The PSCA is the brainchild of champion shooter and instructor Dan Carlisle and energy entrepreneur Michael Osowski.
“There are few opportunities to introduce a new sport to a national television audience,” said Mr. Osowski. “This is a rare chance to positively benefit pros, amateurs, shooting clubs and equipment manufacturers….the entire sport and associated industry.”
The business of the PCSA is to provide a professional tour for top sporting clays athletes in a closed competition with others of a similar skill level, while broadcast TV coverage attracts bigger sponsorships and greater mainstream exposure. Ten weekend telecasts will air April through July.
PSCA rules and regulations go beyond scorecard tallies and irregularities. The PSCA is polishing the image of American clays shooters. A dress code, for example, bars blue jeans, sweat-stained ballcaps and other sloppy apparel often seen on competitors.
“We have to be more professional than anybody else because we have guns,” noted Mr. Carlisle. The organization also manages media relations, marketing and branding initiatives associated with professional sports. The PSCA will deliver broadcast-ready programming to NBC Sports.
Through its efforts, the PSCA wants to buoy the entire industry. The expectation is to broaden the appeal of sporting clays, reduce firearms stigma via sophisticated programming on a major TV network, stimulate bigger sponsorships and ultimately lure viewers to their local clays clubs.
“I think it’s great,” said Anthony Matarese, Jr., an All-American clays champion and instructor. “It’s huge for sporting clays in many regards. It’ll bring an awareness of the sport to the general public. The main thing I’d hope for is that the PSCA will attract more everyday people to give sporting clays a try.”
For starters, the PSCA roster is impressive. The first invitational tour boasts 60 professional titleholders (52 men and eight women) including Gebben Miles, Vincent Hancock, Zach Kienbaum, Wendell Cherry, Will Fennell, Ashleigh Hafley, Bobby Fowler, Jr., Brad Kidd, Anthony Matarese, Jr., Haley Dunn and David Radulovich.
Amateurs will eventually get a crack at the main events. Thirty amateur shooters (26 men/4 women) will compete with the bottom half of the Pros to try and claim their spot on the Pro Tour for the following season. Amateur qualifications will take place at seven events, including five regional tournaments held by the National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA).
Mark Weeks, Chief Operating Officer of the PSCA, explained that the organization’s grand $100,000 purse is an infusion of legitimacy for the emerging professional sport where trophies and shotguns are often the only prizes. Combined with the 85-million household reach of NBC Sports, sporting clays as packaged by the PSCA will realize unprecedented visibility in the public eye.
To intensify excitement, approximately 60 cameras will be mounted on the trap machines and in the later stages of competition flash targets will discharge orange powder when hit to juice-up viewer engagement. Cameramen will shadow shooters. Various competitors will wear microphones for an intimate narrative of their shooting to energize spirited drama in shoulder-to-shoulder, two-cage, shoot-offs and elsewhere on the courses.
“It’s super exciting,” said FITASC medalist and instructor Will Fennell. “There have been many times this has been kicked around and talked about. Nobody has ever put this much effort into it. The PSCA will highlight and showcase sporting clays talent in a professional format. It can bring more attention to the sport and bring more industry sponsorships. We will make a great first impression on TV.”
Timing is everything for the PSCA’s visionary founders.
As President of PSCA and tournament commentator, Mr. Carlisle recounted that the idea for PSCA came about at Houston’s American Shooting Center on June 11, 2013 with his client and sporting clays enthusiast, Mr. Osowski. After a lesson, the discussion turned to the future of clay shooting in America. Mr. Oswoski had just received an offer for his business, Oasis Energy, and was looking for his next venture. Mr. Carlisle suggested they start a professional sporting clays association. His Gold Medal Shooting Academy could serve as the cornerstone. Research ensued, along with the recruitment of Mr. Carlisle’s business partner, Mr. Weeks. Game Keeper Productions and Obsession Media (to sell advertising) soon joined the team.
Since the introduction of sporting clays to America some 30 years ago, several attempts had been made in organizing a sanctioned tour similar to the PSCA.
“It’s always failed,”Mr. Carlisle said. “But now the country is ready. Duck Dynasty and Top Gun are popular shows. We’re ready to break through.”
Although Mr. Osowski agreed that “It’s time for sporting clays to have a professional league,” other aspects of the sport contributed to his sizable investment in the PSCA.
He talked about Starbucks during the mid-1990s, when he had just graduated college, and recalled the lines of people waiting for specialty coffees. He realized the enormous investment potential of Starbucks partly because the chain “had an addictive product. I see that now in another addictive product, sporting clays. This sport is as addictive as golf, and for all the right reasons. It’s a game where the participant ultimately competes against him or herself and strives for perfection that can’t be obtained. For these reasons, those who try sporting clays tend to want to play it more. Some even get obsessed.”
In 2012, the NSCA counted more than 23,000 members supplemented by a three-to-five percent annual growth rate. Approximately one third of them did not shoot registered targets in tournaments.
Through its Collegiate Shooting Sports Initiative, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) trade group awarded $299,200 in grants to 41 colleges and universities to assist in the development and expansion of shooting sports programs during 2012. Of those schools, 11 are in the process of developing new shooting clubs.
And the Boy Scouts of America reported that the number of Shotgun Shooting merit badges increased 27.8 percent from 1999 to 2010, ramping to 26,173 awarded in 2012. Even Popular Mechanics magazine ran a brief piece on its web site titled How to Shoot Sporting Clays.
“The PSCA is something I have high confidence will be a good business investment,” said Mr. Osowski. “A national television audience will soon be seeing what the nation’s top shooters have chosen for competition.”