So I am here to talk about focusing young people through shooting sports, particularly in Archery and Air Rifle shooting. So why am I writing about this particular topic?
Well to give you a little background, I am 1 of 100,000 adult volunteers in scouting that offers opportunities and experiences to help develop young people in the UK. As well as looking after 20-30 Explorer Scouts aged 14-18 yrs old, I am also a qualified Archery and Air Rifle Instructor; offering 100′s of young people the opportunity to try the sport each year.
Archery and Air Rifle shooting is a very active sport in the UK and is growing in popularity because of the Olympic Games 2012 and the various youth organisations out there that offer access to the activity. It is even accessible in schools!
So why do young people think its cool and continue to keep these sports alive? Well initially, it is because of shoot ‘em up computer games such as Call of Duty. I would be a very rich man for every young person (and adult) who said to me that they have either done Archery or Rifle shooting on their Nintendo Wii. I have bad news – we use the real thing… not Wii remotes!
Archery and Rifle shooting is a sport that helps young people develop skills and attitudes that are transferable to everyday situations. Instead of teaching young people how to kill using these weapons, we teach the finer art of hitting targets to gain points. As an instructor, its my job to teach young people the art of patience, strength (physically and mentally), sportsmanship, respect, confidence, and the ability to focus whilst undertaking several actions to operate the weapon correctly – and safely.
So what techniques do we teach young people?
- Stance and posture – in order to operate a weapon, whether its a rifle or bow, students are taught the importance to stand and hold the weapon, and themselves, in a safe manner.
- Accuracy/Targeting techniques - whether a young person is targeting by sight or by eye, we train young people in the ability to make small and measured adjustment to get on target.
- Breathing/Relaxation techniques – this sounds a very odd thing, but it is hugely important to stay calm and to keep cool through using simple relaxation exercises when appropriate.
- Sportsman-like conduct – how to react when they fail to hit the target and how to treat their weapon with respect as well as other sportsman.
- Safety Rules – In any shooting activity, this is absolute paramount to ensure the activity and range remains safe, and controlled.
So if shooting sports like Archery and Air Rifles is so safe and promotes these positive values, why do we hear so many tragic stories of young people being involved in shootings? Here is a quote I use with all my students:
A weapon, whether it be a bow or rifle, only becomes dangerous when the user does not respect its power
A weapon on its own cannot bring harm to others unless the person wielding it doesn’t understand or respect its ability to cause injury or death. Its my job as an instructor to promote a fun atmosphere but in a serious and controlled conscious way. Through a good mix of education and ensuring young people understand how to use a Bow or Air Rifle safely, I am doing my bit to developing them to be better than the fool who picks up a weapon and think they are an action hero.
To become an instructor, it is relatively easy… but the bit that is usually missed out is how to validate the learning with gaining suitable experience.
‘Til next time,