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Thread: Observations about the mutiple posts involving the past nationals and our sport

  1. #1
    Joe Plakis, 9575V is offline
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    Observations about the mutiple posts involving the past nationals and our sport

    A lot of people have been kicking around ideas and thoughts in regards to our last nationals held this October at the ?Fort.? Now most you whom truly know me know that I am not usually one to bite my tongue to say the least, but I stayed out of most of the banter because there now seem to be multiple threads all dealing with the same train of thought. For the purpose of this post I will call it ?saving the nationals syndrome? or just the ?syndrome? for short. In no way am I demeaning any of the thoughts and ideas that are being kicked around, some if not all have merit in one way or another. But I think that the major issue is one that we are truly missing the target on.
    Declining membership. Now you can use the word ?declining? in multiple manner, the most obvious is the amount of members that we have. That number has obviously been a major issue for our organization, and I cringe at the stories of ?back in the day? when they thought that they might actually have to cap membership! I have heard this story multiple times from people whom have been shooting since the 1960?s and into the 1970?s.
    The second way you can use the word ?declining? is with age and ability. I realize that I am writing this sitting in a chair as a 37 year old that is still in relatively good shape. That is not to say that I am as energetic as the 15 year old that joined the N-SSA in 1997. It is clear that a large portion of our organization is wearing ?grey? under their hats. You hear multiple cases of a team having one person under 20 and the others are all over 55 or even 65. A man of myth and legend spent his life looking for the Fountain of Youth, and he came up empty handed.
    Now to compound our issue, a few years back we changed the By-Law from an 8 person registered team roster to a 5 person roster. Now it is my humble opinion that this served us an ill-fated result. I am not saying that all teams are the same, and I am sure that some teams had ?members on paper? to keep teams legal. But it would be interesting to see if any of those teams that dropped from 8 to 5 have picked up any new members? Lowering the bar rarely works in society, and there are multiple cases that prove that. Not all teams are coming from the same rich recruitment areas, and each face their own set of burdens and hardships. But don?t forget that ?Home Plate? is the same size at the Tee-ball level, Little League, Babe Ruth League, High School, College, Minors and Pro Level. The goal doesn?t change depending on the skill level. I truly believe that the effect of going to 5 person rosters just ?kicked the can? down the road, and for some teams just bought them a few years before their eventual collapse.
    Save your team, save your region and in turn you will see the effect of the turnout at Nationals. My point is that all of those teams that are only 5 people have a very hard time finishing a clay board at nationals. Going to a five person team at nations, although it seems like a solution, it isn?t one, it serves nothing more than a delaying tactic. Because of the society we live in, Nationals might never be what it used to be. I can remember as a young kid in diapers, hearing people hooting, hollering, and generally raising one hell of a good time. Now the sad part is that most of those people are the same ones that raise hell when they are trying to sleep in a campsite when the 20-40 year old crowd is attempting to raise their own hell today. Heck the noise level in the 60?s, 70?s and 80?s has to be louder than the Predator Generator that I am not allowed to run after 9pm at Nationals.
    Re-writing the rules, all be it, just returning them to the way they were in the rule book that I have from 2004 would serve the Regions extremely well. Our National BOD has realized in the past that the rules at the Nationals for team sizes do not always serve the Regions the same way they could best serve the National Competition. That is the reason why awhile back they dropped to five person carbine teams and later dropped to five person musket teams. In the Middle Atlantic Region we have seen a good amount of participation increase when it comes to the amount of teams turning out. But I often wonder if there is an underling effect of this rules change. Do the extra shooters end up farming out and filling the ranks of other teams? Or do they just sit out? A skirmisher that sits out and doesn?t compete on a regular basis, now that is the easiest way to create an ?Ex-Skirmisher.?
    In 2004 a Musket Clay board was listed as having 24 or 32 clays on the backer, so in turn either 4 or 3 per competitor. The same targeting material but hanging was listed as either 12 or 16 for hanging clays. The same numerical values for 50 yard tiles, cans, wood blocks, pots and Styrofoam cups. Events are listed as either 10 or 12 per competitor depending of the targeting at 100 yards. So the rules ?used? to exist in the ways that some might deem beneficial, the question begs, why they were ever changed to begin with. All it will take is writing a regional commander and making the appropriate proposal, and getting the BOD to vote one it. This is one thing I plan on doing for this January BOD meeting. As a side note I never truly understood why the distance truly mattered, how a clay pigeon shot at 25 yards doesn?t count as an ?official event?, but I digress.
    Some might see lowering the amount of targeting as ?lowering the bar? but to be honest as long as it is an even playing field it is still a fair competition. For smaller regions that might only have 10-12 five person teams show up to shoot it definitely helps keep the costs of having skirmish lower, and also hopefully reflects in the cost to participate. Again these would be options at the Regional Level, and would hopefully help re-ignite the sport in those regions.
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    That brings up the next issue, there is an entire sport outside of Fort Shenandoah. That might be hard for some to fathom but it is definitely true! This is only pointed out to show that there are issues facing regions that do not use the Fort as their home range. A prime example is going to the five person musket team, that was a rules change driven by the nine other regions that do not use the fort, and as I understand it now the only region left that is exclusively 8 person musket teams for all regional shoots is the Mid-West Region, and the two Potomac Regionals held at the fort.
    Society around us has also changed drastically. People are too fast to attack a difference than to embrace a common similarity. Not to mention the rising cost of our sport, the days of $55 original muskets is gone, as well as the days of caps under $15 for a thousand. The price of gas and travel has also risen to levels that have begun to truly effect our sport. But then I am also reminded of the stories of the 70?s during the gas crunch when multiple skirmishers would jump in a van and drive miles to skirmish. It seems that in some cases we are too quick to grab and excuse then to go outside of our comfort zone to find a solution.
    Again these are just my thoughts on the matter, and they are just humble opinions, but I truly believe that our issue is that we are too often attempting to ?cure the disease? and are to blind to realize that we need to begin to treat individual symptoms. We need to recruit, we begin to grow again. We need to keep the bar high in the areas that are important at the National Level, and be willing to adapt and change at the Regional Level to help them grow. We need to stop trying to get 25 hours out of a day of skirmishing at the Nationals. We need to return to the basics of what made our sport fun?.. Competition and Camaraderie.
    Sorry about all of the spelling errors and poor grammar, rant over.
    Joe Plakis XXVIII
    Middle-Atlantic Region
    SAC
    9575V

