A year ago, Reagan Tyler was a typical high school athlete who happened to also enjoy shooting with her family. But a role on NRA Freestyle’s “I Am Forever," sponsored by FNH USA, gave her the chance to combine two of her passions, transforming her into a more well-rounded athlete, a more confident shooter, and an advocate of our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
What originally sold me on the idea of doing “I Am Forever” was the opportunity to learn new things. I’ve always been athletic—I’ve played volleyball for the last eight years, and also played softball, practiced dance, and gotten into horse riding. When I was 13, my dad took me out into the field with the 12-gauge Browning that was passed down to him from his grandfather. The kick of the gun kind of put me on my butt the first time I pulled the trigger, but with my dad’s help, I got better and better. Even though going out onto our property to shoot skeet became a weekly ritual for my family, it was about relieving stress rather than competing.
By the time I fired the last shot of Season 1 of “I Am Forever,” the show had changed the way I see the relationship between shooting and athleticism, the importance of our Second Amendment freedoms, and even myself.
I’ve always been a competitor at heart, and tried to be the best at things. But working with veteran Green Beret John Wayne Walding and fitness trainer Isaiah Truyman—who actually are the best—was really humbling. The guys are hilarious, and can be incredibly goofy, but they’re very serious about what they do.
John worked with me a lot on attitude and mindset. He taught me that if I wanted to be the best, I had to train like the best. And that meant if I became frustrated with myself or wasn’t getting the hang of something as quickly as I wanted, I kept going anyway. His mantra was, “It isn’t about perfection—it’s about the pursuit of perfection.” That made taking constructive criticism, even on things I already thought I was good at, a lot easier. I remember him pulling me aside one day and saying, “Reagan, you are not a very good runner!” That was news to me; I’d been running my whole life. But even when he was critiquing me, he made me want to try harder and get better. We practiced running form for weeks and weeks, and it’s still paying off.I had to push myself in ways that were unfamiliar and a little scary, but once I conquered my fear, I loved it.
While John pushed me to develop a champion’s mental state, Isaiah challenged me to physically push myself like a champion—and I consider myself overall a better athlete because I trained with him. He and John helped develop challenges that would help improve my athletic shooting abilities. During the rock-climbing episode, I had to free-climb walls, working up to one that was an inverted slant. Fighting gravity and using your hands to support your entire body weight is straining, both mentally and physically—and when you do manage to get to the top, you have to let go and fall all the way to the ground. That was equally hard for me, because I’ve never been a fan of heights, but Isaiah coached me through the proper ways to breathe and to find my center of gravity. And when I landed on the mats after conquering the final wall, he was waiting at the bottom with a high five. I know now why that episode was called “Confidence”: I had to push myself in ways that were unfamiliar and a little scary, but once I conquered my fear, I loved it.
During Episode 3, I was able to train with former UFC Champion Guy Mezger. That was so much fun that, after we finished filming, I got a membership at a nearby boxing gym, and kickboxing has become one of my favorite sports.
As the season progressed, I figured the viewers would be adult men and women from the shooting community here in the United States, but people from at least five different countries have commented positively on the show. It has also been surprising how many people my age are watching, as most of my classmates don’t seem to care about guns or the Second Amendment. Before the show, I never gave it much thought either, but I now consider myself a 2A advocate, and at this point, you couldn’t convince me to be anti-gun if you tried.
I hope that the show will encourage people of all ages and athletic abilities to get out and try something new. But I also hope that it inspires them to think about how much of what they see on the show depends on protecting our firearms freedoms.