Keeping his eye on the target

Junior Parker Whittenburg focuses on growth in shooting clays


Junior Parker Whittenburg shoots at a sporting clays station on Tuesday, Sept. 10. Courtesy of Robert Whittenburg.

The pressure builds as he wishes to achieve his best. The targets determine where he will be placed in the tournament. Several hours of practice and mental preparation are meant for moments like this.

Junior Parker Whittenburg began shooting clays when his father, Robert Whittenburg, invited him along to shoot. Robert was introduced to the sport when he was young and he wanted to be able to share his love for the sport with his son. The sport which has been in Parker’s life since he was young would soon impact his future, daily life and character.

“My earliest memory of shooting is when I was 10 and at my family’s ranch and my dad let me shoot a 20-gauge shotgun as the first ever gun I shot,” Parker said. “I was standing and when I fired I had been knocked onto my butt and never wanted to touch a gun again.”

Once he started to take the sport seriously, Parker had to make adjustments to his mental focus in order to progress. Like any sport, shooting has an impact on the mental aspect of being an athlete.

“When I first started shooting, I put off a negative attitude [and] people didn’t want to shoot with me,” Parker said. “I wasn’t a courteous person so it’s really helped me pay more attention to what I’m doing and how its affecting other people.”

Once I forgot about the scores and just focused on having fun with the next target, I’d really shoot better.”

— junior Parker Whittenburg

The beginning of his journey with the sport emphasized perseverance. Parker had to make adjustments on how he chose to deal with challenges and his attitude. But his love for the sport allowed the challenges to transform him into a stronger player.

“Parker was very hard on himself in the beginning,” Robert said. “Parker has matured so much through competitive shooting. Now he understands that no one can be perfect. He has also learned self-discipline and perseverance as a result of shooting.”

Spreading his positive attitude is important to Parker. Caring for his team, showing his support inspires his teammates keeps their spirits high and allows for a bond to form.

“Parker is a great teammate [and] super uplifting but he will also push you to be better,” teammate Cole Johnson said.

Consistently competing and practicing a sport changes the athlete’s character. For Parker, the sport has created a foundation of sportsmanship and leadership that is noticed by teammates and coaches.

“I have watched him mature into a good young man,” coach Tim Willis said. “That is the most important thing he can achieve. Win [or] lose in competition, that doesn’t compare.”

 Overcoming challenges is a straining process players experience, wanting the result to improve their game as much as possible. For Parker, the countless amount of hours practicing and evaluating his game has made him a tougher competitor.

I have watched him mature into a good young man. That is the most important thing he can achieve. Win [or] lose in competition, that doesn’t compare.”

— coach Tim Willis

“I’d say my toughest problem I’ve had to overcome would be forgetting about the score and having fun with it,” Parker said. “I’d stress a lot about if I’m shooting well or not and then it would get in my head and I’d miss more targets. Once I forgot about the scores and just focused on having fun with the next target, I’d really shoot better.”

His passion for the sport has only grown and is accompanied by higher aspirations. Parker’s desire to keep improving and achieving more continually grows everyday. Significant goals allow Parker to know exactly what he must do to achieve them.

“In the future, I’m looking forward to meeting new people through the sport and hopefully one day getting good enough to win NSCA (National Sporting Clays Association), which means to outshoot every competitor regardless of class and concurrent class,” Parker said.