Batch of students qualify to run ranges and act as instructors
Are the best things in life worth waiting for?
The students at the Sinclair Range think so after a weekend of intensive schooling and training as well some laughs and even fun exercises at the hands of experts from Inverness.
After almost a year in the organisation, the suite of courses to improve the future of target shooting on the Isle of Man have taken place and the attendees all emerged with their skills very much at a higher calibre.
Sponsored by the Isle of Man Rifle Association, the international coaches from Target Technique - Iain Maoileoin and wife Maria, who has 41 caps for Scotland to her name - came over from to get a bunch of attendees qualified to assist in running competitions on ranges and bring on new club shooters.
The aim of this was to allow island clubs to run ranges at a higher level as well as, crucially, teach new shooters of all ages to learn quickly and, most importantly safely so that they can pick up the sport and enjoy it.
This is Iain and Maria's first joint coaching course abroad – the others have been in Scotland. 'The students are receptive,' said Iain after the first day of the two-day club instructors' course. 'We are getting feedback from them: And they are starting from a good base, they are talking about the procedures [for dealing with new-start shooters] and the mechanisms they are applying. If we can somehow cement more of that together where they will communicate amongst themselves once the course is finished they will rise to a different level.'
If it sounds like a lot of hard work, it was, for the wannabe club instructors were made to step out of their comfort zones and kit out guinea-pig shooters with left-handed kit and rifles when they were actually familiar with the other hand and jackets, etc. Sufficient ambidextrous 0.22 target rifles as well as spare jackets and gloves were made available to allow this to happen.
This was all about developing a teamwork ethic as the students worked in small groups with a single shooter asking technical questions as well as the deeply philosophical “How do you feel?”
We mentioned “fun”. That came with huge cardboard trigger fingers being mocked up to allow experiments to be conducted on trigger control – although it did look rather like something from Fingerbobs....
'As a group, they are very responsive,' Iain commented after the course had wrapped up. 'They are asking and talking amongst themselves in a way which if they can continue that I think they will be a very effective force in imparting their knowledge and getting new people shooting.'
One of the main objectives of the courses was to 'grow your own' skilled and qualified experts so that IOM target shooting can move on without necessarily needing the advice from helpers in the UK and beyond.
The enthusiasm amongst the attendees showed unreservedly that they already had the competence to instruct new shooters but now they have the confidence too.
On the RCO course and Club Instructors course were: Chris Mayne, Tracey Skelton, Sharon Drysdale, Perryn Watson, John Paul Bridson, Nigel Christian, Robin McFee, Ron Spencer, Derek Gray, Ben Kelly Julie Mayne and Brian Fozard.
Iain added: 'Everyone looks positive. That's what it needs to get clubs growing because when it falls to one or two people to do all of the work.it can't happen long term.'
The candidates to become club instructors were supplemented by shooters who devoted their Friday night to sitting a Range Conducting Officer (RCO) test as Iain and Maria got off a boat from Heysham after a long trek from Nairn in northern Scotland to run the course.
Maria has a family connection with the Isle of Man, for her grandfather was an Italian POW there during World War 2 and went on to settle in Scotland after the war.
This was a weekend which went way beyond merely planting seeds and indeed the sport should soon be in bloom again.
One of the course attendees, Sharon Drysdale, took time to reflect on the value of the courses:
'I think it’s important, when looking at the development of shooting, to approach it from the grass roots with appropriately instructing and developing new shooters to the sport and looking wider at coaching for the more advanced shooter to represent the Isle of Man at national and international competition - in effect like a pincer movement.
'The training this weekend was aimed at building the skills and confidence of a group of us to work on the former point.'
Article and Photographs : Colin Watson