Belt High School Encourages the development of target shooting teams


September 13, 2023

Belt High School is looking to expand its high school clay shooting team this academic school year. The unusual High School sport opportunity is entering its second year and coaches are hoping to expand the program by involving 7th and 8th graders in the program. Last year, the team included students from 9th to 12th grade. The team is also looking to expand their opportunities by encouraging other North Central Montana schools to join in the fun.

I met Phil Lodge, the coach of the Belt Clay Shooting team, at the Beltstock concert. He explained a little about how the program worked locally: "It's a club through Belt High School. Last year, we had a super successful year. We had 10 shooters out of 100 kids. We are shooting through the USA Clay Targets League where they're scored online, which was fantastic for the kids. They were able to participate in that, but unfortunately, we didn't have any in-person competition."

Team members were selling 50/50 tickets at the concert to raise money and awareness of the sport. "We're trying to help raise funds and awareness and trying to help other schools in central Montana start their own clay target shooting teams so that we can do some in person competitions this year. That is our goal."

"We're really hoping that this is going to grow and turn into something where kids get another avenue to compete, learn gun safety, to learn sportsmanship and marksmanship with shooting." He went on to explain that involvement can lead to further involvement and awareness for hunting and conservation activities. He also pointed out that competitions are unusual in the world of high school athletics. "This is a really neat sport. So what's unique about this is that there's no male team, female team. There's no seniors, there's no varsity or junior varsity. Everybody shoots together, somebody participates, everybody shoots, everybody gets up on the line. The plays come out the same speed, everybody shoots the same type of gun, the same type of ammunition." He went on to explain that there are numerous other shooting events available and that target

shooting has one of the best safety records for high school athletics. "It's also one of the safest sports in high school sports because they have zero injuries. With millions of rounds fired, it's super safe, We really stress firearm safety, which is excellent for any of our youth to learn in a respectful manner."

Phil explained that the team came about through the work of locals. "We had some interested parents, which is what every school is going to need. We're gonna need involvement from parents and local businesses to help raise funds for it." A number of roles need to be filled in order to organize a team, including coaching staff, range safety officers, and scorers. Phil went on to explain that the Belt team organizers and leaders would gladly help other schools to get their own teams started. "We got signed up through USA Clay Targets. Our whole staff and board of directors would be more than happy to help any town get started. We'refunded as a 501(c)3. It's just been super successful so far, and we're taking part of our proceeds to try to help any of the other local communities get the same thing going."

In addition to local business support, team members have done plenty of hands-on fundraising work to help cover expenses. "We're trying to make this affordable for all the kids. Without any support, it's going to cost each student somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 to $600 a year. We've done a lot of fundraising this year to try to offset that. We held a sporting clays tournament at the ranch Isabel Creek, who are some of our gracious sponsors. We had a two day event this weekend, part of which we partnered with Beltstock, encouraging folks to come down to this event where our students are selling for 50/50 raffle tickets in continuation of that effort."

Phil repeatedly expressed the organization's desire to encourage and aid other schools in starting their own teams. For more information, you can contact the Belt Clay Shooting team at


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