James Marchington attends the governing body’s open day for an insight into their plans for the sport
British Shooting wants to work more closely with the shooting industry and media. Of course, funding is part of the story – but it’s also more than that: it’s about working together to do the best possible job of inspiring young people, to identify talent as soon as possible and support shooters along the pathway to success in the international shooting disciplines.
That’s why they invited a group of shooting’s movers and shakers to a British Shooting Talent Pathway day at Nuthampstead Shooting Ground in June. There were representatives from the shooting magazines, CPSA and BASC, as well as some of the larger brand names in the shooting industry.
The idea, British Shooting explained, was “to share our vision of inspiring the next generation to reach its potential” as well as hearing from attendees about their own vision for the future.
To this end they had planned a fun day, including the chance to do some shooting alongside some of the athletes and coaches within the British Shooting Talent Pathway. “It’s good to talk to people with no pressure,” commented Christian Schofield, British Shooting’s Talent Pathway Coordinator and Development Coach.
Christian layed out what he was trying to achieve on the day: “We’re here to explain to industry and the press what we’re trying to achieve. We want to dispel some myths and give out some truths. They’ve watched what we’re doing from the outside, but now we want to bring them on as partners and work in collaboration with each other. That means not stepping on each other’s toes but adding to each other.”
He explained the day wasn’t about money: “We aren’t asking people to dip their hand in their pocket – although if they want to we won’t turn it away!” British Shooting currently gets its funding from two main sources: Sport England for the Talent part of the pathway, and UK Sport for the Performance part. “The Performance part of the Pathway is well taken care of,” Christian says. “The challenge is looking after the people who’re just starting out on their journeys, and helping them overcome obstacles.”
One of those obstacles is funding, but that’s just part of it. “The other things are in place. It’s about helping them on their journey, surrounding them with people who are supportive and helpful.
We can always do things better of course, so we want feedback on that. We get feedback from the athletes themselves, but it would be good to get it from the wider shooting community as well.”
So are British Shooting looking to the trade for additional funding, I ask. “We are mandated to be sustainable, and in the long term that might mean reduced funding from the sporting bodies. We simply don’t know,” Christian explains.
“We think we’re doing a good enough job that we will maintain the level of funding that we’ve got, but we’ll have to wait and see. But we’re looking to do more – and if you want to do more things, then you need to create more resources to do that, and do things better.” Not quite the answer I was expecting, but I think that means “Yes” – although clearly that’s not the main thrust of today’s event.
I pick up on a comment made earlier in the briefing session, that shooting provides an opportunity for ‘cheap’ medals for Great Britain – the investment required to get a shooting athlete within reach of the Olympic podium is much less than in, say, cycling or swimming.
“Yes that’s true – an Olympic Trap layout is nowhere near as pricey as a velodrome or a 50m swimming pool. But likewise it’s cheaper for other countries to do it as well,” Christian points out.
“Shooting is lucky in that it has all these medal opportunities in shotgun, rifle and pistol. But there’s a big field. The last world championships I went to, there were 92 different countries taking part, all with three athletes in each discipline. So to win at world level in shooting is very difficult, but the rewards are great in terms of the number of medals available.”
After a briefing session in the clubhouse, we were split into smaller groups before heading out to the shooting layouts with some of the British Shooting coaches; we were about to get a taste of what Olympic shooting involves.
I ended up shooting a round of Olympic Skeet under the guidance of Allen Warren, and I can tell you it was quite an eye-opener. I was astonished by the sheer speed of the targets, the need for lightning-fast reactions, and the lack of any margin for error. After that experience my respect for Olympic shooting athletes has soared to new levels.
All in all it was an excellent day. It’s encouraging to see British Shooting reaching out to the trade, wanting to get a dialogue going about the whole process of bringing people into shooting, identifying and encouraging talented shots, and providing them with the backup and support they need to achieve their goals.
It’s the beginning of a long road, but one that can only benefit the sport as a whole, and that will ultimately lead to more success for GB on the international stage.
Peter Wilson is hungry for another medal
Olympic gold medal winner Peter Wilson is aiming for another gold to sit alongside the Double Trap medal he won at London 2012. He was at Nuthampstead on the British Shooting open day, and I grabbed the chance to quiz him about why he’d come out of retirement from competitive shooting. “It was the demise of Double Trap,” he says without hesitation.
“I still think that was a massive retrograde step by the ISSF but the decision was taken and I’ve had plenty of time to cry about it. There’s no point banging on about it any more than I already have. So I had to take the decision what do I do. Do I re-train and do something completely different, or do I just fade away and disappear?
“I ended up realising just how much I love this sport and I wanted to remain in it. So I turned my attention to Olympic Trap, which I’ve now been shooting for about 18 months. I’ve based my shooting at Griffin Lloyd in mid-Wales, although my roots are still in Dorset.”
Switching disciplines is no easy matter, but Peter achieved a major milestone when he shot his first OT 100-straight. “It was one of those days, we all have them in whatever sport, when you can make a massive mistake and the ball still heads towards the hole.
“To be honest I never thought I’d shoot 100-straight at Griffin Lloyd because it’s such a difficult range to train on, but then Southern Counties was an incredibly difficult range for Double Trap targets. I loved it and hated it – but you need to push yourself and shoot particularly difficult targets, because you’re always striving for perfection but very rarely achieve it.
“It seems to be going in the right direction, and that’s all that really matters. Obviously my goal is the Olympics. I think everybody’s goal is the same. That’s not to say I’m going to Tokyo or any other Olympic Games.
I’ve got to keep working hard, keep pushing myself mind and body, keep training hard and keep enjoying it. I think that’s an integral part of it. If you’re not happy, you tend not to shoot well. You have to remind yourself of that. You have days when it’s really painful, and you have to keep in mind the bigger picture.”
What drives him to keep going, however, is the idea of another Olympic gold medal. “I would love to win that,” he says. And how far off does he think that might be? “Gosh, I can only really give you a truthful answer when I get selected by Great Britain to compete on the world stage.
Once I’m standing there shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world, I’ll be able to give you a pretty clear idea of where I’m at. At the moment, based in the UK, I’m shooting well, I’m putting myself in the mix, but I need to gain the confidence of British Shooting, get on the world stage and hopefully win medals, and then we’ll see. I need to take it one day at a time and not put any additional pressure on myself.”
There’s a lot to do then, so is he aiming at Tokyo or beyond? “Tokyo, maybe… we’re still hunting for quota places and that comes to a close at the beginning of next year. At that point we’d have to have another conversation – but you have to keep that flame alive.”
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