Simon first got involved with clay pigeon shooting when he was 12, starting off at a local club after a family friend invited him to join. After that he had caught the bug, and while not originally from a shooting family he has now passed on his years of knowledge to his sons, who even practice using one of Simon’s guns from his early shooting days! We caught up with Simon to learn more about his passion for the sport!
When and why did you become a coach with the CPSA?
While serving in the Army I found that I enjoyed instructing. I had shot in the Army Clay Target team and after leaving and setting up in business as a self employed landscaper I decided that I would try and combine the instructing and shooting so I took my Level 1 instructors course in 2006, this then enabled me to start working at Southdown Gun Club as one of their instructors at the weekend.
Over the next few years I took and passed my Level 2 coaching courses finally qualifying me as a Level 3 Senior Coach in 2011. By December 2014 I found I was doing more and more lessons at the club and was asked to work there full time.
I found the staged approach of development by the CPSA works very well where the first course not only teaches you how to deal with novices but instills the basics that are needed every time you get a client. Then each course progressively increases knowledge and develops you from an instructor to a coach.
What’s the most rewarding thing about being a coach? Do you have any standout memories?
The most rewarding thing to me about being a coach is seeing the progression of people and their realisation that they can shoot and shoot well if they listen and apply what is taught to them. Coaching is more than a job, it's a passion that I hope gets conveyed across in lessons. Standout memories include being fortunate enough to have coached the Army CT Team in the US, Cyprus and South Africa over the years.
What inspires you to keep improving as a coach?
In a word - knowledge. No one knows everything about this sport, the only way to improve is to increase your knowledge and there's always more to know. There are many ways of putting over a point or describing something and it's handy knowing how to do it several ways as everyone is different and what works for one might not work for the next. There are so many areas covered by being a coach to enable the shooter to get the best out of themselves it's impossible to learn it all at once. A good coach never stops learning.
How would you describe the sport to someone who has never tried it or who doesn’t think it’s for them?
Done correctly, it's safe, very enjoyable and very addictive - try it. Provided the introduction is done safely and correctly .i.e., right gun for the individual, right cartridge, right target, correct PPE worn and they are standing and holding the gun properly they should hit the target. Once they start hitting, all the preconceived ideas about the gun being too heavy and knocking them over go and they start to enjoy it.
What are some of your personal ambitions within the sport?
On a personal level it's to continue to learn and develop further as a coach and so improve my service to my clients. I also want to develop a colts section at Southdown much the same as I was in when I started. We have held very successful CPSA Young Shots days at Southdown and had several teenagers do clay shooting for their Duke of Edinburgh Awards so the interest is there. Ladies shooting is on the increase so this is another area to develop.
Why is having the right kit so important when you’re clay pigeon shooting?
If you are wanting to go further and get better having the right kit is paramount. I say to a lot of people starting off "If you look like a shooter, you'll feel like a shooter", just putting a skeet vest makes people feel like they're part of the sport. Having the right kit and clothing is as important as having the right gun, too many people cuff and bluff it with what they wear, the main problem being their clothing being too bulky and restrictive when it gets cold or wet. I firmly believe if you are going to do something, do it properly, do the research, pay the money and get quality that's going to last and can be relied on. My first Musto clay shooting jacket lasted fourteen years and kept me dry at many shoots and through many lessons.
If someone is considering getting into coaching, what is your best advice on this?
Do it. If you're really serious about it speak to a qualified CPSA coach at your local ground. Don't expect it to happen overnight, it's a long process which is explained in Pull magazine or on the CPSA website. You don't have to be the best shot, more important is the ability to put across to your client the knowledge and skills needed to make them the better shot, after all that's why they have come to you.
What are you looking forward to in 2020?
With the current situation it will be nice just to get back to work, start developing the ideas mentioned earlier and working with Musto as an ambassador. There will be a lot of shooters who are going to be "rusty" due to lack of shooting plus the game season will be approaching bringing with it those shooters who sensibly get practice in before their first day.