Why is coaching such a taboo subject for rifle clubs?

4 Mar 2016 – Coaching and instructing are vital for the future of shooting. Why don’t we take them more seriously?

Most target shooting clubs train their members in-house. Most of them do so in accordance with the NRA competency training scheme; most of the smallbore clubs do it in-house, with experienced shooters teaching on a 1:1 basis as the law requires.

And that’s perfectly fine. Or is it?

Consider this: what happens when your experienced coaches are unavailable, for whatever reason? How do your new members get regular access to proper coaching – and by coaching I mean something more than basic safety training, which any competent shooter should be able to impart, or an overview of a particular discipline. I’m talking about in depth technique training, individual feedback and coaching, and developing firers’ skills to the level they’re comfortable at.

Recently I made a freedom of information request for some course training notes from the MoD. They responded with almost 2,000 pages – some of it being purely applicable to military scenarios and the military method of instruction, and some of it being how to train coaches and coaching technique. It’s invaluable stuff – if you care about this sort of thing.

But that’s my point: do we care enough about coaching and training new firers? What do we have in place for training coaches to a known standard? How do we know coaches are passing on worthwhile knowledge, instead of, to coin a military phrase, local fads?

It was suggested to me a little while ago that the NRA has withdrawn all of its coaching qualifications. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s been a long time since I’ve seen an NRA Club Instructor course advertised.

In contrast, the NSRA does have a clear coaching hierarchy, as laid out on its website – and from a look at its coaching course calendar, there are courses being delivered at those various levels. This is good for the future of the sport – though I’m not sure about the requirement for a clean CRB check (or DBS check, in new money) for all quals beyond Club Instructor. Your FAC or SGC are far better indicators that you’re not a wrong’un than any of the various child protection vetting schemes ever will be, given the 24/7/365 police monitoring being implemented against us. We may have swapped liberty for security, but perversely, that can be shown to work in our interests in very limited situations.

Here’s another point to consider. Aside from the NRA competency card scheme, do we in the fullbore world have any formal continuation training for club-level shooters? Granted, the NRA is running its own “introduction to” discipline days, and has expanded that in conjunction with some of the Bisley rifle clubs. But beyond that, are new shooters mostly left to get on with it – and expected to organise their own further coaching if they want to progress?

2 thoughts on “Why is coaching such a taboo subject for rifle clubs?

  1. Rich

    “…though I’m not sure about the requirement for a clean CRB check (or DBS check, in new money) for all quals beyond Club Instructor. Your FAC or SGC are far better indicators that you’re not a wrong’un than any of the various child protection vetting schemes ever will be, given the 24/7/365 police monitoring being implemented against us.”

    Good point, and perhaps valid for the NRA, dealing solely with cartridge firearms, or indeed within an NSRA club environment where you are only dealing with your own members. However, remember the NSRA administers coaching courses for air shooters (both ISSF and Field Target) and target crossbow – none of whom require FACs.

    Also, those coaches working with Scouts, Schools, Pony Club or Disability Groups/Vulnerable Adults will all require CRB/DBS because those organisations tend to be fairly inflexible about them. If a club had both a Scout group and a school group coming to shoot with them, then being able to say they’re checked via their qualification saves each individual organisation needing to check them (just as a supply teacher is checked by their agency, not each individual school they are sent to).

    So there are some cases the NSRA has to deal with which make a standard blanket-CRB the easiest way forward to satisfy their insurers that they have done due-diligence and no one has fallen through the gaps, despite – on the face of it – an FAC/SGC providing a far higher (and ongoing) standard of vetting.


  2. J S Singer

    Those who can…do. Those who can’t…teach. Of course this is not always the case but it is worth keeping in the back of the mind. Yes there are NSRA courses for instruction and coaching to various levels. The only requirement is to be a registered RCO and pay the fees. It does not determine if the candidate understands their own faults and is capable of diagnosing problems and putting them right. Dedicated marksmen can do this and spend an immeasurable amount of time and effort to do so. The reason is simple. They are in pursuit of excellence and have a determination to succeed. They are unlikely to want to spend time coaching others. There is a considerable amount of selfishness on their part and this is my point. I know several NSRA Instructors and Coaches and very few are capable of obtaining the scores they will be expecting from their students. Can a student be better than the tutor or will the tutor’s marksmanship be the maximum a student can acheive? I am not talking about National or International coaches but club coaches. Marksmanship is not about self expression and coaching is not about allowing a student to develop within certain tried and tested parameters. It should be about a coach knowing when to intervene and rebuild a poor setup with good solid methods and to be able to demonstrate those principles in their own shooting ability. As an example, who would take lessons from a golf pro who could not hit a straight ball? You could say yes he knows all the theory and have certificates to prove it, but they all have proven records of tournaments and that is the difference. I would suggest that shooting coaching should be on the same basis and not a means of raising revenue for governing bodies. I have not met a club coach yet that can set a student up properly. I have met a few expert marksmen who can, but who don’t have the certificate to let them do it. Club Instructors/coaches get a little tetchy about interference and undermining their authority. I am afraid it’s the authority thing that has taken them into coaching, in particular where they do not succeed themselves but want to remain club members and part of the scene, respected for their time and dedication etc etc. A little harsh you may add but nevertheless extremely accurate. I would suggest that club coaching within the UK is bordering on poor. If you ask any top coach what the first thing they will rebuild the hold as the problems usually stem from buttplate position and fit first. They will start with the fundamentals of position and stable support. They then try and dismantle all the bad habits that the poor hold has promoted. You could read my book (can’t advertise) or W. H. Fuller’s brilliant book to try and understand what is going on. When you understand why, when and how you can decide if you want to help the potential competition.



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