Niki Clevenger

Hear Me Roar


July 2018 Issue
Photography by Dave Goldman Photography

How did you become a competitive shooter? When I met my husband, he was a patrol sergeant with our local sheriff’s office, and he only had every other weekend off. On most of those weekends, he competed in various shooting matches, and in order to get more time with him, I would tag along. At one match, there was a girl on his squad, and I said to Heath, “I could beat her.” And he agreed! Before we knew it we were spending all our time together shooting or training.

What’s your most memorable moment on your competitive shooting journey?
I would have to say coming in eighth at the 2017 Brownells Ladies’ Multigun Fall Fest. It may not seem that impressive, but this competition is stacked with professional shooters and strong junior shooters. And I won a gun!  My eighth place finish awarded me a Gen 5 Glock 17—my first prize table gun.

Have you always had a competitive spirit? Yes. I guess you can say I was born that way. I have a twin sister, and we have been competing in everything since we were born. From getting the better grade on a test, to finding a better deal on an outfit, we have always been each other’s biggest rival, yet we have always been each other’s biggest fan, too. I found my competitive niche in team sports, specifically volleyball. My sister and I are both 6 feet tall and we both played four years of DII volleyball at Newberry College (SC) and I also played one season overseas with Durham University in England.

Tell us about your experience as a female in a male dominated sport: When I started there were not a lot of women shooting. At times I found it difficult to get past the mindset that I was just a pretty face and not a true competitor. The shooting community is really great, always helpful, and willing to share advice to help you improve. Soon the “Aw, look at this girl trying to shoot,” turned into “How can I get my wife interested in shooting?” Now, as more women show up to matches, I am always trying to help and share the advice I was so graciously given when I started out.

My advice to others trying to achieve a major goal: You can’t be mad at the results you don’t receive for work you don’t put in. You have to go out and work for your goals. Champions don’t get to be champions by sitting around hoping to be great; they practice and put in the work. 
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Other than competitive shooting, what are you passionate about?
I really love coaching. I have been coaching volleyball for about eight years now, and it is one of the most rewarding things I do. I love to see the girls growing in a sport they love and finding what really drives them. Each team brings its own challenges and lessons, and I continue to learn and grow with each team I have the privilege to coach. I am also passionate about supporting law enforcement. As a police officer’s wife, I understand the difficulties officers face in today’s world. I participate in various events and activities to help raise funds for fallen officers and their families. My husband and I also donate shooting classes to silent auctions that support the United Way of York County, Pilgrim’s Inn, and The Worthy Boys and Girls Camp.

Shooting seems so intense, what lightens you up? The actual action of shooting only really lasts a couple minutes, or less, for each stage in a match. When I’m not getting my mental game plan in place, there is time to be social with the other shooters. We joke and talk gear and tell stories, and that is really what makes the community so great. My husband is able to tell when I need a few words of encouragement, or when I just need some space to breathe. He is really good at helping me find a balance between needing to focus and not taking myself too seriously.

If you had the power to change America is one way, what would you do? I would love to change America’s view of law enforcement. I believe the media has had a field day portraying law enforcement in such a negative light that the profession is no longer viewed as the noble and brave job that it is. Be the change you wish to see. If you don’t like how the police officers in your town or city are treating the community, get out and vote, or pick up an application and apply.

You can Hear Me Roar: About gun safety and gun ownership. Education is key! Shooting is not a skill you are born with, and laws change and are different from state to state and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Learn the four basic safety rules for handling a firearm. Learn the law in regards to obtaining, owning, and carrying a firearm. Learn how firearms work and the proper way to shoot one. And then practice!