The organisation and management of any sports team or club poses a challenge to those brave enough to assume such a responsibility, but few have to start from such basic foundations as the new leadership of Durham University’s Clay Pigeon Shooting Club.
The club, which is the focus of the third in a series looking at the more unusual side to Team Durham, had existed for many years until, at the end of last year, it effectively died out after its leaders graduated and failed to oversee a transition of management into the hands of younger members.
However, after spending several months dormant, the club is now firing up again, after it was ‘re-founded’, by Ross Morton and James Blanshard.
At present, the club has around fifteen members, most of whom have prior experience of shooting, who shoot every Sunday and occasionally on a Wednesday. The real focus, however, is on the future, and what a rejuvenated club can achieve from the start of next academic year.
“We are hoping for a big influx next year by having a stand at the fresher’s fair,” explains Morton, the Club Secretary.
“In December we ran a trial shoot which about twenty people came to; many of whom had never shot before. We really want to get new people coming to try out the sport”.
In its present state, the ‘club’ is better described as a small collection of enthusiasts who go on informal shoots once or twice a week, but the ambition is to form a more structured society, comprising experienced and inexperienced shooters and competing in competitions for the University.
“This year has been a bit sparse on the competition front as we have had to organise everything from scratch again,” explains Morton. “But we hope to go to several competitions next year, including BUCS”.
The hope is that an increase in membership would have a domino effect of raising the club’s profile, and thus finances, which would open up the possibility of partaking in more competitions, making the society an integral – and diverse – part of Team Durham.
“The club is entirely funded by members at the moment, although Team Durham does help out from time to time with one-off deals, such as the use of a bus,” Morton says.
“But transport is a real problem for us at present. If we can get more people interested then we will be more likely to get hold of transport, for competitions, and we can progress from there”.
Though the club clearly faces many obstacles at present, it appears that the attraction of new members would be the remedy to many – if not most – of its current ills.
With this in mind, the club is offering training to anybody who wishes to try out, and potentially join the club, but has never shot properly before.
“Jamie Blanshard, (Club President) and I will take beginners out shooting the first few times to make sure they are safe, and from there we offer people the chance to either improve themselves or we will give guidance on how they can improve,” explains Morton, who has been shooting casually since the age of thirteen.
On a cold and very blustery Sunday morning at Spennymoor and District Clay Pigeon Club, just outside of Durham city, I discovered firsthand what the sport, and the club, offers to those without any previous experience, such as myself.
My initial fears that half the morning could be spent listening to safety and theory talks were quickly dispelled, as getting practical experience of actually shooting was undoubtedly the primary focus.
The shooting itself is a surprisingly simple process, even if hitting the flying clays is not quite so straightforward a task. But when you do destroy a clay in mid-flight, you instantly discover the sport’s addictive quality.
“It’s very obvious when you get it right, and seeing a clay shatter into many pieces is very therapeutic,” contends Morton.
Contrary to preconceptions, the shooting is in no way repetitive, and the desire to try ‘just one more’ shot grips you from the outset.
Clay pigeon shooting really does offer something very different from other sports, due both to its independent nature and the specific attributes it requires for success.
“The skill of deflection shooting is what makes clay pigeon quite different from other target sports. You have to anticipate where the object will be when your shoot gets to it, what with the clay being a moving target”.
The structure of clay pigeon shooting, as a sport, is one of the most favourable to new members wishing to try out a new pursuit, because you can begin with the easiest targets and work your way up through the difficulty levels, and thus you rarely find yourself facing a challenge either too easy or unattainable.
Combined with the fact that the club at Durham is one of the most up-and-coming in the University, with strong ambitions for progress and a plan of action to match, it is certainly one that would be strongly recommended to those with a disposition to try something new.