The future’s bright

As we enter another Olympic year, Anita North is excited about our chances at Tokyo and beyond.

Hamish McInnes, David McNeil and Allan Ritchie at the British Shooting Awards

It’s exciting to think that when this story is posted online, we will be in an Olympic year! I’m writing this article in November, which is the time of year when many shooters have a breather, look forward and make plans for the coming months.

However there is still lots going on in the shooting world. I have been keeping super busy recently and I’d like to tell you about just some of the things I have been involved with.

Schools competitions

I have attended two school competitions recently – the Millfield Invitational at Mendip Shooting Ground, and the William Powell Schools Shooting Competition at Edgehill Shooting Ground. I haven’t really had a chance to attend other schools competitions this year, since a year ago I attended the Oxford Gun Company’s Schools Challenge Grand Final, which I really enjoyed.

These two recent competitions added to my very positive impressions of young people and clay shooting. It is brilliant to see the support of clay shooting, with schools including it in their sports activities programmes, shooting grounds hosting the events, and companies sponsoring the days. It is wonderful to see people so enthusiastic – pupils, coaches, instructors, parents and teachers alike. 

One of the things that really struck me at the events at Mendip and Edgehill was the camaraderie – there was so much support of teammates demonstrated by so many of the teams. I was very thankful to have the opportunity to speak to some of the participants. Each team, indeed each person, has their own story to tell. 

The weekend included the launch of British Shooting’s World Class Programme

I chatted to one group from a very good school who had no coach or instructor with them. While they did have support from a teacher who takes them to their practice sessions and competitions, the pupils were the driving force behind their activities. They were all so keen on shooting – it was awesome to see. 

Another school, a weekly-boarding prep school that had one of the two teams of youngest shooters taking part, is supported by a local farmer who provides a location and traps, and organises coaches to work with the youngsters.

The teacher that they had with them was also involved with the group and provided superb support. This is an inspiring example of facilitation and support. 

The teacher and team support from another school told me of the group of girls he is working with who are not yet ready for competitions, but will be soon and he’s looking forward to them entering the competition circuit.

I chatted to one young lady who has taken up Olympic Skeet and is keen to develop her skills in that discipline. Her level-headedness and approach to training really impressed me.

I have to shout out a big thank you and well done to everyone that supports these sorts of competitions. Without the support of companies such as William Powell and Oxford Gun Company as well as the shooting grounds involved, none of this would be possible. Indeed, hats off to everyone involved. We need to keep the sport growing. We need people to participate in clay shooting. 

The sport has so much to offer in so many different ways. These schools competitions are just one of the ways that this can be done and we should all, as a shooting community, give them our support. I look forward to attending more of these sorts of competitions.

World Class Programme

I have just got back from Manchester where I attended the British Shooting World Class Programme launch weekend and British Shooting Awards. 

It was a full-on weekend which provided an opportunity for shooters in the WCP, Talent Academy and Talent Pathway from across all Olympic and Paralympic shooting disciplines to get together, hear some updates on plans, reviews of successes, work on some specific topics, and generally get to know more people across the shooting disciplines.

With lots of people attending, we broke out into groups and rotated through a number of sessions on topics such as mental health, anti-doping education, expectations and behaviours for best working together. 

Allan Ritchie, Matt Coward Holley and Michael Drever

As well as the programme launch activities, the weekend also saw the British Shooting Awards evening. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners in the categories. Three people in particular stood out for me – Allan Ritchie, Lorraine Lambert and Seonaid McIntosh. While the latter two are not clay shooters, they are truly inspirational people. 

Seonaid has ended 2019 with a bunch of medals and is world number 1 shooting 50m rifle in three positions – check out her profile on the ISSF website. Lorraine, as well as securing a Paralympic quota place, has also done an incredible amount of work inspiring young people in shooting sports.

Allan Ritchie continues to demonstrate superb dedication and determination in shooting Olympic Trap. You can find out more about the awards on the British Shooting website.

Steven Seligmann, Performance Director from British Shooting presented a good, concise reminder of the significant international success seen in 2019. Indeed, since 2013 there has been a steady increase in the number of finalists and medalists for GB across Olympic and Paralympic disciplines Looking forward we still have the ability to secure further quota places for the Tokyo Olympic Games, and the whole of Pathway is working towards Paris and Los Angeles.

Hamish McInnes, CEO of British Shooting, included a message that really stood out for me: “We can, should and will look to the future.” The current challenging times present us with a fabulous opportunity to influence and take control of our own careers. We should all think long-term, ensuring we have a plan that looks beyond the next competition, the next year.

School teams in action at the William Powell competition at Edgehill

Success in this individual sport is not just success for shooters, it is also success for their team – practitioners, coaches, staff and parents. It takes an enormous amount of work to achieve great success. 

It is good that British Shooting are striving to make a better environment to best support shooters in their journey to competition success. Ensuring the basics are done superbly is key to success – and happiness – for all concerned.

So, until next month, enjoy whatever you do, enjoy your shooting, enjoy the work. Do you want to improve your shooting? Do you have dreams of glory? 

If yes, do you have a plan – and if not, why not?

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