Jim Porter shares his love of shooting through instructing.
Photos Courtesy Jim Porter
Cool Jobs: Shooting Instructor
Teaching and Mentoring
Story By Linda Hoff "Instructing is such a rewarding profession," says Jim Porter of his job as a National Sporting Clays Association (NSCA)-Certified Level III instructor and chief shooting instructor at the Triple B Clays Shotgun Sports Park in El Monte, Calif. The way he sees it, teaching is about passing on so much more than just how to hit a target. "It's about attitude," says Porter. "It's about self-discipline. It's about sportsmanship, manners, modesty, humility and controlling your emotions."
The Early Years
With a father who was a sportsman and hunter, it was only natural for the young Porter to become involved with guns and shooting, too. "I received my hunter safety certificate at a very young age and plinked with the family," he says.
At his father's shooting range, Porter joined the .22 rifle youth shooting program and even shot in a few matches. But a family move put an end to competitive shooting for a time. Instead, Porter used his rifle for shooting rabbits—right up until the day he went shooting with a friend. At day's end, Porter had bagged one rabbit. His friend, armed with a shotgun, did considerably better. "My buddy," recalls Porter, "looked like a fur coat with 10 rabbits hanging over his shoulder."
That night, Porter bought his first shotgun. On weekends and evenings he'd practice at the local shooting range, where he took up trap. "I only had a single-shot H&R Topper, but I really enjoyed seeing the clay targets break," says Porter. "I soon earned enough money to move up to an over-under, and skeet became my new adventure."
JIM PORTER'S SHOOTING TIPS
• Practice sound fundamentals
• Keep a positive attitude
• Set goals that are high, but attainable
• Have fun
• As Winston Churchill once said, "Never, never, never quit!"
By the time Porter was in his early 20s, he knew he wanted his own business. With his knowledge of firearms, opening a sporting-goods store was a logical choice. So Porter and his wife did just that, specializing in dog-training supplies, with a heavy emphasis on shotguns. In his free time, Porter shot trap competitively. In 1985, he shot the second high score at the Grand American handicap with a 98 out of 100.
Over the years, the Porter business became much more than just a store. Porter started inviting customers to shoot with him on Tuesday nights, a tradition that went on for 25 years and grew from just a handful of shooters to over 150. He found himself studying the shooters in action and offering tips on how to improve their scores. Word spread, and soon Porter had a steady schedule of lessons as well as league action for both trap and skeet.
As the sport of sporting clays emerged, Porter became a fan. "I quickly realized," says Porter, "that this was the ultimate shotgun sport, and it hooked me like a big bass taking a lucrative lure." He added sporting clays into his Tuesday night leagues.
In 1995 Porter was diagnosed with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, and was given less than a year to live. He sold his sporting goods store. But 14 years later, he is very much alive. Although no longer able to walk or to load a gun by himself, Porter continues to do what he does best—teach—and is rated one of the top 30 instructors in the country.
What You Can Do Now
• Find a good youth program with a coach who is also a mentor.
• Read as much as you can about shooting and shooting psychology.
• Get involved in the National Sporting Clays Association, www.nssa-nsca.com. Although you can't become a Level I instructor until age 18, once you're an experienced youth shooter, you may be able to help out with organizational events and such things as safety briefings, gun cleaning and checking gun fit.
A Typical Day
As you would imagine, a typical day for a shooting instructor is all about teaching. For Porter, that means hitting the range for private and group lessons in sporting clays, trap and skeet as well as conducting instructor-training courses. As founder and manager of Triple B's youth shooting program, Porter devotes a lot of time to coaching the Southern California (So Cal) Top Guns, a youth shooting team that travels and competes throughout the U.S. He is active in the Scholastic Clay Target Program and has also been the state director of that program. In other words, he is a busy man.
Porter likes to tailor each lesson to his student. He does so by taking a look at "where the shooter is and how we will improve his or her shooting during our time together."
Asked about his favorite part of being a shooting instructor, Porter responds quickly, "Watching kids mature and seeing their confidence grow." His least favorite? "Letting a kid go because of a bad attitude—something he needs to change, can change, but won't."
Kids and Guns
When Porter talks about his So Cal Top Guns, you can feel the pride he has in these young people—and with good reason. "I have produced numerous All-State, Zone 7 team members and All-American team members," says Porter. Many participants in his youth program have attained master class status. And in 2009 Joshua Gomez, one of Porter's students, finished ninth top sub-junior shooter in the country and was selected for Team USA.
Porter is equally enthusiastic about the Scholastic Clay Target Program. "It's an excellent way for a young shooter to get started in shotgun shooting," he says. "The youth of today are the future of our sport."
One "Cool Job"
For Porter, being a shooting instructor is all about making a positive difference in the lives of his students. "I think that through instructing, I give life lessons to my students along with their shooting lessons," he says.
And so, despite his ongoing battle with ALS, Jim Porter continues his "cool job" as a shooting instructor and mentor to kids and adults. Maybe being a shooting instructor is the "cool job" in your future, too.