I would like to start a positive thread on shooter numbers declining in sports and how this impacts on the overall sport itself.
Over the past few years there has been a shift in shooting numbers to specific events on the fly circuit. Lets take Wagga for instance which was our last event. It appeared as though numbers were down as there were spare benches on details throughout the day and lesser on Sunday.
With outstanding prizes and the right location what are some of the impacting factors to the competitor numbers.
Here are some of my thoughts, you are welcome to comment on them but these are my own perceptions and do not reflect on the event at all.
Shoots close together- whilst I appreciate that clubs have to book their shoots in advance and fit in with range dates so do people who have to travel and compete in this relatively expensive discipline. Lets take the fly callender now;
Three shoots in March 2018
Two shoots in June 2018
No shoots at all in May and none in July.
Whilst I appreciate that clubs will argue we have had that shoot in that spot since the fly started, may well be the case but things have changed and so must the thinking behind the overall structuring of events.
Shooters now are shooting different disciplines, because that is how shooter numbers increase as they come from other shooting sports. The invitation to come and have a go is always offered at other disciplines matches and this is where our growth is.
One shoot per month at about the same spacing gives the competitors the ability to then plan ahead to get to as many matches as they can however if they are two close together other factors come into play.
How close the event is to other events, which is the easier range to shoot on, what are the prizes, time of the year etc etc.
Another aspect is the catering, clubs that have excellent catering and a good range of food do better than those that don't have the facility over the entire event in most cases two days.
I know from experience in Short range at Australia day Canberra each year Kathy Tobler does and excellent job and feeds the shooters breakfast, lunch and dinner for the three days. Of a night shooters sit around together share a meal and don't leave the range. I can assure shooters that every year this is the first shoot put on any bench rest callender.
I do appreciate that one of the traditions for the past few years has been the Saturday night dinner out, however the true value of this is not promoting the sport rather a get together of like minded people. At shoots where the evening meal is at the range, shooters can been seen sharing information getting their rifles or reloading gear out and helping other shooters along with technical information or just being made aware of new methods.
Another aspect to consider is Bench rotations. Whilst the element of luck is always a big factor in Bench draws, there is a perception that if the same shooters are in the same area shoot after shoot and the competition is won be the same people it becomes a perceived issue of preferential bench drawing and shooters although don't say anything at the end of they day they just won't come. Given that the fly is not like short range and we do not rotate through the benches I would suggest the possibility of Bench grouping for discussion.
Bench Grouping- Example if you have 20 benches this equates to 4 groups so if Les is in Group one he is on bench 1-5 this event next event he moves to group 2 benches 6-10 the following year he is in Group 3 Bench 10-15 first match and group 4 Bench 16-20 in the second match. In effect this moves les over a two year period across the range still randomly drawn within the group but is then moved to the next group. This can be done by Excel and you can see the history of shooters previous spots.
I am sure this will get some conversation moving about the topics. There is no right or wrong answer and this is not intended to get people off side or invoke some rebuttal. Just topics for thought this is your sport have your say keep the fly healthy and keep it moving forward.
shooting well is more a mental control of your thoughts than just pulling the trigger........
Interesting Topic and points raised.
Please note in my reply that any NAMES used are for example purposes only and do not represent their opinions or actions.
Some clubs have stayed the same for shoot dates and others have moved closer to and further from other shoots. It is no point blaming any particular club for this as they have other factors to consider.
As an example take Wagga's March shoot. It has been around for a while now. We tried one year to hold it in April instead and it was a disaster. Lowest numbers we had ever had to a shoot. School Holidays and Easter gets in the way in April. Even if you are a week either side of the school/public holidays people will prioritize their days off and funds around those things rather than a shoot. The same could be argued for The July and October holidays thats why there is no shoots there.
It doesn't matter what dates are chosen, there will always be competing interests. I, personally, would like to see them more spaced out but unless clubs went on a rotating roster you are going to get the same clubs fall into those dates that dont work due to holidays etc and those clubs get reduced interest and their shoot dies.
When I travel I prefer to stay at the range rather than travel into town, but thats just my way. Others enjoy the evening meal and to me it is personal preference.
Wagga has considered trying to put on a lamb on a spit roast for the Saturday night but we haven't progressed it any further other than asking a few shooters what they think.
Catering efforts will not sway my decision on whether to attend a particular shoot or not. Just my opinion again.
Re BENCH DRAWS.
Im going to start this by stating a fact. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A COMPLETELY RANDOM BENCH DRAW!. Ill repeat that so everyone can let that sink in. There is no such thing as a completely random bench draw. If you think there is such a thing, you haven't run a fly shoot before !!
Now the above statement may ruffle a few feathers but that doesn't make it any less true. As soon as you shoot two classes from the one bench, share a rifle, share rests, share flags across two benches, cater to a person with limited mobility or any other thing you have changed the "randomness" of a bench draw.
