as a problem as I guess that is why you started this thread.

    The one point I would like to make is you said that.

    "Having no shoots for six or seven months of the year and then having many clubs in the same general area all shoot on the same weekend for three months and no shoots on the next three weekends is not the way to schedule to satisfy the first groups needs and wants."

    Did you make your feeling known to your elected officials in your association? I my state associating we have rules about multiple shoots the same date within a certain distance between clubs. As it stands any groups wants and needs is personal choice. Can you honestly expect your state association to be responsible for satisfying your needs or wants? You are leaving a lot of things open to interpretation in your observation. This sport seems to be getting more and more like the society we live in. Dependant on the powers that be to give us what we want instead of getting it for ourselves.


    Bob Lawless
     
  10. pyrdek

    pyrdek Well-Known Member

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    Ivanhoe,

    You are looking for personal answers when I generally am referring to group attitudes. From your questions, I would think, but since I don't know personally know you so it is only a guess, that you would fall more into my group two class.

    You ask "Why would it matter to you or anyone what group two says about a Kgun or Pgun?" Since you want both my personal answer and that about a group, I will try to explain. To me personally, having been in both groups, it does not matter a bit to me. I have been involved long enough to know that a lot of people who adopt this attitude really don't know all that well what they are talking about. As to the group answer, it is human nature that when you are just entering a new type of activity, be it ATA shooting, or dating or driving or anything else, you are generally not very self-confident and are much more intimidated by "peer pressure" of those already established in the group. Attitudes I described will make someone who does not have that level of self-confidence uncomfortable and uncomfortable people tend to leave that stimulus that makes them uncomfortable. Nurturing a new shooter is needed. Belittling or demeaning is not.

    Since you want the personal answer regarding "When was the last time you volunteered to help out at a shoot?" if you knew me, you probably wouldn't be asking that question. At my home club, when I was still ATA active, I would generally work at registration and cashiering (all one job) in relief of the person who was responsible for that area and setting up (when I got there early enough) and tearing down. I would also score/ref when needed but there were usually a group of club members who more or less made that their job. In the Leagues I mentioned (not ATA leagues) I handle all record keeping, maintain the web pages (two leagues) and answer questions when they arise, if I am able and get the answers if I can not answer directly. In one of those leagues, I also handle all the money in my role as Treasurer. At other clubs, when ATA shooting or non ATA, I was always willing to help but seldom was asked since each place had their crew doing their assigned jobs. On the few occasions I was asked, there was no problem for me to help.

    Next you ask "Did you make your feeling known to your elected officials in your association?" No. To answer the question you are about to ask (I bet) why not? Simple. Back when I started the State Delegate had control of approving shoot schedules and generally did this in a manner that minimized conflicts in the same geographic area. This spread out the shooting dates. As the years went on this control seemed to change to most any date you submitted was approved. By the time my personal scheduling conflicts, primarily because of family responsibilities versus the shoot scheduling, ended up with me not attending several shoots and rushing like h*** to make the few I did attend, I re-evaluated my position. After a couple years of this, I just got to point of wondering if it was worth it to continue. My answer, speaking only for myself and not claiming to be the group's attitude, was no, it wasn't worth it. I guess you could say I bowed to family responsibilities and not to shooting ATA.

    Since I do not know you, could you help me better understand your views. Are you a ATA officer or delegate or an officer or manager of your club? I assume you have a home club but I realize that may not necessarily be the case. In your area, how is the ATA schedule determined? If there is more than one, do the clubs in your area coordinate their schedules to minimize conflicts? How do you announce your shoots to people? What is the condition of the economy in your area? And last, has the ATA membership and activity in your home base area gone up or down?
     
  11. ivanhoe

    ivanhoe Well-Known Member

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    pyrdek first of all I ask the questions of you as I construed the comments and statements as observation of shooting/membership in your area. This was also more or less reinforced in my mind by a couple of statements that you made.

    "From what I see" was one of these another was "If the total numbers of ATA membership is to improve, the first group must have their desires accommodated." These statements seem like personal feeling to me. As you said that may not be the case as I don't know you either.

