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July 2020 Member Spotlight

15 Questions With USA Shooting CEO Matt Suggs


 

What have you learned about yourself from when you first started as a shooting athlete to becoming USA Shooting CEO?  

What I learned about myself is that I really missed shooting and the friendships I created over the past 40 years of involvement in the sport.  Shooting provided me a foundation of self-confidence and discipline that I’ve relied on consistently throughout my professional career. 


What is your favorite part about the rifle discipline? Do you enjoy other disciplines?
  

I’ve always loved paying excess baggage fees and carrying lots of luggage, and since I’m terrible at windsurfing, Rifle seemed like the best option for pursuing these interests.  In the last year I’ve been shooting a little bit of shotgun, and I really enjoy that.  


What inspired you to begin your shooting sport career all those years ago? 

My father and my first rifle coach, Emmit O’Connor, encouraged me to begin shooting smallbore rifle at our club near Eugene, Oregon.  Countless coaches and other parents helped me along the way included our current National Rifle Coach, Dan Durben.   



What was your favorite memory as a shooting sport athlete? 

I have many fond memories of from my shooting career.  It’s hard to pick out a favorite.  Purely from a competitive point of view, I had one of my best performances at the 1994 CISM World Championships.  I shot a personal best in the 300M Standard Rifle Event and won by 6 or 7 points.  My teammates Rob Harbison and Glen Dubis finished 2nd and 3rd for the podium sweep.  I knew throughout the match I was winning because of the crowd growing behind me.  Likely one of my best all-around performances.  


What was your favorite place to train?

That’s easy.  I loved shooting in Strasbourg.  The French team was so hospitable, and the range was nice.  I shot a few of my best smallbore scores there including my first 390 standing.   


Can you talk about your time as a coach?
 

Coaching is still relatively new for me.  I’ve been coaching juniors in the southeast over the past 5 or 6 years, and that’s been very rewarding.  Working with talented shooters like Marleigh Duncan, Scott Rockett, Katie Ezell, and more recently Ryan and Tyler Wee, has been very rewarding.  Sometimes it’s not about the scores.  One of my juniors, Cameron Bates, was able to use his shooting and a little hard work in school to secure admission and a scholarship to the Citadel.   


What is your personal coaching philosophy?
 

I like to resolve the macro issues with a shooter’s positions first and teach them the key principles of each position so they can make their own adjustments.  Then I like to challenge the preconceptions they have about their performance level.  With a few of my shooters we’ve set relatively audacious just to help them breakout of their comfort zone.  The key thing I know about my coaching is I have a lot to learn. 


Take us through your emotions and how you were feeling when you won that individual silver and team gold in 1987.
  

Based on the team selection process I felt a lot of pressure to shoot better than I’d ever shot before.  Frankly, my focus was on putting up a score good enough for us to win the team event.  We had competed well with the best teams in the world the previous year in Europe, and we felt confident we could medal.  I shot a personal best with a very steady performance, and I remember Dan coming back from the scoreboard with a big smile peeking out from under his Tom Selleck wannabe moustache.  

Finals were still relatively new, and Dan Durben and I went into the final in 6th and 4th place respectively.  I did not shoot terribly well the first 4 shots but started to make up ground and got back to 4th place after the 8th shot of the 10-shot final.  Shot 9 was a 10.8 and I moved into 3rd.  I shot the 10th shot quickly and new I’d buried it.  It was a 10.9.  The scores were still manually entered off paper targets back then so as we waited for the results, I looked at Dan and said, “I think I got the bronze”.  I had caught Stenvaag on the last shot and only missed the gold by 0.2 points.   


What do you wish people would understand about the Olympic Shooting Sports?
  

Shooting has become far more competitive in the last 40 years.  Gone are the days when a handful of countries win most of the medals like you see in most other sports.  We’ve got new, highly competitive programs popping up all over the globe.  This is great for the sport.   


What makes this CEO position different
 from other professional experiences
? 

I’ve been working in the for-profit space since 1997.  This role is fundamentally different in that we will always be raising money, which makes it more like my startup experiences the past few year.  


Outside of winning your medal
s
, what was your favorite moment as a shooting athlete?  

Traveling with my teammates at the USAMU was always fun.  During our train up for the 1994 CISM World Championships we were hosted by Olivier Cottagnoud at his family’s chalet in the mountains.  Our team on that trip included meTommy Tamas, Mike Anti, Glenn Dubis, Web Wright, and Steve Goff We were a formidable team at 300m.  It was an idyllic setting with gracious hosts and lifelong friends.   


What advice do you have for both junior and world-class shooting athletes in 2020?
 
 

Keep training.  With the Olympics being pushed out a year we are going straight into a World Championship year and if you didn’t make the Olympic team, the WC’s are right there coming soon. 

   


Tell us about your involvement on the USAS BOD
 since 2019, and about the journey this year has been for you
.  

I joined the BOD at my first meeting last June at the USASNC in Ft. Benning.  With the turnover in leadership, and the challenges left in the wake of those changes some of us on the board were forced to play a more operational role than you’d typically expect.  At the same time, I’ve been encouraged by the commitment of our remaining staff to keep the organization moving forward.   


Where do you see USA Shooting in 5, 10, 15 years?   

My primary responsibility as CEO is to successfully implement the USAS Strategic Plan developed earlier this year.  In our sport we look at things in terms of Quadrennials and this plan was designed to carry us through the LA 2028 games. 

Initially
 I will be focused on improving the operational discipline of the organization and creating a reliable foundation for supporting our athletes, coaches and clubs, so in year 1 stability is the goal.  We recognize in our strategic plan that providing our high-potential athletes with economic support to sustain them through 2 Olympic cycles is key to producing medals.  We also know that we must reestablish a richer set of opportunities for our juniors in the form of camps like we had when I was a junior.  I see us implementing those two elements as part of our Paris 2024 campaign. 

LA 2028 can provide USA Shooting 
a huge lift in participation and support, so I see the sport growing significantly in the 2 years before and 2 years after the LA games.   Shooting sports are growing in the United States.  We need to position USA Shooting to participate in that growth, and I think LA 2028 is key to that happening. Looking longer term I expect we will see changes to the final's formats and even some of the events.  I hope to see USA Shooting taking a more active role in shaping the sport internationally.
 
 

How has your life changed since you accepted the CEO position?  

I think there’s some relief among athletes, staff and supporters that USA Shooting will be led by a shooter again.  That sentiment has been expressed to me numerous times in the past week or two.  For me personally this is one of several major changes going.  My twin sons are starting college this fall and a few months ago I expected them to be the ones leaving the house.  Now it will be me heading to Colorado immediately, and my son Jack is staying at home because MIT isn’t taking freshmen on campus this semester.  I’m really looking forward to digging in with our dedicated staffand I feel very fortunate for this opportunity to serve the community of shooters.  

 

 

 

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