Interview with Andy Somers - December 2002

Age 26
Born Birmingham, resides Cambridge.
Trinity University of Cambridge 1994-97 BA NatSci, 1997-2001 PhD Chemistry


Youíve been involved in University Archery for many years, did you take the sport up at university or before?

I did shoot for a couple of years before university. About half way through my first year I realised how much I enjoyed it and started to take it a bit more seriously.

Who are you shooting for at the moment and how are you involved with the Cambridge University Club?

I guess Iím shooting for myself really. I have had a long lay off but now Iíve started again, Iím technically clubless. As for the university club I shoot with them, coach a fair bit of the time, and generally help out where needed.

How good a job do (and indeed can) the university clubs make of teaching their members to be good archers?

That depends on what you mean by good. Supposing good is archers competing for medals at BUSA events, or earning places on teams competing for team medals. Some clubs do it quite well, others donít. Given suitable expertise, time, facilities enthusiasm and commitment any club could do it. The more successful clubs in recent years are those that have more of these than the others. Iíd say that every novice archer has the potential to be a good archer in the right environment.

Do you think it is possible for a person starting archery at university to win an individual BUSA title in either recurve division?

Well Iíd look a bit stupid if I said no, since I think some people have done so in the past. Isla Lillie, Atle Wold, James Keogh have, I believe, all done so.

Do you know where the BUSA Indoor Champs is going to be held this year?

Not yet. I believe some places expressed interest but have decided they are unable to do so for various reasons. Birmingham are bidding/have bid and look like being the only ones.

SUSF, BUTTS and NEUAL all have their calendars set out almost a full year in advance and yet the two BUSA championships are still without venue or date with only 3or4 months until the indoors. Is this a real problem or not?

Yes it is a problem. Thereís so many things going on, of which BUSA is the most important arguably. You need to know when it is to arrange things around it. Not to mention help with planning training, requesting money for travel expenses from the university, etc.

As to why. The regional leagues are much smaller which helps, one person runs round badgering everyone to pick dates and it gets done. There is no-one (officially) who goes round actively encouraging people to bid for the BUSA event. There is no deadline for submission of bids either. All it would take is a little bit more organisation, publicity and enthusiasm.

In 2003, Cambridge will be going for a hat-trick of BUSA Indoor Championships with both Cambridge and Edinburgh on six BUSA indoor titles each. What changes has the success wrought on the club?

But who won in 1994, nobody knows and Cambridge won in 93 and 95, a win in 94 would make it 7:6 J . Seriously though such success has heralded very little change directly. Changes were made before that, and the success came as a result. From now on though, with several team members leaving last year the club is looking towards a more long term view of bringing novices through regularly year on year to be in the team (we have very few lingering oldies now!). I think Edinburgh have been doing so successfully for years, Imperial too more recently, and weíve realised we should have been doing so and now have to catch up. I think the two wins have given us a bit more impetus to do so.

How do you reconcile this success indoors with a relative lack of success outdoors?

Put simply - a bad attitude. There are lots of other issues too. We have a once a week indoor session that is overcrowded and a 6 day a week outdoor field, yet we have always done better indoors. I think all of the following add to a lack of interest and enthusiasm for shooting outdoors, the field is a fair way out of town, its incredibly windy, our summer term is very short compared to other universities and people tend to be very much preoccupied with exams. I know itís the same for most if not all places to some extent. Oh and we have recently had a disproportionate female membership which hasnít helped. Yeah, thatís basically all excuses I know. We have been unable to put the effort that went into winning the indoors into the outdoor champs. Thatís the bottom line.

Cambridge University were the first to host a BUSA championship outside of their home city [BUSA Outdoors 2001 at Lilleshal NSC, Shropshire]. The competition was, in all respects, a resounding success. What prompted the decision to hold it there?

Too much beer! Year after year Iíd been to BUSA championships and people complained about it being held in secret locations very far away, poor organisation, slow results production, and many other things. Yet nobody did, or seemed to do, anything about it, seemingly happy to moan every year. So I figured I could put my experience and thoughts to some use and decided Iíd host it. Originally I had intended to run it in Cambridge but then realised that Lilleshall was geographically a better venue, would actually turn out to be a bit easier logistically and was unquestionably a superior venue for archery. I needed some help on the day since I intended shooting so I persuaded Ian [McGibbon] to help out, over a few beers we decided that Lilleshall was such a superb idea we had to do it. Amongst everything else mentioned the social side of that BUSA was something special I think. Iím glad it was repeated last year and hope it will continue to do so.

