Q&A with Head Coach and Regional Field Rep, Bill Perkins

“Building a winning team.” To some, that may mean National Titles. Although the Arizona Wildgats and Straight Shooters have many of those, Head Coach Bill Perkins defines a winning team differently.

Formed in 2012, Coach Perkins began building before any equipment or athletes were added to the roster. “Philosophically, I wanted to run a top-notch team without cobbled together equipment. I knew I wanted to run gear that would be competitive so we wouldn’t grow out of our gear. Looking back on that, I think that was the right approach.”

When it comes to running a successful youth shooting sports program, Coach Perkins likes to use a tripod analogy: “You have to have the motivated adults, the kids, and a place to shoot. If any of those legs is weak, you’re going to struggle. Finances are always a struggle for every team and there’s not a magic pill. You just have to work your way through it.”

The home range for youth shooting sports is crucial to longevity. His advice for keeping a relationship with a shooting range is just that: a relationship. “We’ve got to recognize when we go to that range, we are one cog in their very big machine. My best advice would be to build a relationship with more than one representative of the range. If you have a great relationship with one guy and he leaves, you’re gunna feel the pain. You have to do a good job of telling your own story.”

His dedication to sharing the safety of firearm ownership and marksmanship is a honest and welcoming take: “I tell them right up front, this doesn’t have to be an all consuming part of your identity. After doing this for a semester or year, you’ll have a lot more understanding about firearms that will hopefully benefit you for the rest of your life.”

Building support at the community level can be more than just fellow range members. The WildGats put on a community outreach event called “First Shots”, a National Shooting Sports Foundation initiative. “This is where you start to deal with intangibles because a lot of this is honestly emotional. I can tell you this is one of the programs that makes the Arizona WildGats a stronger team. First Shots is specifically geared towards members of the public that are brand new firearms owners, how to be safe with firearms. It starts off with the basics of gun safety and the very basics of marksmanship. We are sharing this information with our community, which makes our community safer. I can’t quantify that other than to tell you, there are somewhere between 700 and 900 members of our community have been through our program.”

Participation of the International Disciplines in SASP is growing. Coach Perkins has a tip for other coaches as an easy way to begin, without incurring additional purchases. “What I would definitely do different is focus on Sport Pistol. You can take your Ruger Mark IV and take that exact same firearm, magazines, ammo and go shoot Sport Pistol without any additional equipment restraints. Sport Pistol is a more natural fit for a team of action shooters.”

Team practice more often than not, is a necessary activity but a big time crunch for the coaches, athletes, and parents. To benefit the most out of it, Coach Perkins recommends making missing matter. “A dueling tree is personal. A favorite of mine. When you’re just shooting a stage with a timer and have a bad string, you can just brush it off. But when shooting head to head against a team mate, its motivating! Or sometimes we’ll run stages Virginia Count, which means five rounds loaded in magazines for a five round stage. You’re either going to shoot a clean run or I’m kicking you off the line and up comes the next athlete. Its up to you!”

Listen to the full interview with Coach Perkins on our youtube channel:

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