Qualifying as a clay shooting coach w/ James Simon

Want to make a difference? Give something back? Bask in the warm glow of shared glory? Then qualifying as a clay shooting coach could be an ideal career choice says James Simon

Very often our boundless enthusiasm for our sport is accompanied by an evangelical urge to help others with their shooting. If this resonates with you, then why try qualifying as a clay shooting coach?

By channelling your efforts by qualifying as a clay shooting coach into supporting others you’ll be helping them to reach their true potential. Trust us, few things in life are more rewarding than watching your protégés take a medal, whether at a local club shoot or an international competition. Their beaming faces will make your heart skip.

So, what exactly is a shooting coach and how does one go about qualifying as a clay shooting coach?

Qualifying as a clay shooting coach: Instructor vs coach 

“The CPSA makes a clear distinction between the role of an instructor and that of a coach,” explains Mike Williams, Senior Tutor and Assessor, CPSA. “An instructor takes a complete novice and teaches them how to shoot using the CPSA Method. A coach takes an experienced shot and helps them to realise their full potential.”

Bruce Marks, Director, APSI, agrees. “An instructor works with novices and inexperienced shots. You make sure they stay safe and hopefully you get them to hit a clay. Coaching is a different matter.

It is about preparing an experienced shot for a purpose, perhaps the season ahead or a specific competition. It’s far more in-depth yet can be very nuanced. Coaching tends to be on-going, on a one-to-one basis and is usually concerned with a single discipline.”

Qualifying as a clay shooting coach: A qualified success

But do you really need to qualify? Can’t you just post ‘Coach’ on your Facebook page and away you go?

“If you’ve made a name for yourself as an Olympian or World Champion then you may be able to offer real value as a coach,” says Mike. “But just because you’re an incredible clay shooter doesn’t mean that you’re going to be an amazing teacher.

“Some are naturally very good, but often they are unable to teach anything but the way they shoot, which is probably the wrong approach for someone else.”

A coach helps shooters to reach their true potential

How many of us in the UK have world-class titles that can support a fledgling career in coaching? For the rest of us, qualifying seems like a no-brainer. 

“Qualifying as a coach gives you credibility,” says Jane Hatton, BASC’s Training and Evaluation Officer. “In an age where your qualifications can be Googled by prospective clients in seconds, it’s important that you’re adequately trained. And, unless they know you well, few shooting grounds are going to take on a coach without qualifications.” 

Qualifying as a clay shooting coach: benefits of the job

There’s great satisfaction to be had from watching a pupil develop

A good shooting coach helps athletes discover the best versions of themselves. It may sound sappy but the joy of helping them through this transformation is reward enough for many coaches.

“I got into coaching to discover how I could make my shooting more successful,” confesses Mike. “But before long I realised that I thoroughly enjoyed teaching and I now get my kicks from helping other people.”

What about money? Well, you’re unlikely to become rich. As the old saying goes: ‘You teach for the outcome, not the income’. Work hard and it’s quite possible to build a full-time business but many coaches choose to work part-time. As such, coaching fees are fantastic for supplementing a pension, another part-time job or supporting a competitive shooting career.

Christian Schofield – Shotgun Talent Pathway Co-ordinator, British Shooting

Christian Schofield, Shotgun Talent Pathway Co-ordinator, British Shooting, proving that coaching at Olympic level has its lighter moments

What’s your role at British Shooting?
My job is to get athletes signed and then linked up with one of our 16 shotgun coaches within the Talent Academy. I also make sure the coaches are delivering our programmes effectively. I still find time to mentor a handful of athletes too, if and when they need me.

What inspired you to become a coach?
Above all, I am driven to help other people reach their potential. Before British Shooting I was in the infantry and my last job was second in command of the Support Weapons School, where I looked after 75 instructors and the school’s training programme. So, moving to British Shooting was a natural fit for me. 

What does a coach contribute?
Coaches exist to awaken potential and maximise performance through practical, goal-focused learning. For example, I am not pulling you forward, and I’m not pushing you from behind. But if you ask me, I will walk with you on your journey, trying to remove barriers as we travel. If you stumble, I’m there to help you up. 

What qualification route did you take?
I am an APSI instructor, a CPSA Level 2 Trap Coach and an ISSF A License Coach. I’m a firm believer in life-long learning, so over many years I have also collected qualifications in gun fitting, psychology, nutrition, personal training – anything that can inform my ability as a coach. Courses have given me fantastic opportunities to meet and learn from like-minded people from all over the world. 

Any advice for aspiring coaches?
Listen to what people are saying. Practice good awareness and ask open questions that cause people to think. You can never know everything, so don’t hold back – give it a go!

Qualifying as a clay shooting coach: are you good enough?

Do you shoot so well that you’re ready to show others how to do it? Mike believes that, even for novices, a coaching journey is possibly only a couple of years away.

“You don’t need to be a top shot to become a coach, they’re two different things,” he says. “Realistically, you’ll need to be a B Class shot, you’ll have a solid level of experience and you’ll know how to approach each target. So, I wouldn’t consider it if you’ve only just taken up shooting but if you’ve shot regularly for a couple of years, then you may be at the right level. 

Katy Poulsom, Talent Pathway Coach, British Shooting, coaching at Nuthampstead Shooting Ground

“The qualities that we look for are empathy, strong communication skills
and the ability to get athletes to reveal solutions for themselves.”

