Hand and eye coordination – is it a talent or a common, natural ability? To allow the eyes to lead the hand to make contact with a target, consist of timing and speed, is one of the greatest exercises to physically manage. But what if this attribute can be mastered like Theo Ribbs did when he was – nine-years old.
Ribbs quietly uncovered his passion of shooting when he accompanied his father, the great Willy T. Ribbs, on his hunting trips.
Ribbs’ father was the first African-American to drive a Formula 1 car, and in 1991, became the first to compete in the Indianapolis 500.
Ribbs comes from a winning heritage, and although his trailblazing father probably wanted him to take a crack at racing, he decided to blazer his own trail by pulling the trigger.
“He (his father) was into shooting and hunting and he took me out as a kid and I would help him,” said Ribbs in a one-on-one conversation. “Once I got old enough to start shooting myself, which I was about eight or nine-years old, I would shoot a little here and there. When I turned 14, my dad asked me if I was going to take it (shooting) serious and I was going into my first year of high school. I said ‘yeah, I wanted to take it serious’ and I started competing.
“So we moved to Texas when I was 15 and I’ve been competing ever since,” he continued. “I was hesitant and he wasn’t pushing me into it (shooting). But I wanted to make my name in a different sport.
Creating a name for himself has not been difficult for the 22-year old professional sharp shooter. Ribbs has won numerous championships and finished strong in others. Earlier this year, Ribbs finished fifth in a competitive field of 885 shooters at the U.S. Open Sporting Clays Championships in Georgetown, South Carolina at the Back Woods Quail Club.
Ribbs is just scratching the surface of his career, and he’s looking to get better.
“For me, it’s (experience) been great. The people are nice, I’m having fun, doing what I love and making money…it’s what life is all about, well, for me at least,” said Ribbs humbly. “To this point, it’s good and (I) look forward to it getting better.”
The popularity of shooting sports has increased in America in recent years. With several firearms to use like rifles, pistols, shotguns, and crossbows, competitive shooters have choices to home their craft in one of those sporting weapons and can, personally, find their niche.
Ribbs uses the shotgun to brand his name.
“I don’t really shoot any hand gun and rifles,” said Ribbs. “It’s all about shotguns for me, really. We had a couple of guns that were passed down throughout the family. But for me, it’s the shotgun.”
What makes shooting sports and its shooters more unique compared to our sports and its athletes is their remarkable accuracy. Distance travel, angles, timing and speed is a part of all sports. A quarterback completing a pass, a defender taking an angle to get a stop or make a play, a hockey or soccer player locking in on a certain spot of the goal, a volleyball player looking for a setup or a smash and a golfer focusing in on the hole to make a much needed birdie are a part of those attributes – like shooting.
Nevertheless, from distances spanning 98 to 27 yards, shooters have no advantage as they cannot move closer to their targets like golfers, hockey and soccer players. And when their targets are moving in the air, like skeet and traps, those objects will not assist shooters by attempting to hit their bullets, like football, basketball and baseball players who run to the ball (or a puck) in hopes to make a play.
Shooters totally have to make it happen on their own with distance travel, angles, timing, speed, and uncanny accuracy.
Hand and eye coordination, what a beautiful thing.
Due to the increased coverage of sport, especially the Olympic as NBC uses their partnered networks to cover more events for the every fourth year, worldwide event, shooting sports is respectfully recognized. Shooters such as Jamie Gray, Matt Emmons, Emil Milev, Vincent Hancock and Kim Rhode, who won five consecutive Olympic medals, to name a few, are the faces of the sport today.
Ribbs is on the cliff of becoming one of the game’s greats, all thanks to his uncle who allowed the young shooter to show out – and that’s when it clicked for him.
“I knew I was good at this moment, not to be a professional at that moment, but I knew I was good at it (shooting) at this moment,” said Ribbs. “When I was about nine years old, my dad, my sister, my uncle and I all went out to the gun range near our house in California and my uncle just got a new $30,000 shotgun, and he wanted to show it off and shoot it. So, everyone came out and I rented a little, little freakin’ rental gun, a little 28 gauge.
“He had a 12 gauge…a 28 gauge is the smallest shotgun that they make,” he continued. “And so, we went out to the trap field and he was shooting at trap, but he kept missing, missing and missing. So, I said ‘okay’ and I wanted to shoot and I walked up there and I hit nine in a row (laughter). I looked back at him and he was like ‘I got out shot by a nine-year old.’
“And I never shot with him again (pause) ‘til this day, I still haven’t shot with him (laughter),” he added. “That was pretty funny. We always talk about that at Thanksgiving dinners.”
With great skills, Ribbs truly has raw talent. The young champion has not been crowded by a host of trainers. A couple of shooting champions has embraced him, including George Digwood, who is probably the sport’s most decorated shooter with his 20 world championships.
But for Ribbs, his career and developing skills is credited to his father.
“There are a couple of guys who helped me, not a whole lot,” said Ribbs. “Dan Carlisle, who is an Olympic champion himself, he got with me when I was about 16, and he saw I had potential. He said he would train me. I didn’t have many lessons; I pretty much taught myself mostly everything. But the few lessons I had helped me to get where I’m at, at being a national champ.
“Bill McGuire, who is also a national champion, has worked with me,” he added. “For the most part, it’s been me and my dad. My dad recognized my talent, first.”
Now, Ribbs is looking to make his name greater, on a global scale as he is preparing for the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics. He spent a couple of week in Atlanta in August and he was expecting the training and discipline to be different.
“Definitely, (the training) the Olympic will be a totally new discipline,” said Ribbs. “For me, in terms of what type of discipline to shoot, I will be shooting trap. I look to learn as much as I can and see what a year of training will get me and see what happens.”
Rhode and others has made their names known on the world’s largest, most celebrated stage and Ribbs looks to be a part of the event with some of the game’s greats.
“Kim Rhode is an awesome shot, undefeated…being around people who are accomplished at the highest level is always good to help judge yourself to see how good you are,” said Ribbs.
From accompanying his father on hunting trips to showing up his uncle to upstaging his competitors, Ribbs is embarking on a journey only a few can excel. With one eye open and the other closed, coordinated with his hands, Ribbs views his world through a scope.
Moreover, the nation, and probably the world, will view him with all eyes open and hands clapping.
That’s one hand and eye coordination everyone can do.