Recently, a lucky group of under-18s got a free coaching session and more with Ben Husthwaite at Kibworth. James Marchington reports
It’s often said we need to encourage more young people into clay shooting, and help them progress, but few people actually do something about it – and fewer still give up their time and money to help youngsters for nothing.
Ben Husthwaite is one of those few, backed by his friend Sabah Alsabah of Kuwait who sponsored a day at Kibworth Shooting Ground in Leicestershire, where 20 youngsters had seminars and a two-hour coaching session, and went home with a goodie bag and a bespoke skeet vest, all absolutely free.
The ground was buzzing as the youngsters, boys and girls aged 9 to 17, gathered to hear one of their sporting heroes welcome them, and learn what the day had in store.
The day was, of course, run under the Covid-19 regulations at the time, with social distancing rules followed by all – but that didn’t detract one bit from the day.
Ben began with a chat about progressing through the sport, emphasising that it’s great to be a world champion, but it’s also OK to just shoot to enjoy it. “Your dreams are your dreams, don’t feel you have to fulfil anyone else’s,” he explained.
Next the group took a phone call from Sabah. “He gave them a little pep talk on how to enjoy the sport and enjoy life. Then we split up into two groups and one group was measured up for their bespoke skeet vest from MJB Graphics, sponsored by Sabah, while I did a gun fit session with the other group. Then the groups swap over so we’ve dealt with everyone, and there’s a quick question-and-answer session before we go out shooting.”
The gun fit session was a revelation, says Ben. “None of them fitted – we’ve had to fit every single one. The balance of the guns was horrible. What happens with kids’ guns is that they shorten the stocks, but they don’t replace the weight they’ve taken away, so the guns are barrel-heavy.
“We’ve been adding weight in the stocks to balance that out. Kibworth have been great, we’ve had their staff helping us out. We’ve had support from Laporte CPC, Fullbore UK have been here as well, plus Vario and BASC.”
At last it was the moment the youngsters had been waiting for, and a little apprehensive about too of course – the chance to shoot some targets under Ben’s instruction.
The groups were divided up and headed off to the different layouts, closely supervised by some of Ben’s regular team and clients including Greg, Neil, Kristian, John, Darren, Mel and Mark.
Ben was in his element, a larger-than-life character striding from one layout to another, grinning from ear to ear and offering advice, encouragement and gentle chiding in a voice that boomed across the ground. The youngsters arrived with a wide range of experience and ability, but they all took something from the day and went away shooting better than before.
Beth Norton was one of the more experienced youngsters at the event,
having won a car at the TSC Series Grand Final last year at the Oxford Gun Company. She had driven with her father from her home in Hertfordshire, a journey of about an hour and a half.
“I came along to learn about taking my competitive shooting to the next level, and hear about Ben’s experience from when he started to when he wanted to be a coach, and to all the big competitions,” she said. “It was very interesting to hear about all his experiences, and about his preparation techniques for practice, and treating it like competition.”
Beth was also grateful for the expert advice on gun fit. She shoots a Browning XS Pro. “We’ve balanced out the stock so it’s the same weight as the barrels now, so the gun is easier to move.
“I’ve also got a few tips which were very helpful, such as working on feet positioning and making sure you give yourself the best possible chance of hitting the clay.”
Beth’s name is definitely one to look out for in the future. Following her success in the TSC Series she has taken up Olympic Skeet, as well as shooting well in some Trap competitions, and she plans to shoot the TSC Winter Series again, as she is still young enough to qualify. “I’ve been taking lessons with Katy Poulsom, and she’s telling me to get out and shoot as many competitions as I can,” she says.
I caught up with Ben as the youngsters and their parents were packing up before heading off home – and he was delighted with how the day had gone. “It’s gone even better than I’d hoped,” he said.
“I was concerned about how the weather would hold up, but thankfully the rain has held off, and with the help of the guys we’ve actually done an hour and a half solid instruction at the end. That was completely unplanned – and it’s cost me a fortune, but that’s life! The main thing is everyone has enjoyed it and wants to do it again.”
“When I advertised the day, we had an absolutely tremendous response, and I’ve had to turn 43 youngsters away – but I’m going to make sure we provide the same for them in due course, and Sabah has extended his offer to them as well which is fantastic. His generosity is on another level, and even more so when he lives in Kuwait and he’s supporting British shooting.”
Ben himself deserves a large helping of the credit for putting on such a great day for the youngsters, and I asked him what motivated him to do it. His answer was simple: “If no one had helped me as a junior, I’d never have got to where I am today.
“I earn a lot of money from shooting, and it’s nice to give something back.” It’s a commendable attitude, which has given those 20 juniors an experience that will stay with them throughout their shooting career.”