Target shooting is the most accessible, inclusive, and integrated of all mainstream sports. With a little innovation and lateral thinking, the sport can be adapted to accommodate a wide range of disabilities and special requirements.
One of the leading lights in the campaign for disabled-friendly shooting clubs is the Disabled Shooting Project (DSP), and at its head is co-ordinator, Elizabeth (Liz) Woodall.
I asked Liz about the conception of the DSP – how and why it came into being. Her story begins in 2005. When Liz was unexpectedly made redundant, she took on a temporary administrative role with the National Small-bore Rifle Association (NSRA), helping to sort out gift-aid on membership.
“Working through the records, I realised that there were a lot of sad letters from people about not being able to continue their membership because of old age or disability. It seemed such a shame that they were giving up the sport they loved and the social life that goes with it. Some of the letters went into quite a lot of detail, and their stories affected me. I thought, ‘I’m certain there are ways to help some of these people to continue shooting.’
“I approached two people from the NSRA: Charlie Blow, who was on the Board of Management, and Dave Froggett, the Coaching and Development Manager. They clicked with the whole concept. The three of us put the thing together, and Charlie was prepared to push the Board to take this seriously.”
Liz, Charlie, and Dave organised a consultation meeting in Wolverhampton.
Launching The Project
“We invited all the people we knew, who had anything to do with disabled shooting. The purpose was to see if there was enough genuine interest in our concept – to find out how far people would actually support it with their own resources – i.e. their time, effort, and money. There was an overwhelming vote to go for it, and so the next step was to put together an outline plan for getting it all off the ground.”
The project was launched. Liz and her husband, Brian, came up with an idea for a logo, and they spent an evening together doing all the artwork; there was, of course, no money available for professional services. (I think it’s a super logo!) Brian was running the NSRA website and editing the NSRA magazine, The Rifleman, so there was no difficulty in spreading the word via those media. The initial introductory leaflet was also a home brew, and Charlie Blow’s company generously paid for it to be printed.
“Right from the start, the DSP had a voluntary Steering Group that met every four to eight weeks to collaborate on, and oversee, the various areas of work that we were involved in. It consisted of representatives of the main target shooting disciplines, National Governing Bodies, and coaches. These people were fantastically important in making the DSP a success, by promoting and encouraging its work within their own fields. In addition, the Steering Group was truly remarkable for being the first and only fully pan-discipline co-operative body operating in the sport.”
Alongside her admin job, Liz worked at helping people with disabilities to continue with, or to take up, shooting. Eventually, the paid work came to an end, but Liz continued to work with the DSP. When Sport England heard about the project, they expressed an interest in funding it, provided that it was taken over by British Shooting. Liz and Charlie agreed, and Liz applied (successfully) for the job of co-ordinator.
How the DSP Works
I asked Liz, “How does the DSP work?”
“Well, a shooting club will contact us for advice. This might be general advice, like how to adapt the clubhouse for wheelchair users, or advice about helping a particular individual to take part, which might involve special equipment. We pass on information via email and telephone, and sometimes we’ll pay a visit, to see what’s already in place and to talk to members about their requirements. A lot of it is about motivation.
“We’re also contacted by a lot of individuals: disabled people, their relatives, friends, or carers – and even specialist medical professionals working with them. They want to know if target shooting could be an option for them; the answer is invariably “yes”. Then they ask how and where they can get involved. The three key requirements are: a welcoming club, suitable equipment, and a sympathetic coach – so, from the start, we set about making sure that those would all be available to as many people as possible.”
The Buddy System
“A club established in the DSP system will partner a club that’s new to it, giving advice and support. For example: a new clubhouse is being built, with disabled access in mind. A club that’s already gone through this process can offer advice based on their own experience. It’s not difficult; it just needs a bit of knowledge. The same system applies to coaches who are learning how to work with disabled shooters and need a more experienced mentor; and also to individual shooters, who can buddy-up with someone who has a similar disability, so they can help each other along. This scheme is particularly valuable where a club or shooter is geographically isolated – they can be helped via phone, email, skype, etc.”
Liz gave a lovely example of the buddy system.
“The longest-distance help we provided was to the Falkland Islands, where a disabled chap wanted to join the Port Stanley club. After contacting us, not only was the club coach buddied-up with coaches in Britain, but several clubs over here invited the Port Stanley people to take part in postal competitions, which was a huge boost to that club’s activities.”
Challenges of Funding
In July 2014, Sport England’s funding came to an end, and although the NSRA would have liked to take it on, this was not financially feasible. It was agreed that Liz could hang onto the logo and the website, and the DSP went back to being operated on a voluntary basis.
One of the most important services provided by the DSP is the development of equipment for individual shooters. Those working with the project devote a lot of time to sourcing off-the-shelf equipment that would be particularly suitable for those with some disabilities, and also finding ways of adapting it to suit even more people.
Even so, some shooters, particularly those with more severe disabilities, really need one-off pieces of equipment, tailor-made for them. In some cases, these aids have enabled shooters with disabilities to reach very high standards, and to compete in national and international competitions. One of the leading experts in this field is John Kelman (featured in our previous blog), who joined the DSP at the initial consultation meeting in Wolverhampton.
Liz also mentioned the charity, Remap (http://www.remap.org.uk/). Remap recruits retired scientists and engineers, who will construct one-off pieces of kit that can improve the quality of life for disabled people. This work is all done on a voluntary basis.
The Future of the DSP
So what does the future look like for the Disabled Shooting Project?
“My hope is that many of my colleagues on the Steering Group will be prepared to re-form it as soon as it’s possible to do so. This may be dependent on some grant or sponsorship, as they are geographically widely spread, and their travelling expenses really ought to be covered, as they were in the past. As you can see, there is going to be a lot for me to do to get the whole thing running properly again on a voluntary basis.”
If you would like to know more about the work of the DSP, visit the website: http://disabledshooting.org.uk. Plans are in hand to up-grade and up-date this site over the coming months. To contact the DSP, email [email protected] or phone 07527 579 686.
You can learn more about the world of disabled shooting with our recent post, ‘A Guide To Disabled Shooting’.