Every shotgun enthusiast knows the importance of owning the right shotgun. But for high schoolers on a competitive trajectory like the Dale sisters, the role of an interpersonal support system comprised of family and mentors makes the difference between using that shotgun or having it languish in a corner.
The sisters’ vocations have skyrocketed since Alicia first started the sport in eighth grade, and the encouragement of their family has played a huge part of their success so far. But the journey of Monica and Alicia up through the ranks of competitive clay shooting hasn’t been without sacrifice.
“I’ve had to dramatically cut back in my social life with friends, and I am also not as involved in other activities, but it is totally worth it as I meet new people while working toward my dream,” said Monica.
“Before I started shooting, I was a competitive dancer,” said Alicia. “I danced about 15 hours a week and for one year I attempted to shoot while maintaining my dance. It was physically draining on me and my parents who had to drive me what seemed like all of creation to do both. After that hectic year, I had a conversation with my parents about both the sports and it was decided that I would not be able to dance competitively and shoot. There was not enough time to run between competitions and practice enough to be successful in both. So, I chose to continue with shotgun sports and danced during the week, I just didn't compete.”
The oldest sister by two years, Alicia, was the first to enter the universe of competitive shooting sports when she was introduced to it in eighth grade. Alicia and her dad had been looking for ways to spend some father/daughter time together. They initially started going to an archery program, but the leader of the club asked if Alicia had ever tried shooting clays. She was encouraged to try it with her local trap and skeet shooting team at Wilmot High School, in Wilmot, Wisconsin.
“I was so nervous at the first practice,” said Alicia. “It was a little intimidating − the rules, knowing where to stand, when to move….” Over the next few years, though, Alicia’s skills and confidence grew with her commitment, in turn leading to awards, recognition and even a sibling rivalry.
Throughout high school the two women were always very close in results. One of the sisters would beat the other by one point, and then the results flip-flop.
Monica (left) and Alicia Dale.
Of their on-field collaboration and interpersonal competition, Alicia observed, “It makes us focus more, and definitely pushes us. My sister and I help each other with almost every aspect of the sport. We stand behind each other to figure out little tweaks we could make and to ensure our fundamentals are in check. This is getting harder for me as she is getting taller, soon I am going to have to stand on a bucket to see down her barrel from behind her shoulder.”
“My main role model for the shotgun sports is my older sister,” said Monica. “She was there for my first perfect round and she shows me that I can achieve my dream if I just keep my head up and work hard.”
Both women heartily acknowledge that their parents were vital in maintaining the crucial support that helped them thrive in the shotgun sports.
“Our parents are not just the main financial supporter of our shotgun endeavors, they also are my main moral support system and my Mom especially helps me to calm my nerves by being nervous for me,” said Monica. “They help me pick myself up after I have a bad round or day so that I can do better next time.”
Alicia noted that there were several people influential in building their shotgun skills including Coach Ed Koenig and his wife Jeannie Koenig who always reminded the girls on the team that gender was nothing in what the ladies on the Wilmot team called “girl power.”
“My dad Peter is the current head coach of the Wilmot team,” Alicia continued. “He would coach me when I asked for his help on a specific aspect of my shooting that I was trying to perfect or correct. Because of my parents, I understand the importance of hard work and determination to achieve goals in all areas of my life.”
While mentors are always critical, at some point in a budding clays shooting career you can’t ignore the fact that a better shotgun is simply necessary.
As her skill grew, Alicia decided to move from a field gun to a target gun. “With a target gun you can see more than with a field gun. If you can see it, you can shoot it, she said. She tested out a few different models before she chose the 12-gauge CZ Redhead Premier Target.
According to Alicia, the CZ Redhead Premier Target fit best, and she was happy to see immediate improvement.
Monica decided to move to the 12-gauge CZ at the same time, “I had a lot of issues with guns breaking down before I changed to the CZ,” she said. Today Monica is able to shoot consistently without technical issues and she has become increasingly successful.
The CZ Redhead Premier Target.
The Redhead family is CZ’s flagship over/under. The Dales opted for the Redhead Premier Target, which weighs eight pounds. The over/under has a Turkish walnut stock with adjustable comb. A tournament-grade palm swell on the grip provides greater control. The 30-inch barrels are complemented by six stainless chokes.
Both sisters assert that their change to CZ Redhead Premier Target shotguns has drastically improved their performance in all areas of competition. Bunker trap is the category of choice for Alicia and Monica. The speed and technical aspects are what make it so interesting, and the CZ helps them perform their best at competitions.
The shooting sports have been a family affair for the Dales from the beginning. Their father, Peter, is now the Wilmot High School team's head coach, and their mom Kristen coaches as well.
Looking ahead, big things are in store for both of the Dale sisters. Alicia, who shoots on the shotgun sports team of Midland University in Fremont, Nebraska, will be heading to Cyprus in March for the ISSF Shotgun World Cup. Meanwhile, Monica recently signed a letter of intent with Concordia University in Nebraska where she’ll shoot on their shotgun team.
Both universities are about an hour’s drive apart – close enough to maintain their friendly sibling rivalry shooting clays.
Hannah Stonehouse Hudson is a Wisconsin-based photographer/writer.