Most parents always yell at their kids if they even bounce a ball inside the house, but Bremen Butler's parents let her shoot a gun across her kitchen and into the living room.
No, really. They actually encourage it.
The Carroll sophomore recently won a national championship for her age division shooting in the Olympic-style precision competitive rifle during the Winter Air Gun Championships in December. She also finished 12th overall in the women's junior division. Standing 10 meters from her target, Butler's goal was to hit center of essentially a Lifesaver without hitting the edges.
There are a few unique parts to the 16-year-old's story. She's been competing in this discipline less than two years after picking up the sport as a seventh-grader, and there have been limited opportunities for competition recently because of the pandemic. And after winning her title, Butler decided to break down every part of her shooting positions, rebuilding with a new stance.
“It's because they weren't good,” Butler said. “There is one type of shooter who is in this sport, and that's a perfectionist.”
Butler believes a perfect score for a complete competition is attainable, but it would not have been with her previous forms. Everything, she believes about her ability can and needs to be better.
Everything about shooting, she said, depends on perfecting routines and discipline. Shooters have 1 hour and 15 minutes to get off 60 shots, with an average of 35-to-60 seconds to prepare and aim each shot, so they work on the mental ability to remain perfectly still and calm, even to lower their heart rate. Efficiency in sticking to their routine is critical.
“Everything is so small and so precise that your heartbeat can control a shot from a 10 to a 7,” Butler said. “I've had to stop a lot of matches, put my rifle down and just inhale and exhale to get my heart rate to go down. I had to do that a couple of times at WAG just be just because I was getting so anxious.
“It's an issue a lot of newer shooters face. You have to learn as a shooter to just forget that and shoot, like you've trained for it and your body knows it. Your process has to be so natural so it's like breathing, and you have to let it go and trust yourself. This sport exemplifies the beauty and the balance of perfection.”
Because her brother Ben, 18, was an excellent shooter who competed in three Junior Olympics, Butler used to tag along to his practices and got hooked. Their father, Chris, was an assistant coach with a Carroll club team before Bremen broke away to be coached by two-time Olympian Jayme Shipley.
Because of COVID-19, the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs is shut down, which means every shooter in the country is training on their own across the country. From her home in Florida, Shipley trains many elite shooters online, including Butler.
“Some of her personal athletes are going to the Olympics and they are my teammates, which is the coolest thing to be able to say, by the way,” Butler said with a laugh. “Yeah, my friends are Olympians.”
Shipley tracks Butler's daily progress digitally.
Butler also shoots the small-bore rifle and trains at a range in Churubusco, but she still needs to train daily in the air rifle. Until a couple of weeks ago, she was training in the family basement, standing in a door frame and shooting diagonally into her brother's bedroom.
“That made practice hard when he comes home from work,” she said.
And she practices up to two hours each day, which drives her 45-pound Labrador mix named Indy crazy. Butler and her father measured the distance, and practice moved to the kitchen.
“Basically, I'm right in front of the stove, shooting across my kitchen and into my living room and into a target up against the mantle,” Butler said.
Her next goal is improving her consistency enough to make one of the USA Developmental teams that develop future Olympians. She's also planning on competing in up to four national events this summer, including the Junior Olympics. Her goal last year was to make the medal podium at the Junior Olympics, but the event was canceled.
“I am so new at this and there are so many things I don't know which is why I am so blessed and so thankful that I have the coach I do,” Butler said. “She knows all that the things that she does and hopefully one day I can know all of that stuff. I am so thankful and so grateful, and I can't wait to keep going.”