Young shots programmes like the TSC are helping to build a brighter future for our sport, says James Marchington.
What a pleasure it was to watch the top 20-odd young shots compete at the TSC Grand Final at the Oxford Gun Company in December!
In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I’ve been involved with the TSC for the past five years and more, filming and producing their YouTube videos.
But biased or not, you couldn’t fail to be impressed – by the standard of shooting, the shooters’ behaviour and sportsmanship, the dedication of supporting parents, the organisation, the level of sponsorship, the list goes on.
Anyone who worries about ‘kids’ being granted shotgun certificates really needs to come and see one of these TSC events. It couldn’t be more different from the anti-gun campaigners’ propaganda.
They would see boys and girls aged from 12 to 20 who are calm and confident, handling their guns with great skill and the utmost respect for the safety rules. They are polite and well mannered, and display tremendous sportsmanship.
I was particularly impressed with the way each shoot-off group wished each other luck before shooting, and immediately afterwards were congratulating each other on a good performance, regardless of any personal disappointment – and they really meant it. The question should not be ‘Why have these kids got guns?’ but rather ‘Why aren’t more kids like this?’
Remarkably the TSC has been running for 15 years, and over the past five they’ve given away no fewer than seven cars. The first, in 2015 was to Tom Scott, who became the first young shot ever to win a car for shooting, and has gone on to shoot Trap with Team GB.
Since then the event has expanded to offer identical prizes for the top girl and top boy, so in 2017 we saw Ami Hedgecock and Will Weaver each win a car, the following year Chloe Applin and Charlie Madden, then in 2019 Bethany Norton and Ron Chipman.
Those are the names that hit the headlines, but along the way the TSC has brought many thousands of young people into shooting, taught them the basic skills of safe gun handling and marksmanship, as well as giving them valuable competition experience that will stand them in good stead in later life whether or not they continue shooting.
TSC is by no means the only young shots programme out there, but it is unique in the way it’s run, and does a fantastic job fostering the shooters of the future.
One area where the TSC has excelled is in attracting sponsorship, not just from the usual suspects in the gun trade but also from outside – companies like Lodge Hill Garage and Phillips Tyres who might equally well sponsor a tennis tournament or pay for a billboard on a local roundabout.
David Florent works his socks off to get them on board with the TSC, and then ensure they get value for money, providing the exposure that any sponsor needs in order to justify their investment.
As an example, he somehow managed to persuade BBC Radio Oxford to invite him and this year’s winning girl, Bethany Norton, into the studio for an extended interview the week after the final.
If you can still find it on BBC iPlayer, it’s worth a listen – Adam Ball’s show on 13 December, at 2 hours and 34 minutes in. It’s seven solid minutes of positivity about shooting, with not an anti in sight, on the BBC of all places. Now that’s something!
At the risk of sounding too adulatory, it’s remarkable what David and the TSC team manage to achieve, year after year, and the sport of shooting is all the stronger for it. More power to their elbow!