English Open Compak ladies champion Becky McKenzie reveals the secrets of her success to Jasper Fellows.
Since she burst onto the competitive scene in 2007, Becky McKenzie has been a powerful force in shooting. She has scooped up World Championships wins, national and international titles, and more medals and trophies that you can shake a 12-bore at.
“This year she was crowned English Open Fitasc Compak Ladies Champion – a feat she puts down to her fierce competitiveness and constant desire to show the boys how it’s done.
“I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy I guess,” says Becky, “there were no Barbie dolls in my home. I was more interested in climbing trees and riding horses. It was through horses that I developed my love of competitive sport – I got a real kick out of the speed involved.
“I wasn’t really that interested in shooting back then though. My father shot a little bit, but only at small shoots on his friends’ land. I had a go once, but was far more interested in my ponies.”
It was this love of horses that first brought Becky’s competitive edge into play. “When I was young I had a real desire to become a flat race jockey.” Becky continues. “Back then it was a male dominated sport. If you wanted to go far you had to be related to a trainer or an owner; it was very tough for females from beyond those inner circles to get a chance.”
Eventually Becky decided to move on from horses. “Aged 21 I decided to move on to something with real horsepower. I found an ad in the local paper for a free one-hour motorbike lesson and was instantly hooked. Slowly, I worked my way up from a small 125cc bike to a 750.
I read about the East Midlands Racing Association Roadstock Series and decided I wanted to give it a go. There was a lot of preparation involved to get race ready. I had to get my racing licence and make sure my bike was up for the task.
Soon though I realised that 750cc wasn’t enough, and so I traded that bike in for a 1,000cc Honda Fireblade. I had no trailer and no support team and I had to ride that bike from my house straight to the start line. My first race saw me up against 33 blokes in torrential rain. I came away with second place, result! After all, why can’t a girl ride as fast as the fellas!”
At the end of her first year racing, the East Midlands Racing Association presented Becky with the Most Outstanding Newcomer award. She was clearly using her competitive spirit to take the men to task.
However, beyond the awards and accolades there was one element of bike racing that would change Becky’s life forever. “It was through bike racing that I met my husband, John,” explains Becky.
Hooked on clays
John would become instrumental in introducing Becky to the sport that she would come to dominate. “In 2005 John took me to the local clay shooting ground. He had been shooting for years and a friend of his needed a lesson or two,” Becky explains.
“I got the chance to have a go too. I used his Winchester 6500, closed both eyes and pulled the trigger. To my surprise the clay shattered and I thought ‘Wow, if I open my eyes I could be quite good at this!’
“As with the horses and bikes, I was instantly addicted. I wanted my own gun, a 28in 12-gauge Winchester 6500, the same as John’s. And I wanted to beat him with it. As I started improving, John bought a Kreighoff K80. Not to be beaten, I found a second hand K80 and bought that too.”
It was at this point that Becky started to take the sport seriously. “With K80s in hand we went to see Ben Husthwaite. He is a fantastic coach, and helped us to set up the guns and improve our shooting.
“Noticing my competitive edge, he told me I should try out for the England Sporting team, which I did. At the selection shoots I managed to qualify first time and suddenly was part of Team England.”
Those who don’t know Becky might think that she managed to get to the top levels of the sport with little more than luck. In reality, it comes down to relentless training fuelled by a constant desire to improve. “When I first started shooting I was training three times a week.
“I would shoot on Wednesday evening after work, all day Saturday and head out to local competitions on Sunday.
“These days I may train or take part in a competition once a week. I love to shoot Fitasc but I actually started out shooting Skeet. I still practise Skeet, as it’s an excellent discipline for mastering your swing.”
Ever the sportswoman, Becky continues her training away from the shooting ground. “About six years ago I started training in the gym, “Becky explains, “I wanted to tone up and improve my shooting.
“To begin with I had a personal trainer who helped me to develop a training regime to improve my sport. I primarily concentrate on improving my core strength, biceps, triceps and shoulders.
“Weight training has not only improved my physical strength, but also my mental strength. I find it has helped me to develop a ‘I can do it, I will do it’ mental attitude. I hate the treadmill so I run outdoors six times a week for a bit of cardio.
“Any training is better than no training, but it’s important to listen to your body. If I’m not feeling as strong as normal, perhaps after a long weekend of shooting, I make sure I don’t push myself too hard.”
