After a long medal-winning career, Anita North’s journey has now taken her from competitive shooting into the realms of coaching. She now works to bring out the gifts of others as a self-employed shooting coach, tutoring them in the techniques needed to win the big competitions. Here, she sits down with Benjamin Lycett to discuss her career highs, her new life as a coach, and her kit.
How did you get into shooting?
I went to the Midland Game Fair at Weston Park with a friend and as we were walking round there was a ‘Have A Go’ stand. My friend said, “Ooh that’s really good fun, clay shooting, I’ve had a go at it at school.” It wasn’t a big stand for BASC or anything like that; it was for a local club. I had four shots and hit two of them and was completely hooked. I went home and announced to my husband that I had taken up clay shooting. That was it – it was going to be something to do on a Sunday morning.
And how did that transition into a career in shooting?
I was very lucky. I worked with someone whose husband shot at a little local club, so for a few months I would shoot Sporting. Soon a friend of mine said that he had tried this thing called ‘Down the Line’. I gave it a go and I instantly took to it. With some encouragement from some really great people, I then tried out for the England team. I was successful for two years, shooting Down the Line in the Home International and managing some quite good scores. I shot 100/300 – I was the first English girl to shoot it.
I had thought up until that point that if I got my England badge then that would be amazing. As soon as I got my England badge, however, I realised that it just wasn’t enough for me. After reading an article in a shooting magazine about Ian Coley, who was the GB team manager at that time, I contacted him and had some lessons and it just progressed from there.
I discovered that there was this thing called ‘Double Trap’ that was just coming into the Olympics for women, so I had a go at that. In 1993 I qualified for the World Championships for Double Trap, so from one year to the next I went from shooting Down The Line at the Home International to shooting at the World Championships in Barcelona at the venue they’d used for the Olympics the year before. Suddenly finding myself standing next to an international selection of shooters, I was a little bit fazed; it was a big, steep learning curve. From there I shot multiple disciplines in Double Trap and Olympic Trap, competing in the 1999 World Cups and the final in Kuwait, coming away with a bronze medal.
After that I began to focus on Olympic Trap, as that was where my heart lay, and I’m glad I did – I won two silvers at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Shooting and international competition became a passion. I started investing in kit, like my Perazzi; I have had three in the last 20 years. They are amazing guns with a superb level of customer service, both from Perazzi themselves and from their UK importer, Ruag. I started shooting regularly, training with Joe Neville, whom I bonded with very well – his coaching style just worked for me. When I was coming to the end of my competitive career, Martin Barker approached me, asking if I would consider coaching, particularly women and junior women.
At that point the British Shooting Talent Pathway hadn’t really developed; this was its precursor. I decided to say yes, as I love helping people become the best they can be. To give something back to the sport is wonderful, but to see people’s enthusiasm is better. It reinforces my joy in this sport; it’s stimulating and refreshing. I made a decision to leave my career in pharmaceuticals and pursue coaching full time.
What’s your perspective on the sport today?
Since I’ve been involved, it has well and truly changed. There has been a long history of women being involved with shooting by actually taking part rather than just standing and watching. The number of people participating of all creeds, colours and sexes is increasing significantly, which is amazing. Groups that actively promote women in shooting sports, such as the Shotgun and Chelsea Bun Club and the Ladies Shooting Club, harness, embrace and encourage our collective energy. It’s fabulous and as a sport we need to tell the world we are here. Social media has grown and it’s amazing for us to celebrate the successes of everyone involved in shooting, young and old, and to see how they develop.
What are the obstacles, if any, in the sport that you perceive?
The obstacles that people think that are there, aren’t. They are non-existent. You could say an obstacle is a perception – a negative one, either personal or about the sport as a whole. You should focus on the positive, use what you have and celebrate it. Enjoy your journey.
Let’s talk about your kit… What do you shoot and why?
I shoot a Perazzi MX2000 Trap gun. I have two of them. It’s the right piece of kit for what I do. I’m utterly in love with the brand. I’ve had three guns made for me and the collaborative exercise with the last two has produced a gun that is just a joy to use. It’s a major investment, but a wise one. The gun fits me – when I mount my gun it feels like home.
I shoot Cheddite, my preferred cartridge is the Mach 3s. It gives me the quality of kills with the maximum of feeling.
I’m fortunate to be sponsored by Malmo Guns. They are very supportive and I love my Mach 3s, they are just something special.
Eyewear is a broad subject, but what do you use and why?
I sought the expertise of Ed Lyons, the sport vision specialist, and he knows his stuff. And to complement my contact lenses I also wear the Pilla 580, supplied by Ed. The colour tones I use are simple: I have purple for contrast on bright days, pink for duller days, and a clear. The colour analysis I did really helped with my decisions and simple has proven best.
And how do you look after your hearing?
When I’m shooting I do two things – I use ear plugs supplied by Plugzz, which are custom moulded, and pink! On top of that, I wear ear defenders.
Who are your supporters and sponsors?
I am so thankful to all my supporters and sponsors, but in particular I have to say a big thank you to Seeland and Harkila UK, Malmo Guns, Ed Lyons, Plugzz, Nuthampstead Shooting Ground and Boobydoo.
Do you have any lucky charms?
I would say my gun, and on some occasions, clothing. In many ways I consider my husband a lucky charm,
and of course my dog, Mr Cutie.
But in all seriousness, my best good luck charm is knowing I’m prepared when I go into a competition.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
Definitely coaching – an encourager and facilitator for shooting sports.
What is the one piece of information you’d like to pass on to new shooters?
It can be so much fun, it can be everything you want it to be – all embracing. It can be a roller coaster, but the highs outweigh the lows. Embrace and learn, be your best and move out of your comfort zone. Love the work and the ride.