Youth in Contesting

Where Are The Rookies and Young Contesters?

This past weekend during the annual running of the January NAQP CW it was great fun to get on the bands and enjoy connecting with contesting friends on all bands from 160-10m and enjoy the generally great conditions.  Of course, NAQP has in the exchange the operator’s name.  After a few years of participation, it’s hard to not start remembering so many of the names of our colleagues and peers.  Despite such great camaraderie, I was still struck by the fact that in a basic review of my log – I don’t believe I worked a single contesters in over 500 QSOs that I had never worked before?  Where is the new blood?  Where are the rookies?

Many contest directors (and hams alike) point to all time high levels of participation in many contests and a general upward slope in the number of active licensees here in the United States.  However, if we aren’t attracting new, young blood and newer hams to the contest niche are we really ensuring the future and continuity of radio sport here in the United States?

Noted RTTY contester, Don Hill – AA5AU did a great age analysis of the participants in a recent RTTY contest.  Based on 20,356 QSOs that touched 2,535 unique callsigns – Don found that the average age was 58 of all participants.  Granted, this age may be younger than the average age of ham radio ops here in the U.S. but there is still room for improvement?

Contest clubs and organizations need to directly support youth in ham radio and youth in contesting with more elmering, more “Contest University” type events and most importantly equipment support.  This isn’t the 1960s, 70s or 80s anymore – where boat anchor rigs could be pressed into service.  Equipment is expensive and there are serious barriers to entry to youth in our precarious economy.  What is your club or organization doing to support youth in contesting”?

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5 Responses to "Youth in Contesting"

  1. Colin KU5B says:

    Two of us “young” (read: twenty-somethings; myself KU5B and Steve, KJ5T) are a part of the very successful NX5M M/2 effort every NAQP SSB and, more recently, RTTY parts. I won’t speak for Steve, but I enjoy Multi-ops ten fold over doing hard-core single-op efforts most of the time. This is, in part, due to the good group of people we have during many of the Multi-ops. That said, the Worldwide Young Contesters seems to still be going strong, however it seems that much of the new blood seems to be coming from Europe. Last weekend I can remember working a couple of stations that were obviously being coached and congratulated them on their efforts.

    • admin says:


      Thanks for sharing.

      I love working new blood on the radio. It’s great to give them a contact and get them excited.

      Multi-op contesting is a great place to really meet people and have fun. I know I really got the bug working at big M/M like W1GQ and K1RX. There is some true camaraderie and shared experience when you push through a night on 40m SSB with the encouragement of the 80m and 160m SSB guys at the stations next to you.

      Thanks for sharing
      Jeff N1SNB

  2. Ward Silver N0AX says:

    It takes a lot of personal outreach – work with a local high-school or college club and keep encouraging them to get on the air, show them how to make contest contacts and send in a log, help with QSLs, etc. But they will have a good time and it’s infectious once things get rolling. Good topic! 73, Ward N0AX

    • admin says:


      Thanks for sharing. Do you feel like the number of active high school and college clubs is holding steady?

      The other idea I have is to really engage in your local club and invite people to come operate at your station.

      THanks for sharing
      Jeff N1SNB

  3. KC8ESL says:

    I got involved in contesting back in 1997 at age 15 when I got my first HF radio. I think the key to promoting contesting in youth is to emphasise that older gear does not mean it is less useful gear. I ran a TS-130S to an 80m dipole that I tuned on all bands. Everyone told me to not bother contesting because I will never bust a DX pile-up barefoot and with a wire antenna. I proved a lot of people wrong.

    Ironically, I still use the same setup today (was inactive 12 years) but I am getting back into it.

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