Want to get started in shooting? Paul Goater tells you how
Paul Goater is the manager of the England Rifle Academy and the lead air rifle coach for the Rifle Talent Squad, part of the GB Olympic shooting pathway. Paul has been involved with elite sport since the 80s, and has seen the energy and positivity that success can bring. Paul is committed to bringing that energy to rifle shooting and enhancing as many youngsters’ lives as possible along the way.
“Rifle shooting offers some golden opportunities to youngsters. The participation levels are not massive (we are trying to change that) and the development route through to Olympic disciplines can be quite short, so success can be relatively quick in relation to some other sports, particularly if you are prepared to work hard to achieve your goals. That said there are some barriers created by the nature of the sport, which has to be conducted in properly constructed and approved areas, some of which require licensing by the Home Office. The sport has also traditionally not advertised itself well in the UK, due in part to certain perceived social views about firearms. We have to emphasise that this is an Olympic sport just like rowing, swimming or cycling. It is run to strict rules using dedicated equipment, and yes its participants are athletes! It doesn’t require extreme levels of fitness (at the start anyway) so get out there and give it a go. There are clubs in pretty much every town and a number of great opportunities particularly in Scouts and Cadets to try it safely in a fun environment.
I normally work three weekends a month on a voluntary basis helping youngsters develop through this sport. It is hugely rewarding for them as they progress their expertise and performance, and hugely rewarding for me to know that I have helped create that opportunity, and helped in some small way with their development and improvement. I share their elation when they achieve podium success. It is a real privilege to coach and I commend it to others.
The scouts are probably the easiest route for most youngsters into air rifle and pistol. Target shooting is a regular scout activity that is very widespread round the country, and can be easily run in nearly all scout halls. Roughly 80% of shooters that progress to elite levels nowadays start their shooting in the scouts. Cartridge rifle shooting has to be conducted in an approved range, either a club or cadet environment. The cadets provide a great introduction for interested youngsters, with clubs providing more of a development route (although some clubs are very keen to develop youngsters from scratch). Other entry routes include the Pony Club and Modern Pentathlon.
I encourage all interested youngsters to give it a go. It is an exciting sport requiring a unique set of skills. Performed at its highest level it is just as challenging as any other elite sport, more so in some respects.”