There is a small group of recent graduates (notably those who have been helping out at the major tournaments) who although no longer students, still help out in a variety of guises. Is this a new phenomenon and how best could those in charge use the human resources and expertise available to them?

It does seem to be a new phenomenon, or at least one that has grown a lot recently. Theyíre unique in that they are still very much involved with the individual clubs but have considerable experience too. They are a great source of ideas and suggestions and are worth involving as many as possible in discussions and decisions.

You have, in the past, been an outspoken critic of the way BUSA HQ has run university archery in the UK. Have you changed your opinion and do you think BUSA pull their weight in terms of investment in championships etc.?

No change, Iím still critical but I am a bit more guarded in what I say presently Ė old age or something like that. I think most of the problems (and we are looking purely from the point of view of archery) are inherent and wonít change easily.

What we have to remember firstly is that BUSA oversee several sports, I think 42 presently. We are one sport amongst that. Additionally compared to the likes of cricket, football, rugby, swimming and athletics for instance weíve a very small sport (Iíd estimate maybe 500-700 students in university archery clubs but it may be as many as 1000). In terms of financial support and time and effort from the BUSA offices (which arenít very big and donít have much money) we logically donít warrant as much attention as perhaps we feel we should. Thatís our first problem.

Secondly the majority of student archers are around for 3 or 4 years, and many take up the sport for the first time at university. Most donít, in their time at university, generally gather enough experience, knowledge or interest to see what goes on at an organisational level so give little or no input. Therefore very little pro-active thought and help comes from the vast majority of archers. Only those whoíve been around for long enough or are exceptionally keen and inquisitive tend to get involved. Even so, what they do is not co-ordinated and they just do what they think is best in their area, and they probably still know little about BUSA and BUSA donít know about them.

There is a gap between students doing archery and administrators in an office who have never done any archery. That gap is bridged by volunteers Ė Ďexpertsí from the sport who report to BUSA and advise BUSA on the sport. BUSA have a hard job to do and canít do it without input from individual sports, but it needs to be co-ordinated and appropriate input because they canít physically deal with loads of individuals pestering them individually from all angles. That is where the BUSA SMGís come in.

What are the BUSA SMGís

SMG stands for Sports Management Group. If you dig about a bit in the BUSA handbook you can find out all manner of stuff about how they work. Essentially they have a hierarchy of committees that make decisions. SMGs make recommendations and proposals for specific sports based on their experience and ideas. These are then considered by the relevant BUSA committee (National, International, Members Services or Finance). If it is a simple one that has no potential knock on effects for other sports and is within BUSA policies (such as accepting/declining bids for hosting the champs) then they will make a decision that stands. In other cases (I believe novice medals proposals come into this area) they consider it and then make a proposal to the next level which is the Executive Board. As you can imagine, with various committees meeting every few months and reporting to other committees some decisions take considerable periods of time.

Who is on archeryís SMG and what does an SMG do?

The sports management group essential consists of the relevant BUSA administrator, a Chairman and suitable other members as necessary. Until very recently that has been Marie Atkinson and John Sullivan respectively. I think it has become apparent that John canít represent archery on his own and the SMG has been expanded, finally. The Archery SMG is now Marie, John, myself, Ian McGibbon and Alan Stiles - no current students at this time. How things will work out is not clear yet but in theory we are there to take all our ideas, and any ideas from university archers, for the furtherance and improvement of the sport in universities and propose changes, improvements and additions to the current program. Marie is there to advise on BUSAs position on things and to ensure that the SMG works under the guidelines BUSA produce. Recommendations can then be put to BUSA and things may start to happen.

The SMG theoretically bridges the gap to some extent between BUSA and the Students. Its an incredibly important role since it provides the point for student input into the development of the sport, as well as the main means of communication to and from BUSA. Improved communication and understanding of how things work will hopefully remove much of the paranoia and disgruntlement we have seen for years. Essentially weíre responsible for the development of University Archery, that said we still have to operate within any BUSA constraints Ė like finance!

What, specifically has been discussed at archery SMG meetings and what, if any action has been decided upon?

There havenít been any meetings yet!

