Two weeks ago, I had a chance to spend some time at the Western Virginia Sports Show. Mark Hanger, the producer and owner of the show impressed me with his commitment to conservation and getting families interested in the great outdoors.
When I caught up with Hanger at the show I asked him how the attendance was. He told me it was better than they expected given the economy, then he made an interesting observation.
“The only thing we can point to is they want to be happy for a while, they don’t want to hear any bad news. They want to be enlightened, entertained and come out and spend some time with their family at a reasonable cost and have some good entertainment,” he said.
In his show brochure Hanger said “on your next trip, take a young person with you and teach them to love, respect and enjoy God’s great outdoors.”
I asked him about getting kids into the outdoors.
“There is no doubt about it that that is the most important because it is our future. If we don’t get children in the outdoors, then our sports are going to diminish and be gone forever,” he said.
Hanger pointed out a number of educational elements at the show including the Bucks, Bows and Does, Outdoor Adventure archery education trailer and the show’s wild game display.
A great example of getting kids engaged in the outdoors was the Orange County High School Anglers Club. They are a 4-H and Junior B.A.S.S. Federation Nation club.
The club is made up of students ages 11 to 19 who love to bass fish competitively.
I spoke with Becky Gore, the club’s advisor. Gore is a teacher and a former coach. She is the power house behind the club and a joy to talk with. If every school in the Valley can find a Becky Gore, then fishing will have a very bright future.
Gore told me how she got the club started.
“In 1999, about ten years after my husband had died, I had just gotten my kids in college. I decided I wanted to start fishing again, so I went to the high school principal and said I would like to start a fishing club and she said ‘sure, go for it,’ ” Gore said. “We have three entities, we were first 4-H and the high school together, and then the B.A.S.S. Federation found out about me and they were trying to implement a youth program in Virginia. They called me up and asked me if would I be interested. I asked what they could do for my kids. They said they could advance to a world level. I said ‘Sure, let’s do it.’ Plus, they mentioned the word scholarship and I jumped on it.”
Gore told me what other high schools could do to get do to get the program started. She ticked these items.
“You’ve got to have someone who loves kids and loves being with kids and is willing to do it without getting compensated,” she said. “You’ve got to have some kids that are interested. Once those kids approach that principal and say ‘We want a bass club,’ then that principal may go out or tell those kids, ‘Well, you find a sponsor and then we will do it.’ ”
Gore told me the kids can receive their high school letter if they meet the criteria. She has developed that criteria and told me that all another coach or teacher needs to do is contact her and she would be happy to share it with them.
“And that is the other cool thing about this, it’s parents and kids working together,” she said. “And the other thing I have tried to do is give the kids an opportunity to be with their parents. Be with their dads or moms out on the water on a Saturday or Sunday.”
Gore credits the parents, students and her volunteers for making the program a success. She considers them all family.
Nothing is more important for the future of hunting and fishing than helping the next generation learn about the sports we love. Let’s all do a little more where we can.