If any one would like a fully random draw you would not be able to share any gear, guns or flags. You may even end up shooting your LG and HG from different benches. The end result wold be that you would alienate anyone with limited mobility and you would destroy any ones ability to scrore and shoot. You would sentence that shoot to a slow and painfull death. Does anyone still want a fully random draw ???
As Wagga has previously been subjected to unjust criticism of our bench draw I would like to lay out the way we do it so that everyone can understand it.
I take all nominations and place them in a list that has 20 bench spots with 4 details per bench. I colour code it to those sharing have the same colour etc, so if people are sharing across two benches they may have 8 lines colour coded the same.
The Wagga Fly sub committee meets about a week out from the shoot. This generally consists of Bob Wright, John Butts and myself however it is open to anyone to attend if they so wish.
I cut out each colour strip and place it into a bowl. I have another blank sheet which has benches 1 to 20 laid out and all names blank.
Firstly we look at those who may have limited mobility etc. I place Keith Dowell on Bench 20 as that allows him to park right next to the bench. No other bench at Wagga has that facility. I dont see a problem with that decision.
I have the numbers 1 -20 in small cutouts. As Bob, John and I are all scoring we need to be on the side of the range closest to the scoring area. To remain fair and transparent we dont assign ourselves a bench but we place only the numbers 1-9 in the draw. One of those numbers is drawn and we place ourselves on that bench and one either side of it. (see further info below)
The rest of the numbers for benches are then added. Bob will pull a number out of one bowl and John will pull a coloured strip with names upside down out of another bowl. That is how benches are drawn.
Sometimes during the draw we end up with say one bench slot drawn but we draw names that require two benches. We then move everyone up or down one bench to accommodate that.
To me that is about as random as can be allowed given other factors. This method was explained to the NDC last year when criticism was leveled against us. the NDC was happy with our method.
I see some theoretical merit with Les's 5 bench block idea but in practice i think it is doomed to failure. Let me explain using an example. (again names used as examples ONLY )
Say Les and Anthony share a bench in our March Shoot. At the next shoot Anthony cant make it and Les moves up/down 5 benches. Next year in the March shoot Anthony and Les want to share again. Do we now base that 5 Bench Block sharing off of Les's last position or Anthony's last position as they are now 5 benches apart. Either way it may be seen as an unfair advantage or disadvantage depending on the decision made and what 5 bench block on what range.
I sometimes feel as though I tend to be drawn more on one side of some ranges and more on the other on other ranges but that opinion is 1)subjective only and 2)not based on a sufficiently large data sample to draw any real conclusions. We would honestly need 100 shoots worth of data at each range to draw any substantive information from.
I have heard of the assumption that you can only win in Wagga from the right hand side benches, ie 14 onwards. If this was true why would Bob, John and I deliberately handicap ourselves from our chances of winning by using the left hand side of the range?? From our August Shoot Grant Groves won the two day from Bench 17 and I was second, only 1 point behind, from Bench 4. Third, fourth and fifth shot from benches 14, 7 and 12!!
I will close this section by saying that my drawn bench has never affected my decision on whether to attend a shoot.
These are my personal thoughts (ramblings??) on the subjects and I do look forward to hearing others opinions.
Oh and to stop the odd person on here who likes to have a whinge about me, this post represents my OWN opinion and NOT that of the Wagga branch of the SSAA.
"Only accurate rifles are interesting". Col Townsend Whelen
An interesting topic and one that I think about and hear talked about.
I’ll take a slightly different tack as Chappo has already debated Les’s points. In order to get some understanding of Fly shooting I looked at the numbers attending plus my own perception of the health of the sport.
Firstly, the attendance numbers at the registered matches over the last few years for each club have been pretty stable which to me shows that those leaving the Fly are being replaced by new competitors. This year there was an increase in Batemans Bay’s June attendances and Wagga had a decrease over past years for the Blue Heeler event. I’m sure Chappo and the Wagga Fly committee would have liked a record turn-out but it wasn’t for want of trying as it was a very well run event, arguably their best ever!
This leads to my second point, the health of the sport, and Wagga along with the other clubs running Fly club events and registered matches are doing a great job in my opinion of making the Fly shoot an enjoyable sport. Club facilities and ranges are being upgraded, match day processes improved and the fun and social element of the sport is still very much evident. When you turn up to a shoot the organisers are pleased to see you and are only too ready to help if its required and new shooters to the sport can expect help from all quarters. The Nationals in WA was the standout event for me this year. Pethy and the WA crew really put on a great show that was terrific to travel to and participate in. On the National level, the Fly is just finishing it’s first year as a stand-alone discipline and new initiatives have already been, or are being implemented, such as the proficiency awards, screamers patches and hall of fame.
