The Goal

The Goal

Saturday, 22 August 2015

So you want to shoot for GB...

For many shooters, getting selected for a Great Britain touring team is one of their major goals and it can be a source of blistering heartache when that first team selection is elusive. I certainly spent years thinking about how to earn the blazer with the "Bill & Ben" badge and had a number of disappointments on the way, which occasionally even felt grossly unfair when other people who had not achieved as much as I felt I had were picked ahead of me. I think this is normal and is probably just the disappointment talking. As in dating, rejection comes as a part and parcel of the game; however unlike in dating not getting picked for a team is very, very rarely personal even though it can feel like it at the time.

I hope that it doesn't come across presumptuous or even arrogant, but I've had a think and come up with some pointers for budding tourists which I hope will take a little of the agony out of the process.

You've got to be in it to win it - Team Captains cannot pick you if you're not a member of the National Rifle Association or if you don't apply for their team. Join the NRA and read the journals, which announce the captains. They usually write a letter inviting applications. It's like applying for a job: write yourself a little shooting CV and a polite covering letter. Sometimes, they will circulate a standard form. If they do, fill it in and include it with the covering letter.

Introduce yourself - Selection is an easier process for everybody if you introduce yourself to the team captain before she or he makes the selection. Ask around to find out which club they are a member of and go and say hello. Have a chat with them. Be honest about why you're introducing yourself. Tell the captain about your achievements if they ask; it's OK to be proud of things you've had to work hard for, but don't be boastful. You also don't necessarily need to wait until you have actually sent off your application.

Shoot for your county and club - Team captains want to see evidence of the ability to shoot in team matches, as well as individual scores and groups, so see if you can get picked for your county. Some of the higher-ranked counties may be tough to get into, but they also tend to be the bigger counties, some of whom will also enter "B" teams for matches. Club shooting is often a bit easier to get into, as there are more matches and the more senior shooters will often have more shoots than they are able to do. Very often the club captain will know the captain of the team you're interested in.

Go on a club, NRA Channel Islands or GB U25 Tour - Just as captains like to see some match experience, prior touring experience is also a major plus. I was lucky enough to tour with the Athelings in 1994, and SC's 1997 NRA U25 tour to Jersey but it was RB's most excellent 2004 Channel Islands tour, which I think gave me a leg up towards my first GB tour to Canada in 2006. Quite apart from the strength of the opposition, Jersey has two beautiful ranges, great food and can be a relatively inexpensive place to shoot.

Focus on your shooting - Your individual competition and team match scores are public property and captains will look at them above pretty much anything else when they come to selecting their team. The vast majority of us who aren't enormously naturally talented have to work at this shooting malarkey. 'nuff said.

Do not despair, it isn't personal, stick at it - You are almost certainly going to get rejected for GB teams before you get picked for one, and this is likely to continue as your continue your career in shooting and try to get picked for the higher status tours*. When you don't get picked, you've got to shrug it off and try again. What other option do you have?

To round off my post, getting picked is only the start of your adventure. When you are selected for a Great Britain Rifle Team tour, you have been handed a huge opportunity. A tour is an opportunity to learn from more experienced shooters, to represent your country in a sport at which we have won six of the last seven World Championships, and to have a wonderful time. Train effectively, shoot well, work hard to make a positive contribution to the team and have a fantastic time. Make us proud!

Shoot for GB and you'll get to learn what this picture means. Idea ruthlessly stolen from World Champion, top bloke and all-round shooting legend ERTJ.

* Not all GB teams and tours are created equal. My opinion on the order of difficulty based on frequency and strength of opposition (listed from hard to coffin nails) is West Indies, Canada, New Zealand/Australia/South Africa/USA (all roughly equivalent), any tour which includes and Australia match, Palma tour. Then we come to the Kolapore Cup and an Australia Match held at Bisley, which score about 15 on the Mohs scale.

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