    To answer some of your questions. No I am not an ata delegate or officer. At present I am not a state association office or delegate either I however have been a club representative in my ass. in the past.

    I do have a home club and I work classification at all of our ATA shoots. I also work classifying for another club in my state ass. at all of their ATA shoots. All shoots in this state must be scheduled through the state ass. The state ass. let the clubs know if they are in conflict there must be a certain distance between clubs before they can schedule on the same day/weekend.

    The dates are determent by the clubs at an Ass. meeting. Notification is usually by the clubs by way of programs that are mail to the individuals. The state also put out a schedule card that lists all the ATA shoots for the year. It is mailed to the members with there renewal forms for membership.

    One point I would like to make is there IMO more groups than you are seeing I know shooters that go to the shoots they want to go to. They shoot 100 singles targets and leave as they say the rest of the day belongs to their family.

    I also know shooters that go to a shoot once a month they shoot the entire program and leave then you won't see them for a month. I have found that there are many diverse reason that shooter shoot. Most don't give a rats patoot what the die hards have to say.

    As far as new shooters are concerned there are always those that treat the new shooters like they have the plague. Some are even abusive I personally won't tolerate and abusive person if they don't like associating with a new shooter or answering their questions. I usually request they leave the building. Many time you must explain that their problem with the newbie is just that. Their problem so if they don't like what is going on there is plenty of room outside or in their vehicle.

    This has given me a better understanding of why you have said some of the things you did. It still isn't totally clear but better.

    Bob Lawless
     
  12. pyrdek

    pyrdek Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps the better way to preface my comment would be "From what I gathered in talking to some of the shooters." The followup of accommodating the first group, is my feeling based on what I heard from some of those I talked with but it is also contains some of my personal feelings.

    A few things I perceive from some of the replies in this thread are:
    First: The economy is definitely affecting shooting but the effects seem to be more severe in the "rust belt" states. Unfortunately there isn't a lot that we can do about that.

    Second: Some places that seem to be growing are doing so by scheduling shoots frequently AND offering multiple hundreds target events. The Buffalo GC seems to be well ahead of a lot of other places by following this track. I realize that smaller clubs that may only have two or four fields won't be able to go as far in their efforts.

    One of my personal favorites (to clarify the info) was a small place, privately run but open to all that almost any weekend you could easily get in three or four hundred targets, 16s, Caps or Doubles as you preferred. The club owner and his co-owner wife were the most friendly people you would want. The other shooters, maybe fifteen or twenty coming and going during the day, were a very friendly bunch. My oldest daughter, pre-teen at the time, shot her first round of trap there with the help of the wife/owner of the club. The targets were well presented, shooting was constant with no long lulls and the club facilities were great. New shooters were always welcome and encouraged. They would even be invited to an impromptu picnic or such if one took place.

    They only had a three trap layout but that was adequate for what was going on. I seem to recall he had plans for a fourth field but that didn't happen. Unfortunately some arsonist burned the place down and they did not reopen. This happened maybe five or six years ago. On a related note, Sometimes the entire family would come. The wife and kids would watch, talk with the others there and the kids would play. They would also sometimes go to the nearby state park for swimming or bike riding. That place was the only place I shot at that really seemed to go out of their way to make it a "family friendly" shooting club. Other places try but were not quite the same.

    Personal info. I also know that the last year I was ATA, there were no shoots at all scheduled anywhere within 75 miles for November, December, January, February or March. Winter driving long distances around here is sometimes a chancy thing. I can not recall about October or April. May, June and July were busy but that is the same time I was loaded with family responsibilities. There were a couple of weekends in those months I could have attended but there were no shoots that did not involve at least two or three hour (one way) drive. After the Grand the local shoots, as I remember it, just about vanished.

    Third: Coordinated scheduling by ALL clubs involved, and doing it at a state level, is, IMO a good step to follow. Doing so at a state level meeting where all clubs are presenting their schedule for the year long enough ahead of the season allows not competing for the same shooters. I did not see that happening here when I was in my last couple ATA years.