So, in my opinion the sport is healthy, attendances overall are stable but not dramatically increasing at present. I’m going to put it down to the economic factors of continuing stagnant wage growth while at the same time the cost of living has gone up a great deal in recent years. Given this challenging economic environment I reckon the Fly shoot is travelling pretty well.
It certainly never hurts to have a finger on the pulse regarding the general health of our sport & discussions had in a gentlemanly fashion should always be welcome.
I have no actual statistics re event numbers to draw on but Nick has covered the factual side of this by telling us that numbers are stable across the board.
It's possible the health of our game can be measured in a variety of ways. With this in mind I would like to consider the quality of the competition that we are experiencing at the moment.
With regard to the Shooter Of The Year (2018) I note the Light Rifle category has had 7 individual winners from 7 events which includes our Nationals in Perth.
The Heavy Rifle category has had 6 individual winners from the 7 events with Grant Groves the only shooter to have won twice in a category.
With 3 registered matches to go, this side of our competition is most certainly getting very hot!
Our last match in Wagga had 25 shooters score 240 or more points and although I can't back it up with statistics my feeling is there is an across the board trend of matches becoming very very competitive which is surely what we all want.
Remember also that Stuey Peth & his crew are working very hard over in Perth & Vince & his team are doing wonderful things in Brisbane. Both of these clubs have a registered match each with Vince & the boys shooting unregistered 500 fly matches monthly. (Not sure what happens in Perth with club matches).
So....we have 10 registered 500 meter Matches per year in Australia. Additionally we now have 4 registered 200 yard rimfire matches which really should be brought into the equation.
We have strong interest from Mike Cockcroft in Texas who has just completed an experimental "season" at his range & they certainly intend to continue because they claim to love it! They also have an annual "Fly" match at Diggle in England which is just for fun but well attended.
Although Nick has stated that statistically our numbers are "stable" these stats are actually up until the last match in Wagga. ( I just spoke to Nick on the phone). With large numbers anticipated for this weekends match in Canberra & 2 registered matches to follow at Little River & Brisbane it's likely actual entries for this year will exceed the highest number of entries recorded by over 100 nominations.( ie since 2012).
My opinion re timing of events probably mirrors many others. In a perfect "Fly Shooting" world I see myself attending 1 match a month with a bias towards the deep winter shoots. I find most of the time (but not all of the time) shooting in the colder months allows us to get a better view of our targets, ie less mirage. Which for me equals more fun.
I do realise though, the degree of difficulty associated with closing a rifle range for a full weekend just so we can enjoy our game. All these ranges have members who are entitled to use their facilities & I'm guessing they might get their noses out of joint when ranges are closed to them for our competition.
All this said, I will take what I can get and be appreciative of it & trust the organisers are doing everything possible to coordinate with each other a reasonable roster.
In my mind I'm seeing a very healthy sport & one that is continuing to see growth. Shooting sports will never be as big as golf , tennis & footy etc but they can be strong & I think Fly Shooting is a strong & well organised sport & this has been achieved in a reasonably short period of time. We have a genuine circuit to follow with increasing levels of competition which is probably all you can ask.
I have always wanted to do more in the shooting sports ,eg ,I do want to go & have a go at F-Class, I also want to have a crack at short range benchrest & now the PRS is up & about, but really....I just don't have the time...Fly Shooting offers me as much as I can Handle.
In reply to this post by Les Fraser
Just a few points from me.
Firstly, as club captain at my club I have noticed the numbers attending shoots have dropped off in the last year significantly for Rimfire Benchrest. We put on the only sit down lunch where all shooters can sit together for 45mins and relax and chat amounst there mates. We also improved the trophies and increased our lucky door prize to $150 but our number are down by a third this year!
I love the Saturday night dinners, great to get away from the range for an outing and event better that the wives and families can attend. I could be wrong, but assumed the guys who stayed at the range would just like to "drink" and not drive into town. Nothing better then sitting around the campfire if your camping on the range, but its not for everyone.
Benchdraws - Certaintly draws should be random so the same people are not in the middle of the range year and year while the visitors are out on the extremities. Rotation of benches becomes difficult with Flags, but its done at other benchrest matches so maybe it could be looked at. I would be happy with a truely random draw.
The timing of matches is important, I would love to shoot 4 Fly events in NSW in 2019 but if there are more then one event in any one month then I will just have to select one event to attend - Difficult to get off work 2 weekends in any month as well as expensive.
I have attended the Batemans Bay events for many years and love the catering they do and many clubs could learn from them, but it takes alot of volunteers to put on a big shoot.
Keep the suggestions comming, all good.
In reply to this post by chappo (Greg Chapman)
Rule 3:8:12 Random Bench Draw.
The host is to conduct a bench draw in a non discriminating (random) manner that neither favours nor disadvantages any competitor deliberately.
rather clear i would have thought regarding bench draws.
shooting well is more a mental control of your thoughts than just pulling the trigger........
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