Top 5 things you didn’t know about target sports
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Few people know that Sedbergh School is one of the best target sport schools in the UK. The School has been competing for The Ashburton Shield, arguably the most prestigious prize for school shooting in the UK, since 1905 and have won the Shield on 5 occasions. In 2022, against 29 other schools (pre-pandemic 50+ teams competed), Sedbergh finished second. Most recently, Sedbergh pupils were chosen to join two national teams; the GB U18 Athelings and the UKCRT (UK Cadet Rifle Team) U17.
You might know of target sports as ‘shooting’ – and of course, it mostly it is. However, possibly in a reaction to the negative perceptions linked to shooting, the sport is branding itself as ‘target sports’ which is a more accurate description of what the sport involves. For starters, it’s only aiming at targets (or clay disks called pigeons) and the sport also includes archery.
At Sedbergh, target sports are played all year round; spring and summer is predominantly when long range outdoor shooting takes place and then from September, the focus shifts to indoor shooting and air rifle shooting. The School has two excellent indoor ranges.
Ian Christy, Head of Target Sports at Sedbergh says, ‘Around the country we go and shoot and there are big red flags flying, warning signs saying danger, danger, do not enter. So, the general public often don’t understand it [target sports].’ It’s necessary, but its off-putting. Plus, target sports also have a language of their own that confuses people. To demonstrate, I like to tell the story of something funny that happened a few years ago. We had a young shooter competing down at Bisley National Shooting Centre and her mother had come down to see how she got on. She said to her mum, ‘I’ve just shot 2-15 over the hill and got a possible’. Her mother said, well never mind we’ll go and get a cup of tea and a piece of cake.’ I explained that what her daughter said was that on one of the longest shoots you can do, on one of the most difficult ranges in the world, she scored the highest possible score a human being can score on that range! She did brilliantly! So, her mum added, ‘We’ll get something fizzy then as well!’ But you know, her poor mum had no concept! I try and put it [the sport] into plain speech, but it’s still confusing.’
Top 5 things you didn’t know about target sports
- Most of target shooting is in the mind; aiming is one of the least important things that we do! It’s all about mindset and we spend hours and hours developing that. I’ve heard it said that shooting is a western martial art – and it is. It’s about controlling the body with the mind.
- Many of the best shooters in the world are older. It depends upon the specific area of the sport, but if we talk about long-range outdoor shooting, or target rifle, most of the top shooters are slightly older. So, whereas in other sports, by the time you’re in your mid-thirties, you’re physically past it and may be carrying an injury, in target shooting, you are likely to be just coming into your own in your mid-thirties up until about your sixties. The oldest competitor in the Rio Olympics a few years ago was a 78 year old lady. It’s truly a sport for life.
- The mindfulness and the focus developed in target sports translates directly to academic performance. Study after study of target sports across the globe has shown that there can be an improvement in grade attainment and focus; particularly if a young person is struggling with their focus. Target sports of any type teaches pupils to focus on one task at a time, complete that task to the best of their ability, and then move on to the next thing. So, it’s about ordering things. You have to be very organised.
- Target sports are one of the few sports where there is little difference in the ability of each gender. Men tend to be able to physically support the weight of a heavy rifle for longer and that’s reflected in competition. However, British and Olympic shooting is now looking at changing the sport so that we find some common ground in the middle. Then we’ll find that there’s hardly any difference in scores between genders. Physical size isn’t a factor in making you a better target shooter.
- During target sports we teach quite complex mathematics. It’s done in a way that they don’t even realise that’s what we’re doing. We teach an awful lot of physics – for example, we talk about co-efficiency of ballistics and how things work and some quite complex parabolic flights – complicated physics concepts. We also teach anatomy and physiology – particularly biomechanics – because it’s vital. There’s also a lot of psychology involved too.