The Daisy National BB Gun Championship Match (Daisy Nationals) is the highlight of the year for youth BB gun shooters across the country. This National Championship brings teams from across the country to compete in Rogers, Ark., in a 5-meter, four position contest for youth ages 8-15. Shooters compete in Standing, Kneeling, Sitting and Prone positions for a possible total of 400 points. Each competitor also takes a written gun safety/rules test, which adds another possible 100 to each competitor’s score. Each team consists of five youth, so the highest total score for any team is 2,500.
In 2022, it was the Walton County 4-H team out of Georgia that mounted the award stand in the gold medal position with a score of 2,412 with 96 bullseyes. Georgia’s 4-H Shooting Sports program is one of the strongest in the nation, and the state always sends multiple teams to this competition.
To win a National BB Gun Championship Match, the competitors must be disciplined, prepared and at the top of their game, but behind every successful team is a cadre of supportive and dedicated coaches and parents. Head coach for the National Champion Walton County 4H Team is Jaymie Goitia.
She joined the Walton County program in 2008. Her husband was with the Department of Defense in Iraq, leaving her basically a single mom raising three girls and a boy. Her son, outnumbered by girls in the household, wanted to do something “for boys,” so she called the county 4-H office and was directed to the BB team. The family would learn that competitive shooting was not just a “boy thing,” but it did make a huge impression on her son – and her, too. Two years later she brought her daughter, Emi, in to join the team.
“She was terrified of the coach,” Goitia said, “but he worked diligently to gain her trust, and taught her so much. Emi had a great six-year shooting career with multiple match wins, medals and trips to the Daisy Nationals. Both coaches retired in 2019, Emi’s last year competition.”
Goitia admits that she didn’t know much about shooting when her son started with the BB program, but when the coaches retired she stepped in for the 2020 season. Then Covid happened, shutting down the programs, and in 2021 there was a limited program under strict protocols. The Covid years were stressful.
“We couldn’t have full team practices or matches,” she said. “I tried hard to keep the program successful by focusing on making our shooters good people first, and then good shooters.”
There were 28 youth in the Walton County 4H BB Program in 2022, and the top seven were selected to shoot at the Daisy Nationals. Each was selected on the basis of sportsmanship, dedication, shooting scores and test scores. The team practiced two or three times a week for the last couple of months, devoting an hour to shooting and an hour to studying for the test.
“We knew we had to nail the test to be competitive,” Goitia said. “In the end, our seven shooters (five competitors plus two alternates) dropped a total of only three questions on the test!”
Coming into the National BB Gun Championship Match, Goitia knew they had a shot at being a top 3 team. Several were in the group of five that shot the NRA National Record of 1925 in 2021 and then broke their own record with a 1930 this year. It was tough to select just seven to attend the Nationals, Goitia said, and all seven shot their personal bests when it counted. The team only had one shot out of the black (bullseye) the entire competition.
Top shooter for the Walton County 4H team was Bethany Shirley. She started the program in 2019 and worked diligently as the competition neared. She shot a 390 and missed just a single question on the test. She’s calm and confident when the chips are down, but it wasn’t always that way.
“Bethany’s dad, Hank, worked with her day-in and day-out to improve her shooting,” Goitia said. “When she started she was so scared and shy that she could barely come forward to accept her medals. At the Daisy Nationals she accepted multiple medals with a huge smile on her face. It is so wonderful to see how she’s grown as a shooter and a person the last few years. She ages out this year so this was her last BB competition.”
Another top shooter on the team is Mason Harper. He held the NRA Individual BB Record of 392 going into this match. However, there was a question as to whether or not he would be able to make the trip. Mason contracted Covid and it hung on way too long. He couldn’t practice but was determined to make the trip. He crushed it with a 386 shooting and a perfect score on the test.
“To watch Mason grow up from a shy, nervous 9-year-old into a confident young man has been a gift,” the coach said. “His dad, Adam, has been his coach for every match, every shot since 2016. They finished their BB career at the Daisy Nationals as he turned 16 a few weeks after the event.”
Rounding out the team was Levi Fuller, Madison Baines and Sydney Harper. Levi shot his last BB competition, too. He was on the second-place team in 2019. Madison’s parent coach is her mom, and she won several matches leading up to the Nationals. Sydney had attended the Daisy Nationals as a young girl watching her brother. Sydney and her mom worked though some issues with the Standing position leading up to the match, but she shot a 92 in the position at the Nationals.
The coaches are responsible for many aspects of the team beyond planning and executing practices. Those responsibilities grow when competition starts, but it’s the parents that can be the key to a youth’s success. The youth shooters have a personal coach that approaches the line with them, both in practice and in competition, and that’s often mom or dad.
For the Walton County 4H team, dads Adam Harper and Hank Shirley led the classroom portion of each practice, creating lesson plans and practice tests. The team’s incredible score on the Daisy Nationals test proves they were tops at their jobs. Moms Tiffany Fuller and Jennifer Harper served as personal coaches for their youth shooters, Levi and Sydney.
“I am pretty good at repairing guns, coaching positions and doing paperwork, but it’s the parents on the line who do the hard work with their shooters,” said Goitia. “I wouldn’t trade the joy of watching the parents and their youth shooter work together to accomplish great things for anything.”
If you’re interested in starting a BB Gun team, the best place to start is your local 4H program. Contact your local County Extension Agent to get information on available programs.
Click here for more information about the Daisy National BB Gun Championship.