CPSA Coach of the Year and DTL shooter Lee Wilcoxson discusses his career and inspirations with Jasper Fellows
While most of us are slowly pushing our scores up at the local Sunday registered, Lee Willcoxson is shooting DTL for England. When he isn’t representing his country and making us proud, Lee is out on estates and grounds across the country encouraging others to perfect their form, try new disciplines and be the very best they can be.
Thanks to his infectious enthusiasm and warm, welcoming persona, Lee has become known not only as one of England’s top DTL shots, but also one of the sport’s best coaches. A fact that the CPSA’s members and voters clearly agree with, having awarded him the prestigious CPSA Coach of the Year Award earlier this year.
But before he ever put on an England vest, or stood beside a nervous first timer with his encouraging smile, Lee was just a young lad on a farm with an air rifle.
“That’s where my passion began,” Lee explains, “I developed an interest in shooting from a young age and started breaking clays in my late teens. I joined a small local gun club that only met monthly, but I was quickly hooked and shooting whenever I could, with or without the gun club.”
Lee’s local club didn’t meet often enough to sate his voracious appetite for clay destruction, but his fellow members inspired him to take the sport further. “I’m not from a family of shooters, so it was the gun club members who helped me to develop my skills.”
During those early days, shooting Trap, let alone DTL, had not even occurred to Lee. Thankfully, his gun club friends encouraged him to try something different. “I was a Sporting shooter really. As a keen game shot, I used one to supplement the other.
However, as my passion grew, I started to take shooting holidays abroad with a bunch of my friends from the gun club. We all had some really great times shooting at O Pinhal Shooting Ground in the Algarve, and it became an annual trip that we took. It was here that my interest in Trap shooting really began.”
“I never had a coach or an instructor as such, but I was lucky enough to have some really fantastic, experienced shots around me who helped me, and I quickly fell in love with Trap shooting.
I later met England shots, Dave Hinchliffe and Curtis Woolley who have since become very good friends and they introduced me to DTL. This has become my preferred discipline. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy other disciplines too, single barrel, Sporting, ABT et cetera, but DTL is my passion.”
Having seen the impact that his fellow shooters had had on his life, Lee realised that he could follow their example and help to introduce newbies to the sport.
“Over the years I had the opportunity to help out have-a-go sessions. I loved watching people enjoying themselves and discovering this new sport. Seeing their big smiles as they hit their first clay was fantastic and to see those same people return, continue to improve and progress was very rewarding.”
Eventually Lee realised that the enjoyment he gained from clay shooting and helping others was more important to him than his then current work in construction. “I spent many years working away from my family, constantly struggling to maintain a good work/ life balance. I wanted to spend more time with them, and I knew I had their support.”
“So, in 2014, after much deliberation, I took the leap and decided to completely retrain as a shooting coach. Being able to turn my hobby into my day job was too good an opportunity to miss.”
“I began my coaching career with a Safety Officers Course and an Instructor Development Workshop with the CPSA, both of which are prerequisites to further training. Then I headed to my Level 1 Instructor Training Course at Northampton Shooting Ground.”
“I had no idea what to expect, but Senior Coach Mike Williams and his team were brilliant. The Instructors Training Course is intense, you learn all sorts of things including basic gun fit, different bore sizes and the dangers associated with them, how to instruct a novice safely and how to successfully instruct the CPSA method.”
Having enjoyed the challenge of Level 1, Lee signed himself up for the more advanced Level 2 Coach Training courses. “As you progress, the training changes into a more focussed approach to specific disciplines, which you must have a good understanding of and be able to shoot yourself,” he explains.
“From there, the trainee is taught how to tailor their instruction to the needs of a specific client and spot faults that might go unnoticed to the untrained eye. The Level 2 Coach training really helps you to understand even the smallest errors and helps to ensure that you’re following a consistent approach to each individual client.”
Clearly there is a lot to take on when training to be a top coach, but Lee took it all in his stride and found time to begin his competitive shooting career between training sessions.
