The Reasoning Behind The High Lady Award

gun competition

On High Lady
In spite of the fact that guns are often called the great equalizer between larger, stronger men and smaller, weaker women, many, perhaps even most, competitive shooting sports require women to compete separately from men or allow women to be eligible for a ladies-only set of awards. When men and women shoot what’s essentially a different match, it’s hard to compare results so two winners makes sense. At the same match, though, we can tell from the results exactly how women placed within the overall results. And we can award trophies and championships to someone who didn’t finish at or near the top based solely on gender.

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My first and latest High Lady trophies

High Lady isn’t the only award that a shooter can receive without winning the entire match. There are other categories recognized at many events, such as High Junior (usually under age 18), High Military or Law Enforcement (normally active duty), High Senior (over 50 or 55, depending on the sport), and the like. In addition, it’s generally a given that shooters will be scored against shooters with similar equipment, and it’s often the case that shooters of the same general skill level will compete against each other for awards within their groupings.
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My husband’s first NRA Action Pistol trophy

Slicing and dicing shooters up to award more trophies isn’t just about creating a participation culture, though. It’s a way to recognize individuals for achievements that may be more meaningful or achievable for their level of participation in the sport, not much different from why we might look at age group finishes at a 5K run or why there are multiple NCAA divisions for college sports.
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One of my High Lady trophies next to my husband’s division/class from the same match

In that light, High Lady is important to keep around. While women are entering the firearms community in unprecedented numbers, we are still a minority in the competitive shooting world. At the recent USPSA Production (division) National Championships, fewer than ten percent of participants were women. There is certainly value in rewarding the best of an underrepresented group, primarily to help encourage individuals in that group to participate or continue to participate. In the action shooting sports in particular, women are very rarely overall winners in their matches or equipment divisions. Until that changes, recognizing High Lady gives those women an achievable goal that may be more competitive than simply winning their classification or skill level group.
But High Lady is often awarded even if only one or a handful of women show up, and even if the highest finish for a woman at a match is near the bottom of the standings. In those cases, the trophy does start to look and feel a lot more like a participation award – it was good enough to just show up and not disqualify. On the other hand, showing up and not disqualifying is an important first step to being a successful competitor. When it comes to being brave enough to be the only girl at the boy’s club, that’s a bigger deal than it might seem at first glance.
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At a match earlier this year, almost everyone on my squad won a trophy – but I was the only woman who was part of the group (credit: AJ Stuart)

For myself, I’m proud of the High Lady trophies I’ve won but they’re no longer a focus for me. I view High Lady as a stepping stone. It’s a great goal and one I appreciate meeting, but it’s not necessarily the final destination with the other goals I’m now trying to meet. Besides, I’m fortunate to be shooting in a region and in sports where winning High Lady would put me in the running for winning high overall, so I might as well make the overall my brass ring. In doing so, I’ve begun to value different indications of my improvement as a shooter.

My best USPSA classifier to date, now that’s what I’m talking about!

How do you feel about High Lady awards? Helpful way to encourage women in the shooting sports, or just another participation plaque that should be ignored? Tell us below or over on our Facebook page!

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