    "Great leadership does not mean running away from reality. Sometimes the hard truths might just demoralize the company, but at other times sharing difficulties can inspire people to take action that will make the situation better." John Kotter

  2. #2
    PapaRob is offline
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    Joe...well said Sir, well said.
    R. Harrison
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    48th Virginia Infantry
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  3. #3
    PoorJack is offline
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    I'm with you Joe. We need to recruit and do whatever it takes to grow and in my mind that means working with youth and getting good publicity for our sport.
    "A man can never have too much red wine, too many books, or too much ammunition"
    Rudyard Kipling

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    Now to compound our issue, a few years back we changed the By-Law from an 8 person registered team roster to a 5 person roster. Now it is my humble opinion that this served us an ill-fated result. I am not saying that all teams are the same, and I am sure that some teams had ?members on paper? to keep teams legal. But it would be interesting to see if any of those teams that dropped from 8 to 5 have picked up any new members? Lowering the bar rarely works in society, and there are multiple cases that prove that. Not all teams are coming from the same rich recruitment areas, and each face their own set of burdens and hardships. But don?t forget that ?Home Plate? is the same size at the Tee-ball level, Little League, Babe Ruth League, High School, College, Minors and Pro Level. The goal doesn?t change depending on the skill level. I truly believe that the effect of going to 5 person rosters just ?kicked the can? down the road, and for some teams just bought them a few years before their eventual collapse.
    Maybe you're right, Joe. Maybe allowing the teams to shrink just bought some time and took away the urgency to recruit.

    One problem with having a 5-man team is that if you have more than 5 but less than 10 you end up with people who can't shoot with your team. I feel like we have this "no-man's land" that we can't bridge. We usually have 6 people turn out for a skirmish on a regular basis. This means one guy can't shoot with the team. We used to pick team shooters by stats, but this results in the same people not getting to shoot with the team and have to try to be farmed out if there is a place for them. This is demoralizing and we have lost shooters because of this. So I have switched to drawing straws to determine who shoots with the team. It's more important to keep everyone shooting and having fun than to have a competitive team.

    I try to remain optimistic. I intend to redouble recruiting efforts this year. We have permission to set up a table at a local gun store, and we are going to try and get tables at the local gun shows.