“I competed at my first ever registered competition in 2014 after encouragement from Curtis,” he says. “Not only was it my first registered comp, but it was also a Nottinghamshire county shooting team selection shoot, and I made the team – I was so proud!”
Over the next few years Lee continued to compete at competitions across the UK. “After that first event I began attending more registered competitions and started travelling further afield to gain experience on different grounds and to shoot at larger events like The Krieghoff DTL, the Fauxdegla Grand Prix and the Dougall Memorial DTL Championships at Bywell.”
Having performed well at some of the UK’s biggest DTL competitions, Lee decided to attempt to join the England DTL shooting team, but first he had important things to focus on.
“I withdrew from some big events, including the selections, in 2017 after my wife and my father-in-law became very unwell – my family was my priority at that time. In 2018 I gave the England selections another shot, and, at the final event, I shot well enough to pass selection! It’s difficult to put into words what an emotional day that was.
“My father-in-law had passed away. He was such a proud and supportive man, and I wish he could have been there to share the moment with me. I was lucky to be surrounded by so many supportive friends and I dedicated my performance that day to him.”
“It is a very special thing to shoot for your country. Wearing an England vest is both nerve wracking and exciting. My first event wearing that vest was at Mid-Wales Shooting Centre.
“My good friends, those who had first introduced me to DTL, Curtis and Dave, had also once again made the team, so that was brilliant. I continued to shoot DTL for England through 2018 and 2019. 2020 has been an odd year for all of us, with many events being cancelled, so I have not had the chance to represent England this year.”
Being a member of the England DTL team must certainly help to bring in new DTL clients to Lee’s coaching enterprise, but he says that while he does teach DTL to competitive shooters, it certainly isn’t his only focus. “Of course I coach DTL, but also plenty of Sporting and Skeet disciplines.
“I focus on the needs of each client, and those needs often change. For example, at the start of the game season I find I have more clients wanting to shoot Sporting to brush up on techniques before heading into the field, or at other times of the year I might have a regular Skeet or DTL shooter who wants to try something new. My clients have a huge variety of skill levels, from those just starting out, right through to regular competition shooters.”
“That is what I love so much about coaching – every lesson is different. I never know what challenge I will be facing each day. I enjoy meeting new clients just as much as when I catch up again with returning clients who are simply looking for a refresher to get them back on track. I’m totally committed to helping them all make effective changes that will enable them to reach their goals, whatever they may be.”
It’s this raw passion for every single person in our community, no matter their skill level or discipline, combined with Lee’s warm, friendly and encouraging manner that endeared him to the CPSA voters ahead of their 2020 Awards.
“Winning CPSA Coach of the Year 2020 was unbelievable. I was almost lost for words and that’s rare for me! I felt exceptionally proud and just knowing that people took the time to vote for me is very humbling,” says Lee. “It was truly an incredible thing to win.
“The award was sponsored by David Stapley of International Sports Brands Ltd and I was overwhelmed when he asked what gun I would prefer for coaching. I collected a lovely Browning 525 Sporter shortly after the awards from JF Nevilles at Alfreton, what an amazing prize – and it’s perfect for coaching.”
“I’m very grateful to my family for the incredible support and of course to the fantastic shooters who encouraged me and supported me along the way – especially Dave and Curtis, who both continue to set an excellent example in the sport.
“Cockett Farm Shooting Ground’s sponsorship is hugely appreciated too, they are a fantastic ground who put a lot back into shooting and I want to do the same for them. Being able to practise DTL regularly is invaluable and I thoroughly enjoy coaching there – all of this has helped enormously on my journey as a shooter and a coach.”
By shooting for England and being voted Coach of the Year, Lee has climbed to the top both in his professional and his personal shooting careers and is still encouraging the rest of us to be the best that we can be. “I think I have the best job in the world,” concludes Lee.
“Encouraging clients to try different things and watching them grow is extremely rewarding. If there is anyone out there considering becoming a coach, I say don’t underestimate the intensity of the training, but go for it and enjoy it, it worked for me!”