I always um and ar when it comes to posting anything to do with shooting sports on my business sites. It’s something that can sadly show you in a bad light because it’s not understood and until recently, quite underground. It’s important to note that shooting has a huge amount of different disciplines and is incredibly accessible to those with illness or disability. It is also an Olympic sport. It’s something I do to wind down (target, clay, practical), get away from the screens and have a laugh with others. It’s also an industry I’d love to work more in. This blog is about what a little online exposure did to help a sports club.
We all know that shooting is seen as an old boys club, right? Let go of your stereotypes because they’re wrong. With the growth of social media and younger blood coming through, not accepting “shh, be quiet so they leave us alone” has changed things. Whilst there certainly are some, not everyone is a dinosaur at the clubs and they are happy to embrace the change. Here’s my story about the difficulties in finding a range and helping it step out from the shadows.
The first time I shot was aged 13 with the Army Cadets using the L98A1 which is a single shot straight pull 5.56mm monstrosity (pictured). It was quite enjoyable when you weren’t dislodging cases. When I finished college I wanted to get a new hobby, my old sport, hockey was no longer really accessible to me for several reasons so I tried to look for local shooting ranges as I really enjoyed shooting in the Cadets… The search was an absolute nightmare – for reference, this was 2009/10.
Whilst there were a few (old school) websites out there they were for clubs around 1hr+ away which wasn’t doable for me as an evening thing. I eventually stumbled onto one which seemed to be located 10 minutes down the road! However, their website was just a basic shell with no content added.
I attempted to email an address I found via an old shooting directory and about four months later I heard back from the secretary apologising about the delay. The email had been forwarded through several different people to reach the current secretary. Anyway, I got an invite!
The first time I visited the club I had arrived early with my contact yet to arrive – my god, what had I walked into? The club room was full of dark wood and old chairs, carpet tiles and I was surrounded by much older guys – it was so awkward, not really helped by my shyness. To be honest, I think they were as confused as I was, I’m not sure if they’d had a visitor in a while let alone an 18/19-year-old girl.
Anyway, the Secretary arrived and showed me around, let me have a go with the air rifles. We got on and I did okay and I arranged to come back and I soon moved onto the main range with sporting and full bore rifles. This turned into a weekly thing, I found it to be a nice way to end the working week and I am also a freelancer so it’s was nice to get away from the screen, meet new people, have a laugh and make friends.
There are clubs out there that don’t want to be found too easily but this particular club looked like they wanted to be online but no one had the time and/or skill to do so. It didn’t take me long to ask them if I could work on their website due to them being so hard to find them and they obliged. The site has since been updated but the original site was a really simple self-hosted WordPress with all the necessary information. Sadly I don’t have stats and figures because it was never something I thought I’d ever reference.
So, what did having a website online help to do?
Plenty of interest
The club received emails via the contact form from a lot of very interested individuals. They would be invited down, shown around, given a taster go in the air range and from there they could (a) see it’s not for them or (b) like it and sign up to be a probationary member.
Probationary members serve several months shooting 1:2:1 and getting signed off different calibres before they are allowed to shoot without tuition – this is all volunteer time, luckily shooters are incredibly nice people.
In the years since the number of emails coming through became too much to handle so the club altered its process and offered group induction days for a small fee.
The membership levels increased and surpassed those from pre-handgun ban (1997). This is when a lot of shooters gave up the sport. Whilst I don’t have proof here, pistol shooting was said to be one of Britain’s top three participation sports, behind fishing. Wait, what? Is fishing even a sport? 😉Anyway…
With those membership levels increasing the average age of the club dropped quite dramatically. All you have to do is go onto the British Shooting social pages and you will see several juniors from the club winning medals. The club has past and current Team GB and Talent Team members.
The female to male ratio changed too, there are now much more women taking part, especially young women.
A local leisure centre worked with the club to provide summer holiday air gun sessions for children. They were originally one session a week but due to demand, an extra afternoon session was added.
The children all had 1:2:1 tuition by volunteers (told you they were super nice). Some were a little short – but nothing a sturdy wooden box couldn’t fix and they all did great. Some even became members.
The club also works with scouts, but to be honest I believe this happened well before the website.
Improved facilities and equipment
Due to this growth and change within the membership, the club updated itself and has gone through some fantastic renovation which has completely brightened up the club room making it much more inviting.
The air range went through a complete overhaul and provides 10m and 5m points. The camera system for the targets was upgraded in the main range and they are looking into extending the building. With all those extra members you have certain days which are crammed which is a perfect excuse to extend.
With more members joining they needed more of a selection available to them, so more equipment was ordered, especially with juniors in mind.
The website has since been redone, it’s still fairly simple but it shows you what you need to know and hopefully answers most questions whilst looking up to date.
I can’t claim the website is responsible for all of this but having a website online provided the exposure the club needed to those who had an interest in the sport. These members, new and old, came together to improve their club. This is why you need to make sure your club is online, preferably with a site that looks like it’s from this decade!
In the end, no matter what type it is, your club is what the committee and its members put into it.
If your club, ground or shop could benefit from a website (or other visuals), maybe we should talk?
I’d encourage you to not shy away from social media either… I certainly understand that it can raise concerns but I think it is possible to do safely and you should be proud of what you take part in. As a club or ground, here’s what you could do…
Facebook Pages, Twitter and Instagram profiles – For content you don’t mind being public
- Represent your club, put it on the map
- Include contact info
- Post news, celebrate achievements, advertise open days
- Post suitable videos and photos
- Have someone to respond to engagement
Facebook Groups – For member activity
- Create a private (anyone can request to join, you can add questions for them to answer) or secret (added via invite only) group for members
- Organise shoots
- Help out each other
- Promote events
- The general public can’t get in easily, however, do consider that anything shared could have a screenshot taken and shared elsewhere – like with anything on the internet!
- It’s basically a facebook based membership forum… but messier
- Have a few people as admins and moderators to look after the content posted
If you do go the social route make sure you have someone managing it properly. Choose your admins wisely.