“Without a doubt, there are people out there who would make amazing coaches but they lack the confidence to do it,” says Bruce. “I say get some experience, perhaps by shadowing an existing coach, and then start to formalise your coaching career.”

You can qualify as a coach through a variety of organisations, which can be a little confusing but, depending on your objectives, each programme has its merits. Costs vary but budget for around a £1,000 per level. 

Qualifying as a clay shooting coach: the CPSA Route

The CPSA’s programme is a structured pathway that begins with its Safety Officer qualification, progressing through Level I Instructor training and culminating in the Level II  Senior Coach qualification.

“The Level I course is designed to get would-be instructors to teach the CPSA Method to novices,” says Mike. “It also covers the basics such as gun safety, eye dominance and so on.

Georgina Roberts recommends becoming a CPSA Safety Officer as a first step

“Level II, our coaching level, is more involved. It comprises three specific courses for each of the four domestic disciplines – Sporting, Skeet and Trap, which includes DTL and ABT – and teaches a variety of methods plus psychology.

“Successfully complete one of these courses and you become an accredited coach in that discipline. Complete all three and you become a CPSA Senior Coach.”

Each course lasts for four days and is preceded by a one-day workshop that gives an insight into the curriculum. These workshops are a marvellous way to discover if the full course is right for you, so if you lack confidence this is a sensible first step. 

Qualifying as a clay shooting coach: the BASC Route

BASC uses the term ‘coach’ for its entire programme, calling its qualification the Shotgun Coaching Award. 

“The course lasts for three days, and has been developed to enable candidates to offer practical shooting advice and tuition,” explains Jane. “At the end of the three-day course you’ll be paired up with one of our mentors who will give you six hours of one-to-one mentoring over whatever period of time is required in order to bring you up to the standard to pass an assessment.

Final assessments then take place at game fairs and other events throughout the year.”

New for 2021 are its Shotgun Coach Award Foundation Days that are designed to give candidates a taster of what the three-day course entails.

Georgina Roberts – National Academy Athlete, Development Academy Coach, Clay Shooting Contributor

Georgina Roberts, Development Academy Coach, British Shooting, originally took up coaching to help others and improve her own shooting

What’s your role at British Shooting?
I run the British Shooting Pathway sessions at Mendip Shooting Ground and I also coach at the British Shooting Talent Academy based at EJ Churchill. I started off co-hosting a British Shooting Talent Hub with Tony Higham at Brook Bank, which I loved. My coaching progressed from there.

What inspired you to become a coach?
Christian Schofield gave me a push in the right direction. He thought it would expand my knowledge and help me to understand my own shooting better. He was right. It’s only by explaining a concept to shooters, perhaps in two or three different ways, that you begin to understand it yourself. 

What does a coach contribute?
You need to know the right questions to ask an athlete, especially if they don’t know those questions themselves. The athlete has all the knowledge, but a good coach has the ability to extract it. 

What qualification route did you take?
I am an ISSF D Licence Coach, an ISSF Referee and I hold a CPSA Safety Officer qualification. I went down the ISSF route because I shoot and coach the Olympic disciplines. One day I’d like to fulfil my dream of becoming GB Head Coach!  I would thoroughly recommend becoming a CPSA Safety Officer as a first step. 

Any advice for aspiring coaches?
Volunteer, network, market yourself correctly and invest in the courses. Greater effort will lead to greater things!

Qualifying as a clay shooting coach: the APSI Route

The APSI welcomes members and non-members alike to participate in its Part One (Basic) Course.

“This course aims to get you to be of a sufficient standard to teach a novice to shoot safely and hit straightforward targets,” says Bruce. “If you do well then the course instructors can recommend that you be accepted for membership. The primary prerequisite is that you must be 21 years old in order to participate.

“Our Part Two (Advanced) Course introduces an extensive series of additional topics to arm you with the skills to coach an athlete. The only prerequisite is that participants will have passed the Part One (Basic) Course at least 12 months prior.”

The APSI has also built a relationship with FITASC that, until Covid-19 hit,
saw it offer discipline-specific courses for the French organisation. It is hoped that these, and associated courses for the ICTSF and BICTSF, will resume in 2021. Similarly, APSI was running ISSF Olympic Skeet and Trap courses.

Qualifying as a clay shooting coach: the ISSF Route

The ISSF Academy was set up to train coaches for athletes in the Olympic disciplines of Skeet and Trap. If your ambition is to coach Olympians then it would be remiss not to get a qualification. 

Recently, the ISSF Academy was suspended in order to review its course programme. That review is still ongoing, so details are a little sketchy, but its former A, B and C level licenses have now been replaced with new qualifications, two of which recognise past coaching achievements as well as academic accomplishments.

Matt Hance coaching Rhys Plum at Barbury Shooting Ground

“In the past, ISSF licenses for coaches have only been granted to those who have completed the ‘educational-based path’,” says Alexander Ratner, ISSF Secretary General. “Actual coaching achievements were not taken into consideration. As a result, many great specialists who had prepared winners and medallists were not honoured by the ISSF.” 

“The time has come for change. The ISSF education system reform, which is currently underway, establishes three new categories: ISSF Coach Pro, ISSF Coach and ISSF National Coach.

“As before, each of these categories can still be obtained by completing the ‘educational-based path’. However, the ISSF Coach Pro and ISSF Coach licenses can now also be obtained according to the achievements of the ‘outcome-based path’.”

Essentially, if you have coached Olympians in the past then you may find your path to gaining ISSF Coach Pro and ISSF Coach licenses is much smoother. 

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