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”?