By Nick Nahas
With two state titles and two national championships under its belt, the Fishhawk Dynasty Club is living up to its name as a dynasty. Started in 2013, the club is a chapter of the nationally-recognized Scholastic Clay Target Program, which teaches organized shooting to students aged 8 to 18.The club has picked up a lot of steam, increasing from a handful of students in its first year to 32 students in its third year.
The club has 15 volunteer coaches that come out every other weekend from anywhere between two to four hours during the season to help coach their students and instill confidence in them.
Head instructor Joe Mandracchia, who recently retired after 40 years of teaching, has combined his love of the sport with his commitment to mentoring young people. He beams with pride as he talks about his students and the progress they have made.
During Nationals competition in Columbus, Ohio in July, coaches weren’t allowed to coach their players and they had to stand across the road from them. This really helped the players bond with each other. “The kids throughout the entire year are coached to see what we see, to say what we say,” Mandracchia said.
“When they see their teammate getting frustrated, they can calm them down and talk them back into what they are supposed to do. It’s an interesting thing to see the kids go from being as quiet as this table, to interacting with each other.”
Assistant Coach Dan Wigh said their teaching method is geared to youth, encouraging them to self-correct and coach themselves. He has seen positive effects on his students, including his daughter, Abbey. “You see them go from these little kids that are timid and afraid, and they start understanding their sport and their confidence grows,” he said. “In the case of my daughter, it’s given her that confidence and drive that she has carried over into her schoolwork. It affects every aspect of their lives, and that’s why our main goal is to build good citizens.”
The club, which practices two Sundays a month at Fishhawk Sporting Clays in Lithia, runs on donations, fundraising and sponsorships, which help offset the cost to the students. “It’s an expensive sport. We can control the costs to a certain degree and we can make it affordable for someone who wants to learn the sport, but to really elevate them up into the championship levels, it takes a tremendous amount of funds and effort. We are always looking to do fundraisers to help the kids,” Wigh said.
Donations to the Fishhawk Shooting Sports Foundation are tax deductible and can be sent to 13505 Hobson Simmons Rd., Lithia, FL 33547.