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Youth and the Outdoors: From Student to Coach

James MacDonald | Mossy Oak ProSaff

James MacDonald Youth Duck Hunt

My dad didn’t hunt, but my grandfather did. He passed away when I was 13 years old, and I’ll never forget the time he spent with me and the things he taught me about the outdoors. Those hunting and fishing trips with my grandfather changed my life for the better. His name was Carroll Tubbs, but everyone called him Curly. Because of his impact on my life, I want to help introduce young people to the outdoors.

When I was in my early 20s, I started working with youth, and I’m 38 years old now. I played baseball in high school but had to have shoulder surgery and couldn’t play baseball that year. Instead, I coached a 13-year-old baseball team. I love to play the sport of baseball so much, I didn’t want to give it up due to my injury. I knew those youngsters needed a coach. So, I was able to stay involved in baseball and work with young people at the same time. When I saw the look on a youngster’s face when he or she took his first duck or received his first ribbon at a retriever trial, I found that experience priceless. 

My wife, Jenessa, is an elementary school teacher, so helping young people is in her DNA, too. Although Jenessa doesn’t coach, she’s the team mom for the BB gun team and the softball team and is the “puppy momma” for our retrievers. We breed our Labrador retrievers twice each year, and Jenessa loves to take care of the puppies and the young dogs. 

In 2001, I met a gentleman at the Oregon Waterfowl Festival http://oregonwaterfowlfestival.com/. At that time, I had a retriever that was about 2 years old, and I was trying to teach him to sit down when I blew a whistle. I wanted him to learn obedience training, too, also called handling. That fellow invited me to come to his house, so he could teach me how to train my dog. He told me, “You come and work for me some, and I’ll teach you how to train your dog.” Before long, I not only had trained my dog but also the dogs for the man who was teaching me. Then I got involved with some local retriever clubs and met some great mentors. 

I helped to train a dog for a young man in high school who wanted to learn dog training for his senior project. His ambition in high school was to become a dog trainer, so it only made sense for him to learn how to train a dog. However, after he learned how to train a dog, he decided he no longer wanted to be a dog trainer. But he did have a nice, well-trained dog once he finished his senior project. 

I’ve helped about 15 young people – more guys than girls - learn how to train their retrievers. The girls usually can train dogs better than the guys, because they listen and pay attention better than the boys do. Most of the time I’ve found that the girls don’t have any preconceived notions about how to train dogs, and are intent on learning the best ways. Some of the young men start off thinking they know how to train a dog and therefore don’t listen and pay attention as well as the girls do. 

James MacDonald of Cornelius, Oregon, has been a Mossy Oak ProStaffer for almost 10 years. He was recently named 2017 Mossy Oak ProStaffer of the Year for his philanthropy work and volunteerism. MacDonald enjoys hunting waterfowl, teaching others to hunt and training retrievers. 

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