How I found my passion for shooting

Hi there! My name is Faye and I am an Olympic Skeet shooter – but I didn’t start out that way at all!

My original discipline was English Sporting, arguably a more popular one, and one much better catered for in my country. Having not come from a shooting family, it was almost an accident that I got into shooting – albeit a very happy one.

Until the age of 16 I knew next to nothing about shooting in general, and as for game shooting, I was one of the unfortunates who bought into the stereotype that it and other associated activities  like loading and beating, were the purvey of the rich, and that it wasn’t as popular as it actually is. That all changed when I started working at my local shooting ground. At 16 I had been looking for a part time job; the shooting ground had always been a mysterious place, only the entrance visible to the public. I submitted my CV and was offered a part time position there. I soon realised that I didn’t know anything about gun safety, so asked if I could have a lesson to learn the basics. From the moment I shot that first clay, I was completely hooked!

Of course, it wasn’t easy to progress the way I wanted to. My family were unversed in the shooting world and, over the next few years, putting myself through sixth form and working enough time at a £5 per hour job took its toll. I managed to start shooting a few of the competitions at my ground, and a couple of others nearby once I started driving, but it didn’t feel like it was enough. I put in my best score, 82/100, when I was 18, but as I was starting university, I didn’t have the time or the money to train as much as I wanted to.

The following year, I shot all four selection shoots for the county team and won the Ladies place. A man I had met – a customer – and I started seeing each other, and he drove me to the English Sporting National County Championships later that year. Sadly, I bombed out, having not been able to train properly. I spent the next four years competing very locally, on and off, as I finished my degree, and though I shot the Essex Masters and the Beretta Worlds, I never seemed to improve enough to start shooting the bigger competitions like the British Open. When it came to it, my intermittent skill coupled with the required cost seemed to outweigh my optimism.

For two years, I stepped away from big competitions, instead shooting the local ones among people I had known for years. I shot some of my best scores over that time – 64/70 and 60/70 in English Sporting and 21/25 in my first ever round of DTL. I took up English Skeet, hoping that it would bring back my enthusiasm for shooting, and while I learnt to shoot it and NSSA (American Skeet) with average scores, again financial issues and alternative commitments won out. All in all, over those two years, I lost my excitement for shooting. Not all at once, but my passion for the sport suffered, my scores started to decrease, and I genuinely was not enjoying it. In fact, some weeks, I didn’t even bother going with my fiancé (yep, the same guy I met all those years before!).

Then, last year, everything changed. First of all, we got married. Shooting had led me to the love of my life and even if I had given up the sport completely by then, it had taken me to the happiest place I’ve ever been. In September, I started my first season beating – the previous year, my husband had started with a local game shoot, and I, stuck for work as the autumn and winter drew in, decided to join it too; I later started loading at another shoot. This alone made me realise how much I missed shooting; the people, the thrill, the challenge, the sport itself.

That same month, having changed my gun in the hopes that it would help with my rut, I chanced across a tweet inviting everyone to an Olympic discipline try day at Nuthampstead Shooting Ground. I went along and attempted Olympic Trap and Olympic Skeet (Double Trap isn’t an Olympic discipline for women, so I didn’t try that one at all). I was informed that a selection for the British Shooting Talent Programme would be made out of everyone attending that day.

I must admit, I wasn’t expecting to be chosen; my experience with English Skeet gave me some limited confidence with Olympic, but given how that day was my first time shooting the latter, I thought I would be the last choice. So imagine my surprise when, a month or so later, I was sent an email saying that the two coaches running the Olympic Skeet try-outs that day had chosen me! I couldn’t believe it. All of a sudden, everything made sense. In that instant I rediscovered my love of shooting; I burrowed deep inside my psyche and found, buried among all my self-doubt and anger, the ambition I once had. Since that day, with the support of my friends and family, I’ve attacked my training with every ounce of enthusiasm I can muster. Although the drive to my coaching sessions can be two to four hours, I always throw myself into it.

So my advice to anyone reading this would be; always try something new. If that means starting shooting, that’s great! I’ve met so many lovely people through the grounds I’ve worked and shot at, and started a life I never expected with someone that shares an interest with me. I also never expected to be considered an ‘athlete’, but I found a sport I enjoy and it led me down a path I am so happy that I followed. But if it means trying a new discipline, or gathering the courage to enter that big competition, do it! If you want to shoot the British Open or the Essex Masters, do so; if there is anything I have learnt about shooting, it is that the only person you are truly competing against is … yourself. Someone once said to me – recently, during my British Shooting training – ‘nobody cares about your scores except you’, so don’t ever think you aren’t good enough to try.

A lot of my reasoning for not entering the big sporting competitions when I was younger was financial, but really, looking back, the main one was that I didn’t think I was good enough to compete against all those amazing shooters – and that was probably my biggest downfall. Self-belief is perhaps the biggest thing in an individual sport like shooting, and I let it get to me so much that I didn’t even try. Take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and do everything you want to do. Shooting is an amazing sport, involves amazing people, and introduces us to a whole world that I certainly couldn’t live without. I found my niche in a discipline I had never tried before, and I am absolutely loving learning something new. Go for it.

Faye Wills

 

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