Even with her impressive training routine and endless drive, Becky believes one of the keys to success is finding like-minded people who can help you to achieve your goals. “My advice to anyone looking to do well in the sport is to find a good coach to help them,” explains Becky.
“I recommend finding a coach that has had their own success shooting big competitions. If they have, then they should have a good understanding of all sorts of targets, and will be able to tell you exactly why you are missing the tricky ones.
Top level coaching
My first coach, Ben Husthwaite, really helped me to believe in myself and was able to provide top level coaching. Stuart Clarke has also helped me with my shooting and has been a proper gentleman as always.
I am also very lucky to be supported by Solware in Tamworth, MacWet Gloves, Briley Manufacturing and their excellent chokes, RC Cartridges, CENS provide my hearing protection and OptiLabs Ltd for my prescription shooting glasses. Eriswell Lodge have also been brilliant with helping with my entry fees and training. Simply put, I couldn’t be doing what I am doing without their help and I’m extremely grateful for it.”
The combination of this strong support network, tough training regime and relentless determination has led to a trophy cabinet bursting at the seams with county, national and international awards and medals.
With championship wins dating back to 2008 and having been crowned Perazzi Cup Ladies Champion, Dutch Grand Prix FITASC Ladies Champion and Euro Cash Ladies Champion in 2018 alone, it can be quite a struggle to pick out a career defining win.
“Winning the very first World All Round Championships at Fauxdegla in 2013 was a particular standout for me,” says Becky. “Knowing I was up against a lot of Trap shooters across a wide array of targets and disciplines meant I had to train really hard. Particularly at ABT, which isn’t something I normally shoot.
“Unfortunately, I find people can be quite negative and often claim that ‘she only won because she wasn’t up against tough enough competition.’ So I was determined to post a good score to prove them wrong. I shot well with 24 on Single Barrel, 22 on ABT, 23 on Skeet and finished with a straight 25 on Sporting – I was very happy with the end result!”
On 10 March 2019 Becky claimed her title as English Open Fitasc Compak Ladies Champion – that was one title she wasn’t so sure she would receive. “It was a huge surprise to be honest,” she says. “It isn’t a discipline I usually shoot; I was only really using the event as practice for a 200 target Compak event in Holland back in May.”
The weather at the event was brutal, with many of the morning’s shooters competing in an unseasonal snow shower. “It was a really filthy day,” says Becky, “chucking it down with rain, blowing a hooley and freezing cold, weather conditions I really hate.
“But I came prepared, I wore warm clothes, a waterproof coat, gloves and hand warmers, but even with all that I just wanted to go home.
English Open Compak
“I shot well on the first layout, 24 ex-25, but the second was a nightmare. I missed the same target twice and then two others. By the third layout I was already on my third pair of MacWet gloves, with my nose running and feeling a bit sorry for myself.
“The heated seats in my car started to look very attractive. But I knew I had to put in a fantastic score to get into the top three Ladies of the day, particularly as the other Ladies were all regular Compak shooters.
“By the end of the fourth layout I really was ready to go home, I even asked someone else to check and sign my card so I could get out of there. By my count I had scored 90 ex-100, good but not good enough.
Apparently I must have been too cold to count though, as I later discovered I had hit 92, leaving me Ladies Champion with a lead of three targets! Once I was home, hugging the radiator and warmed up, I was rather chuffed with myself. I think I quite like Compak now!”
For the next year Becky has some big plans. “I have been coaching on and off for a number of years but I have decided that it is something I would like to do full time,” says Becky.
“I find it so satisfying to teach clients and have them come back to me after a practice session or competition to tell me how well they have shot – it’s really great. I thought it would take a long time to build up my coaching business, but it has taken off much more quickly than I had expected.
“Aside from the coaching I am hoping to return to the 2020 English Open Compak Championship to defend my title.
“I also plan to shoot the European FITASC Championship in Italy, the Eurocash and European Compak Championships in France and all the major FITASC competitions in the UK if possible.
“I’ve never been to Poland, so I’d quite like to go to the World Compak Championships if I can too.”
Becky McKenzie is living proof that we make our own luck in the sport. Through hard work and constant dedication she has become one of the country’s top shots. We’re sure we will be hearing more from Becky as her endless drive and enthusiasm propels her onwards in 2020.
Learn from the best
Becky provides expert instruction to all levels of shooters. Visit www.beckymckenzie.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.