What conclusions can you draw from the BUSA sponsorship debate? [it has been estimate that archery makes BUSA in excess of £3000 annually, a profit which is then "shared" between all sports]

I think you can guess. From our point of view it sucks. BUSAs standpoint is that they represent all sports and have to support them all. Thus if they didnít use profits from archery to support sport x then sport x couldnít have its programme and then all its competitors would be complaining/upset etcÖ Personally I donít understand how they can support things that make a loss, and presumably are predicted to make a loss in the budget. I think though some of the issue is weíre caught in a cycle we havenít broken out of because until now we didnít know it. We apply for a budget to host the indoor and outdoor champs. And we get enough money to do so each year and we donít have any other activities on the programme so we donít ask for money for these too. Presumably, now more people are involved we can manage to run more events Ė squads or Ďlocalí international matches and ask for money. That said it would still end up depriving other sports of money in the budget if we ask for more so it may not happen unless it was a fantastic proposalÖÖÖÖ..

Before you all complain archery is hard done by, it was one of the few sports that hasnít received a cut in its budget due to the lack of a BUSA title sponsor.

What feedback did you get from GNAS after BUSA Outdoors 2001 both in general and specifically about the possibility of making these events "Record Status".

They (Dave Sherratt essentially) were impressed with how well run it was, how well attended it was, and more importantly how much everyone was enjoying it, relaxed but professional. Iíve not spoken to anyone about getting record status or otherwise.

How would you sum up GNASís attitude towards university archery.

Theyíve always regarded us as any other archery clubs. I think in the SDP of recent years they have included us in the section on schools but with no real mention. We seem to have little to do with them and them with us which seems rather poor. Improving this situation is being investigated Ė Jared [Thornton] from Newcastle has been asked to prepare something for the GNAS development plan.

What do you think are the positive and negative aspects of the British University Team Champs.

Itís good to expand the program of university activities, although the calendar is getting crowded. Variety in different events is valuable to do. Hopefully, from what I understand will take place, it should show archery to be more interesting than is commonly perceived and I hope it becomes a permanent fixture and has a positive affect on other events.

You personally have created ranking systems a this year an IUPL. How will these dovetail over the course of the year?

I have no idea. We shall see how they pan out. For the time being the rankings are taking a back seat, since they can just be done at the end of the season. In terms of their benefit, the IUPL seems very popular and shows just how many archers there are out there that canít all go to competitions. I feel it gives an idea of how your club is performing and improving over the year relative to others. Previously youíd compete against other teams twice a year and your next measure of progress would be a year later when everything has changed as people leave. Whilst rankings is more individual orientated but with the same potential, if it was rolling monthly which I havenít had time to deal with at this stage. Iím hoping to get something done early next [calendar] year and then again at the end of the indoor season.

If it wasnít for you, I would never have set up the UKSAA or developed the website to its present extent. What should the university clubs try to achieve and how great is the appetite for change?

Increasingly, information is disseminated more through rumour and message board rather than official announcements. Can John Sullivanís role (as BUSA Representative) be de-mystified and can it be done effectively by one person?

Do you want his job and what would you change if you got it?

Marie Atkinson, a Sports Administrator at BUSA is in charge of no less than nine sports including archery. What can BUSA do to help the Sports Administrators do an efficient job and what can we do to help them?

Basically Iíd like to cover the four above points in one diatribe!

The main underlying problem with university archery is lack of cohesion. Presently BUSA administer two archery championships, stump up the cash to run them, and support teams going to World Uni Games/FISU champs. We all know that there is far more going on in universities than that. Predominantly the Regional Leagues and championships, but also the Cam-Ox Varsity Match, numerous friendly matches, forthcoming BUTC to name some. Where regional activities are concerned BUSA donít have anything to do with them, and have in the past stipulated that they donít have the resources staff/money to deal with such things. From our point of view they are all administered perfectly adequately by their constituent universities independently.

We donít need BUSA to administer them for us but would often like their approval or acknowledgement, but they wonít do this unless they administer them. John is stuck in between wanting to join everything together with common standards and aims but has no support from BUSA for this. So from a university club point of view, John as BUSA Representative is probably seen as the person who should be doing far more than he is, but that isnít his role. Or at least that is how things were. I wouldnít want to be stuck like that.

The BUSA sports administrators appear to be busy the whole time with current sports programmes and there isnít the money to have more of them to enable expanding sports programmes. Potentially, the SMG will enable BUSA to oversee a greater level of things, by allowing the majority of work to be handled by Ďexpertsí, BUSA acknowledging it and send the information out. Hopefully this bridges any gaps co-ordinating all university archery. The UKSAA site is valuable in providing a central source of information, albeit not entirely objectively ;-), in the meantime until things become official.

All that said, there are things pertaining to the BUSA Champs that never seem to be answered or resolved.

Finally a question burns in the hearts and minds of this siteís readership. In your name, what does your middle initial, the Q, stand for?

Quentin

Thank you very much.