    I just feel like the winds of change in this country are blowing against us.

    Steve

  5. #5
    PapaRob is offline
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    Steve I know you can do it. You built that damn smoothbore from nothing but an idea...if you can do that you can beat enough bushes to pick up 10 more shooters. Don't sell yourself short.

    Yeah the BS wind is blowing against us at the moment that just means it's time for us to quit thinking about "The Good Old Days" and make some new ones.

    I will help you any way I can but I don't figure you'll need too much. You think outside the box enough to not get trapped by convention or pessimism. Stay strong...you got this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Maillemaker View Post
    Maybe you're right, Joe. Maybe allowing the teams to shrink just bought some time and took away the urgency to recruit.

    One problem with having a 5-man team is that if you have more than 5 but less than 10 you end up with people who can't shoot with your team. I feel like we have this "no-man's land" that we can't bridge. We usually have 6 people turn out for a skirmish on a regular basis. This means one guy can't shoot with the team. We used to pick team shooters by stats, but this results in the same people not getting to shoot with the team and have to try to be farmed out if there is a place for them. This is demoralizing and we have lost shooters because of this. So I have switched to drawing straws to determine who shoots with the team. It's more important to keep everyone shooting and having fun than to have a competitive team.

    I try to remain optimistic. I intend to redouble recruiting efforts this year. We have permission to set up a table at a local gun store, and we are going to try and get tables at the local gun shows.

    I just feel like the winds of change in this country are blowing against us.

    Steve
    R. Harrison
    Commander
    48th Virginia Infantry
    "Mountain Boomers"
    PSALMS 144 1-9

  6. #6
    John Holland is offline Moderator
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    Steve Sheldon, you are allowed to rotate shooters on your team in a team match event. With 6 people everyone gets to shoot.

  7. #7
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    I can't speak to the units outside the greater National Capital area, but I think one problem those of us who call Fort Shenandoah "home" have is that we don't get exposure outside the Fort. Back in the 1970s, we lived the "Skirmish Gypsy" lifestyle, shooting at a variety of local ranges. Which gave the locals exposure to the N-SSA.

    Now, we probably can't do that today, the Fort and its facilities are too attractive. But we can hold one-day Recruiting Skirmishes. Demonstrations. Let the locals try the guns. Shoot against their local talent (make the cartridge shooters load singly, and our all-stars usually won).

    The biggest problem is getting people to actually participate. I've been playing one-man-band at the Southern Maryland Celtic Festival...and could do so very much more with even one more person. But I can't get squat for participation.
    Support the USIMLT! Help your fellow Skirmishers go for the gold! www.usimlt.com

  8. #8
    Rick R is offline
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    Great and essential discussion. I have been skirmishing since 1981 but out in the Midwest during the CWSA days and on to ACWSA which I suppose I'm among the founding fathers. I have only been shooting N-SSA for 11 years (I think?) and have only been going to Nationals recently, 3 times in the last 4 years. I relish in what the Nationals are without the backdrop of what they were. Reflection is good if not essential but we could lapse into a self pity which does no good.

    We face an uphill struggle no doubt. Society has changed both in terms of peoples view of shooting sports guns in general, any association with war God forbid the Confederacy. I should mention that I live in the Chicago area of Madiganistan. I grew up playing Civil War during the Centennial running around the back yard with a trapdoor Springfield, Dad made sure I knew it wasn't period correct. The saber we trimmed the hedges with pure 1860. I first heard of skirmishing in 1967 and was hell bent on joining the fun as soon as I could. Anybody hear of a guy named Rusty "Cycle" (wrong spelling) Battery H, his dad's name was Dick?

    It isn't simply that prices have gone up everything has. We have less relative disposable income and leisure time in general and many hobbies and sports have suffered.

    The task of recruiting people like me in my generation was a cake walk. At one time we had people who could be hooked by simply becoming aware of what we do.

    When you consider the infinitesimal proportion of our society that was involved at our peak at best it was just that darned small. We aren't going to overcome the changes in society by doing what we have always done to recruit. I know a captain obvious statement. What if it is twice as hard to recruit and we do twice as well, bingo were even. Frankly I think it's harder than 2x but I hope I'm making my point. We may have less fertile ground but perhaps we may have only begun to do the best job of harvesting.

