An eye on the Olympics: DV graduate Johnson excels at skeet shooting - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Sports

An eye on the Olympics: DV graduate Johnson excels at skeet shooting

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Posted: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 7:00 am | Updated: 4:34 pm, Thu Feb 23, 2012.

Most kids don't grow up skeet shooting.

In reality, most kids don't grow up even knowing what skeet shooting is.

Bob Johnson wanted to make sure his son, Kyle, a Desert Vista graduate, was an exception to both.

Roughly seven years after Bob introduced his son to the sport, Kyle was recently selected to the USA Shooting Junior Olympic Team and the National Skeet Shooting Association Junior All-American First Team.

Bob, Kyle's only coach up until only a short time ago, has been working with him the whole way.

"I couldn't be prouder," Bob said. "I'm just really, really proud that he's found something that he's very passionate about and enjoys doing. To me, that's success enough."

These days, Kyle's success could be defined in many different ways. Whether it is by being named to the Olympic and All-American teams or by being the current Arizona High Over All Champion, Kyle admitted his love for the sport traced back to his dad.

"My dad took me dove hunting and I only brought a BB gun," Kyle said. "I had a blast with that, so he started taking me to the range to practice with an actual shotgun."

Kyle remembered a Christmas not too long after that when his dad surprised him with an identification card for the Scholastic Clay Target Program, which is sponsored by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

"(SCTP) was a gateway to get introduced to the sport," Kyle said. "They have a bunch of volunteer coaches that come out every week. They just try to introduce as many people as they can."

In Bob's eyes, the program allowed Kyle to make some friends and reach a competitive level as he progressively got more comfortable with the sport.

"(SCTP) teaches kids how to safely handle shotguns and firearms," Bob said. "It just gives them a good environment for camaraderie and competition."

When first training through the SCTP, Kyle switched between trap (where the clay targets are shot away from the shooter at various angles) and skeet shooting (where the targets are shot either high or low across the shooter).

When skeet shooting stuck, it became one of Kyle's main focuses.

"I would love to get a chance to go to the Olympics and shoot in World Cups before then," Kyle said.

While he attends Mesa Community College as a freshman with a plan to major in biological sciences, Kyle trains almost every day to continue working toward his Olympic skeet shooting dream. His training varies daily between gun mounts at home without any ammo, physical exercise and shooting about a case of ammo at the range.

In addition to his training, Kyle has been working closely with Dr. Mark Page of Arizona's Vision to improve his eyesight. While Kyle is not yet a candidate for Lasik or corrective eye surgery, his contacts have allowed him to see the targets more clearly.

The 2011 Arizona State Skeet Championship gave Kyle the opportunity he was looking for to show that his hard work had paid off.

By combining his scores in the 12-gauge, 20-gauge, 28-gauge and 410-bore events, Kyle was named the High Over All Champion. The combination of those four main gauge events and an event called doubles gave Kyle the title of High All Around Runner-Up and Junior Champion.

"The juniors in Arizona have been extremely competitive for the past five or six years," Kyle said.

His involvement in international skeet shooting, a game that includes targets that fly faster and further than American skeet shooting, is what secured him the spot on the Junior Olympic team.

"International skeet is much more difficult," Bob said. "He enjoys both, so he's been shooting both. It's kind of hard to switch back and forth sometimes but last year he did shoot both, switched back and forth a whole lot throughout the season and won several shoots (and) several medals."

While he admitted children don't always respond well to the idea of having their parent as a coach, Bob is happy with the way Kyle and him are able to interact.

Kyle recognized his dad as "a very good coach," and the father-son tandem appears to be working.

Bob's admiration for his son's dedication shines through any issues they may come across.

"More than I've seen a lot of other kids listen to their parents, he listens to me and puts in practice and does a good job," Bob said.

• Chris Cole is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a sophomore at Arizona State University.

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Jason P. Skoda
  • Jason P. Skoda
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  • Resident sports writer at the Ahwatukee Foothills News

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