Taking His Shot

Call it coincidence, being in the right place at the right time or the stars aligning, but Tyler Froeba is now training for the Olympics—all thanks to a chance meeting.

Never did he think so much could come from a visit to the local shooting club.

But that fortunate meeting with former U.S. National Shotgun Coach and four-time Olympian Bret Erickson has changed Froeba’s life, and set him on a path for entrepreneurial and athletic success.

Froeba, 23, was practicing trap shooting with some friends at Gator Skeet & Trap Club two years ago when Erickson and his athletes—who were in town for training and a regional competition—noticed Froeba’s ability.

“He said we were exceptionally talented for how little training we had,” Froeba said. “I’d only been shooting for a couple of weeks so it sparked an interest.”

That interest has quickly become a passion. Froeba, a graduate student in the Thomas S. Johnson Master of Science in Entrepreneurship (MSE) program, now trains five to six days a week in hopes of representing the United States in trap shooting in the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

Froeba continues to train at Gator Skeet & Trap Club, the only public shooting range in the Southeast that caters to the three Olympic shotgun disciplines (trap, skeet and double trap). But training is expensive. He said shooting is the second-most expensive Olympic sport for training behind equestrian with the bulk of the cost coming from targets, ammunition and a customized shotgun. Froeba said his weekly training costs are approximately $500.

To offset the cost of training, Froeba sought corporate sponsorship. He reached out to Medtronic, the world’s largest medical technology company, which had a special interest in Froeba’s success. Froeba had spinal fusion surgery in high school to correct his scoliosis. The two pounds of stainless steel rods and screws still in Froeba’s back were designed by Medtronic.

Froeba borrowed an adage from James W. Walter Eminent Scholar Chair and entrepreneurship professor Dr. Michael Morris—“It’s not about resources; it’s about resourcefulness”—to get Medtronic’s attention. He took advantage of a free LinkedIn Premium trial and messaged numerous members of Medtronic’s corporate leadership.

“His persistence and personality jumps out at you,” said Rob Carson, Vice President of Marketing at Medtronic. “The type of surgery Tyler had is a major undertaking for the patient and family. The fact that he’s in the position that he’s in—a successful student training for the Olympics—is a testament to him, and it’s a privilege for Medtronic to hear his story and play a role in helping restore his health and live a very full life.”

Froeba created a 20-page proposal for Medtronic executives about how he could help promote the company. Medtronic liked the proposal and now subsidizes the majority of Froeba’s travelling costs, as well as instruction with some of the nation’s top coaches.

“To have those trips funded is a huge weight off my shoulders,” Froeba said.

As Froeba chases Olympic glory, he’s also pursuing his entrepreneurial dreams. Along with the MSE program, Froeba is concurrently pursuing a master’s degree in sports management from the College of Health and Human Performance. He hopes one day to launch a venture that combines his love for athletics and entrepreneurship.

Until then, he’ll keep his focus on an Olympic berth in 2020, although he’ll gladly take a shot at the 2016 Games.

“A lot has to happen between now and then,” Froeba said. “For me, I don’t really think about that too much. I’m more engrossed in the process of what I have to do today. I’m looking toward 2020, but anything that happens in the meantime would be a bonus.”