    Fourth: Advertising shoots in a manner that goes out to all ATA shooters in the region, and especially those who have attended in the past, is needed. Tell someone once three months previously and they will forget. That is why, on the web pages I maintain for two leagues, I will always include ATA Registered Shoot Dates IF I AM TOLD ABOUT THEM. You would be surprised how many clubs don't even bother to respond to my e-mail requests to find out about their shoot dates.

    In past years I would send such a request, and tell them that the info was for posting on the web site, to every club I could find contact info for within a 75 mile or so radius. If I saw them at a shoot, I would give them a business card with my contact info. After a couple years of this I finally gave up. The response rate was down to two or three clubs and those were members of our leagues.

    With a few exceptions, there was no mailing to shooters. The yearly renewal mailing contained only the ATA membership renewal and subscription form for T&F. It came directly from ATA office in Vandalia. There was no mention of the state association or any state schedule.

    Many of those clubs that have web pages contain outdated or inadequate information. Often the ATA web site was not much better about upcoming shoot dates/locations. That part does seem to have improved in more recent times. The thing is, a web page does not draw in those UNLESS they are already looking for a shoot. If they aren't already thinking about it, they don't visit.

    When visiting area gun shops and outdoor shops very seldom did I see a notice on the bulletin board about ATA shoots. One club did pursue a more active advertising and sponsorship campaign. They, and probably not by coincidence, have the highest level of participation in the region. They also have the greatest number of traps to support the larger attendance.

    Yes, my "two class" groupings does not allow for all the fine points but I hope it conveys a general, for lack of a better way to define it, Pro vs. Amateur attitudes. You might also define it as competitive vs. recreational shooters.

    A new shooter will leave if he/she receives abusive treatment and they will probably leave very quickly. Where the problem, as I see it is, the subtle, not openly stated but nevertheless conveyed attitude that "I really don't want you here. You bother me." Part of this attitude seems to have been shown by some in the "Kids can't practice here" thread.

    I posted the original thread to see if there were any common factors that came across causing some places to prosper while other places were hurting. I had a fair base of info (based on talking to area people) as to what some of the problems were. I also had my own experience to draw on. I did not know what the prospering places were doing. I have now learned somethings.

    Perhaps another reason, and I didn't even realize it at the time, was to get other people/clubs that may be suffering declining membership, to think of what they are or are not doing to attract/retain members.

    One question I do have for you is in general, where in the country are you located? I don't need a state but if you want to say, that would be fine. I said in the beginning I am in northwestern Pennsylvania. My location can be called in the middle of the "Snow Belt of the Rust Belt".

    Do not get me wrong. I am not against the ATA. Someday, hopefully soon, I would like to rejoin but for this year, I will most likely be on the sidelines as far as ATA shooting is concerned. My time and economy issues are the factors affecting me (personal comment). If I ever hit the lottery big time or find a fifty pound gold nugget, I would like to open a trap, clays and skeet club. I figure I might as well dream big since at least once in a while, dreams do come true and I don't want to waste it on a little one.

    P.S. It is nice to have an open discussion without so many of the flame wars that sometimes seem to erupt in the group.
     
  13. ivanhoe

    ivanhoe Well-Known Member

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    pyrdek a couple of question you asked that I didn't answer was membership and economy

    "What is the condition of the economy in your area? And last, has the ATA membership and activity in your home base area gone up or down?"

    The economy here is poor there are few jobs and unemployment is not the best. I can't answer you about membership as far as I can tell only the ATA knows about membership anything I say about that would only be speculation.

    Attendance on the other hand at ATA shoots is down and I don't believe it has hit bottom but that is my opinion nothing more.

    Last I live in New England, Massachusetts to be exact the state is smaller than yours area wise. We also have way less ATA shooters than Pennsylvania. Some states such as Massachusetts the shooters pay due to the state association also. One of the reason for dues renewal form that the state sends out. Not much more to say it has been a good discussion I do hope to do it again sometime. I do not want to hog the thread I will let some others give their views

    Bob Lawless
     
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