Basin Electric employee, daughter hit the mark on family time

Antelope Valley Station Mechanic Matthew Weigel and his daughter, Michele. 

Anyone who has a teenager knows that getting quality time with them can be a “long shot.” But Antelope Valley Station Mechanic Matthew Weigel and his daughter, Michele, are able to spend several hours a week together participating in a sport they both love.

Shooting sports encompass many forms of shooting. It is both an intercollegiate club sport recognized by many colleges across the United States and sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and also an Olympic sport. A person can compete as an individual or with a club, and shooting can be a lifetime sport.

The sport involves an individual shooting a firearm at a target. There are several competitive events marksmen can participate in, including high-power rifle, cowboy action, and bullseye pistol, to name a few. There is also a Junior Marksmanship Program where youth from ages 12-20 can learn firearms safety and marksmanship.

The Junior Marksmanship Program, sponsored by the Bismarck-Mandan (North Dakota) Rifle and Pistol Association, was the program Matthew got involved in as a teenager. He says he loved the sport and actively participated in it through high school.

As often happens, college, a career, and parenthood became Weigel’s priorities, but eventually he started shooting again. When one of the youth coaches mentioned that he should get his then-12-year-old daughter involved, he asked her if she wanted to give it a try for a year. “When she started, she really took off after it,” Matthew says.

As Michele became more active in the sport, Matthew began helping with tasks such as scoring targets. A year later, when he learned the club needed more coaches, he took a step he never thought he’d take and began working on his coaching certification.

Junior Marksmanship coaches must participate in intense, multi-level courses certified by the National Rifle Association. The courses cover not only the rules and fundamentals of the sport but most importantly, they stress safety. “This is a supervised, safe sport,” says Tom Thompson, the program’s head coach. “Before every practice and every match, we hold a safety briefing with all the participants. The guns are only loaded when the shooters are in position and the command to load has been given. Fingers are never to be on the trigger unless they’re actively shooting. Muzzles are always pointed in a safe direction, usually up, when not shooting. And, we always put a flag in the empty chamber to show that the gun is not loaded. Safety is second nature but something we never take for granted. There is no room for mistakes.”

In addition to coaching, Matthew still competes in the sport himself, and he and Michele even compete against each other in a few events. “Normally she beats me, but I’ve beat her a couple times,” he says. “Between school and work it’s really the only time we get to hang out together.”

“I like it because it’s different,” Michele says. “Guns are often portrayed as bad and the people who have them as violent. When you get involved in this sport you see how everyone involved is so nice. The coaches, no matter if you’re on their team or part of another one, give you pointers to help you improve. The people are the best part of the whole experience.”

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