This is a story about teenagers and guns.
It’s a good story.
No, it’s a great story.
Interwoven in the tale is also the story of two working women who juggle careers, raise their children, work in the community and spend countless hours hauling their kids around Texas and beyond to pursue a sports passion.
That passion is competitive trapshooting, which involves shooting clay pigeons launched into the air by a spring-loaded device called a trap. It’s a serious sport even though most schools, stuck in the past, recognize only “traditional” sports such as football, basketball, baseball, track and maybe swimming and tennis as afterthoughts along with lacrosse and field hockey.
We can start with Bridget Bearden, a junior at All Saints Episcopal, one of Fort Worth’s private schools.
Her latest accomplishment was shooting a perfect 100 x 100 to make it to the finals as she captured the Lady Champion title at the San Antonio Junior Shoot-Out during the San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo. Her championship won her a $10,000 scholarship. This is not the first time she has run 100 targets; however, there were only three perfect scores and she was the only female to be perfect.
Bridget began shooting in the summer of 2014, competing in Youth Target Foundation shoots. She quickly transitioned to shooting primarily ATA (Amateur Trap Association) shoots as an adult.
To date Bridget has won 62 single titles (singles one bird at a time), 28 double titles (throws two birds at a time) and 29 handicap titles (beginners start at 19-yard line and you earn yardage by winning a handicap event at a shoot and/or shooting 96 to 100 until you advance to the back fence, the 27-yard line). She is now shooting from the 25.5-yard line.
In 2017 Bridget made the ATA Ladies State Team of Texas and the AIM All State Junior Team.
In 2018, she again made the ATA Ladies State Team (she’s team captain) and the AIM State Junior Team. (AIM is part of the ATA’s Academics, Integrity and Marksmanship program).
She has won state titles in Texas and Oklahoma.
To date, if you compare Bridget to every ATA shooter who is part of the TTA, she is ranked 5th behind four men and just 17 targets back from the top shooter and 49 targets ahead of the next woman. Bridget is currently working with her coaches shooting international trap (the Olympic game).
When Bridget is not shooting she spends time volunteering at Habitat for Humanity and horseback riding at her family ranch.
Bridget, 17, is one of four students at All Saints who are top-ranked in the state and nation. The others are Watt Wills, Weston Wills and Jackson McKechnie.
All Saints, of course, is known in particular for its football program, which regularly sends athletes to play NCAA Division 1 football.
Trapshooting is actually an Olympic sport and it’s mystifying why high schools don’t recognize the athletic ability it requires.
High school athletes such as these four students sacrifice as much, maybe more, to reach the levels they achieve. It takes long hours of intense concentration and dedication – hard work far from the cheering crowds who fill the stands for Friday night football games, for instance.
Individual sports, as opposed to team sports, are red-dirt tough. There is no real team to support the enormous effort that brings competitors exhilarating highs and devastating lows.
Shooting trap requires quick instincts, laser concentration and an eagle eye, along with nerves that do not twitch. Hours of practice are required.
Putting in those hours with their children are two highly accomplished Fort Worth businesswomen, Amy Houston Bearden and Susan Watt, who balance their business lives along with raising their children and helping them pursue their sports passion.
Both women come from well-known ranching families. The Watt name you recognize from Susan’s father, Bob Watt, who ran the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo for decades. Amy’s father, Tommy, is well-known in the horse-raising business and also in roping and the cutting-horse world.
Amy is the Community Outreach Coordinator in the office of Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson.
Susan is a longtime executive in the advertising and marketing agency business and now runs her own firm.
Aside from their professional lives both women are also active in the community, most notably with Ladies on the Lamb, the group founded by Rebecca Clegg Emery in 2001 to raise money for youth through purchasing the top lamb each year at the Fort Worth Stock Show Sale of Champions.
The group has raised $1.2 million since its inception.
Susan Watt has a precise answer for how her children started shooting trap. She says: “Aside from having a lifelong sport they can do, if kids want to continue in college it’s very different in the clay target world. There are over 300 universities in the U.S. with shotgun clubs or teams – Harvard and Yale being two of the oldest teams. There is even a large club team at UT in Austin.”
And there are potential financial advantages.
Susan says: “There are scholarship opportunities provided by many of the colleges, and the competitive organizations like Youth Target Foundation, American Trap Association and the National Sporting Clays Association offer scholarship opportunities. So does 4-H in Texas. There is also an Olympic opportunity if the kids choose the international games. There are strict code of conduct rules and regulations in shotgun sports, and I’ve not seen that in traditional sports.”
There is an additional element to the attraction of this sport for millennials, who are accustomed to a fast-paced life and demand quick and almost immediate action and results.
A clay target is launched and these kids point and shoot; they know immediately if they have succeeded.
As I said, this is a great story about kids and guns, one you are not likely to read anywhere else, and about busy, professional women in our community who manage careers and family, and support their children in a sport flying way below the radar.
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org