    I do a public living history presentation once a year. My observation, the thirst for our heritage is alive and well. I think there is a growing sense that we are being deprived. I get people taking my phone number, I have gotten numbers and made calls but it fizzles. I have a couple of teachers still in play from September.

    Ok so how do I elevate my game. I need to have a packet that describes in detail exactly what people need to prepare for their first skirmish. I have to take all apprehension of the unknown away or as much as possible. I need to bridge from a cool idea to heck why not i'll give it a go. I need to work as much in the off season on recruiting methods as I do working up the next musket or carbine.

    Ranges are great places to recruit. When I used to have a range to shoot at (it's Illinois) I never thought of bringing a recruiting or welcoming packet.

    We should be sharing best practices for recruiting as much as we do shooting tips. Which by the way is one of our most endearing qualities. Where else do your competitors do their level best to help you beat them?

  9. #9
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    Great points and observations, Rick.

    Regarding packet describing what folks need for their first skirmish: In order to mitigate any sticker-shock or big up-front costs, we tell new guys "Just show up. We'll stick a gun in your hands and strap leathers to you"... Of course, getting to a range first is always preferred, but the point is - We don't expect them to start buying stuff before they even show up. In fact, we discourage them from buying anything before they've shot at least once. That way, they get some time to see/try different things.

    Another perspective to keep: Skirmishing is 'expensive' but so is every other leisure activity! Any in many ways, its one of the cheapest competitive shooting sports out there! We spend about 30-cents per musket round (includes powder, cap, and lead). Compare that to a .308 modern round (about 75-cents round) and our rate of fire, ammunition is NOT expensive.

    Modern hunting rifle with decent scope: $5-600. Zoli Zuoave: $325. You tell an under-30 shooter that they can get a competition, skirmish ready repro for under $500 and they won't blink. Point is: Stop comparing today's prices of guns/shooting/etc to when you first started 20-30-40 years ago. Everyone knows you could buy a musket for a nickel back then. Hell, everything cost your grandparents a nickel! Of course, they made 7-cents an hour working as a shovel in a coal mine, but stuff was cheap... Or not...

    I recall someone already made one of these lists, and it might still be in the history. But a hat and shirt will get you started IF your teammates are willing to lend you gear until you start finding your own. Heck, first time I shot a skirmish, someone ran up to the line and stuck a hat on my head 'cause I didn't have one yet!

    Don't scare folks away talking about money - It's vulgar, crass, and unnecessary. Wait until later - Then clean out their bank accounts.. LOL

    My 5-cents worth

    -Boots
    Mike 'Bootsie' Bodner
    Palmetto Sharpshooter's, Commander
    9996V

  10. #10
    Rick R is offline
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    Absolutely Michael. Having links to videos also helps. I have extra leather hat sack coat. I have always expressed expectations of safety first, fun and camaraderie second tied with reliability and hitting targets last. But its hard for fun to kick in without hits. I tell people that comes in time and to be patient. I speak often of the best skirmisher I ever knew. Bill Knutzen, never hit a thing but had more darned fun than anybody.

    I would say I have done a better job of being ready to take care of new people but telling then not to worry I'll take care of you is insufficient. Letting them know specifically what that means is the next level.

    It also helps immensely to put a great shooting musket in their hands. I used to use my Hoyt relined 1861 tack driver out all the time. To see a struggling skirmisher light up with that thing was great fun. I shoot that bugger now but hope to get my Whitacer barreled 1855 rifle going and put the 61 into the loaner. I'm also working up an 1864 rifle at the same time with the plans to hand that to a new shooter,well sort of new she's my daughter who used to get dragged out as a wee one. If she gets hooked that gets me three grandsons to start on. But family can only get us so far. Thanks for the reminder I still have a Zoli Zouave that tears one jagged hole at 50 yd I never shot it at 100yd it was the loaner used by a deceased skirmisher technically it belongs to his widow but that's not a problem to loan out.

    I think we veterans who can afford to do so need to keep a musket at the ready to sell. We know how to get a skirmish ready competitive musket for under $1,000. There's a deeper hook with ownership of that first musket opposed to a loaner. Get someone out, loan them a killer musket and tell them it's theirs for $750. That's the position i want to be in.

    Cool story about the hat. I'll never forget going to the line year one or two for me and seeing a guy use a cake decorator to put crisco in the minie bases like we tended to do at the time. I asked him where he go that thing, hell I didn't know what it was. He said "I have two why don't you take this one."

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