Interview with Marietta Scott - May 2003

Age 25
Born Bournemouth, resides Manchester.
Oxford Uni 1996-99 BA in Biological Sciences (non-shooting)
Edinburgh Uni 1999-2000 MSc in Artificial Intelligence
Manchester Uni 2001-date Part time PhD in Brain perfusion Imaging

First of all congratulations on getting to the last 4 of the British recurve championships. I think it's the first time a student has got that far with a recurve since Atle Wold in 2000. Can you describe your thoughts and feelings during the course of the competition.

Thanks! I was quite tired in the morning from not sleeping well the night before, so fortunately didn't get worked up about the qualifying round before it started. I must have been quite nervous though because I was being very clumsy, and that's usually how it manifests itself. I had some very unimpressive sighters, but kept it together during the shoot. I benefited I think from shooting on the next target to Matt Nowicki, who as far as I could see was shooting like a dream, which spurred me on to concentrate. I am very pleased with my qualifying score of 547 (a PB).

During the second session I mainly watched the other archers, which was a bit of a mistake - I should have gone somewhere else to relax; instead I got a bit dehydrated and started to stress about how I would do (last year I was knocked out by Naomi Folkard in the second round, so was expecting something similar to happen again). However, my first round opponent had disappeard, so I had extra opportunity to try and de-stress (it didn't work). In my second round, the less said about my shooting the better, but my opponent unfortunately for her had a shoulder injury. The third round was against Phillipa Lowe (who was representing England). This time my nerves held, I resolved to shoot properly and show everyone that I could do it, and got through.

The semis were under individual control of a judge, which is a situation I had never experienced before, so by then I had deteriorated into a grinning loon. I was against Helen Palmer, and I'm afraid to say that the fact she had a spare bow ready in case of equipment failure and her coach with her made me think she was better than me (well, yes she probably is a better archer, but it was the thought which was important). We also had an inexperienced judge, which didn't affect me because I barely knew what was going on anyway, but did seem to irritate her. Again my nerves and the dawning realisation that I would be fourth regardless got the better of me, and so ended up in the bronze match against Lana Needham. By this stage I was so glad it was nearly over and was a lot more relaxed. I really should have beaten her, but I didn't. I'm very pleased that I had the opportunity to get so far, and know that next year (if I get that far) the experience will hold me in good stead. Plus I'll have some decent heachache painkillers.

It's slightly unnerving being watched by so many people (though I am very grateful for everyone's support, it is nice knowing people are rooting for you), so I guess that is something I need to work on too.

You are part of Manchester University's elite athletes program and yet Manchester doesn't even have a full archery club. How does the elite athlete program help you and how big a part is fitness of your routine?

The main benefit is free access to the gym and since Christmas, to indoor shooting facilities. I am not a full bursar, so unfortunately don't get things like travel expenses, diet/fitness assessment etc. I am afraid to say that I am very lazy and don't do nearly enough fitness training, something which I shall have to work on, particularly next winter.

What opportunities do you get to practice and in what ways do you hope to improve?

I am a member of North Cheshire Bowmen (NCB), and mainly practice at the club. There are two main disadvantages of the club's facilities: the year before I joined the indoor range was burnt down, which has restricted indoor practice to a scout hut (max. range 12m) on wednesday evenings and a school hall (max range 20m) on fridays. Since January this has thankfully been supplemented by shooting at the university a couple of mornings a week. Hopefully we will soon be getting a lottery grant for a new combined rugby/archery clubhouse. The second problem is that our outdoors field has a public footpath along one edge (it is amazing the number of idiots who will happily walk behind the targets), so we are not allowed to shoot alone, which restricts us to when you know others will be there, which isn't so much of a problem when the weather is good.

The club likes its members to shoot rounds on clubnights, which is OK, it creates a healthy competitive atmosphere, but isn't so good if you just want to sort out a few problems on your own. At the moment I am shooting three (maybe four) times a week. I know that this isn't quite enough, and really it is important to build up my stamina before all the two day competitions start, rather than using them to build it up. Other improvements include concentrating on repeating the good shots (obvious I know), which also means concentrating on keeping focused, as otherwise I end up chucking the arrows down without any composure or care, and improving my mental skills.

Hopefully I am going to be the guinea pig for someone at Sheffield doing a Sport Psychology MSc, so with any luck (and dedication on my part) this should be extremely useful and interesting. When I was a junior, we did a lot on mental techniques, which I found helpful, but is something I slipped out of doing when I stopped shooting. In terms of material gain, I hope to get to GMB level.

How did you get started in archery?

My school did Archery as an after school activity, it was run by Margaret Davies (or Davis, can't remember that far back), who I think is quite well known in Hampshire, and one of the teachers, Meryl Lacey. A friend of mine in the year above used to go, and being the sort of person who was picked pretty near the end in games lessons (lack of confidence rather than inability), I thought I would enjoy doing an individual sport (I took up fencing at about the same time, for a year). It was good fun, I turned out to be good at it (despite earning enormous bruises on my front arm). When Carole Tidd of Bournemouth Archery Club took over, it was suggested that I join her club, one thing led to another and I was on the county team (more from the fact that they needed two junior girls than anything, though I wasn't a bad shot :) ). I don't know how the county training compares with the rest of the UK, but in Dorset and Wilts it was superb. Tony and Jenny Key (of EAF fame) ran it (probably still do), and I am very grateful to them for all their coaching and support. We had regular team training sessions in the winter, and they were always willing to help throughout the summer. Then I went to University and did not shoot again until going to Edinburgh.

What aspects of the sport kept (and keep) you interested?

Winning essentially :) That and the fact that there is nothing better than shooting perfectly, with nothing hurting, and then watching your horrendously untuned arrow flying in a perfectly straight arc and hitting the gold smack bang in the middle (I know I need to get out more).

I am not really a gadget person, and I know I can't afford too much, so I don't obsess over new equipment, and I'm not much good at facts and figures of what people score (try playing cards with me..), so it's not all the extraeneous stuff which excites me. I like the competitive nature of competitions, I couldn't just shoot for the pleasure of shooting. I need to know that I'm getting better at it and if I'm getting worse, I will try to figure out what I'm doing wrong. The greater the level of competition, the more I enjoy winning and usually the better I will shoot (look at BUSA after all..). I'm not a massively self confident person, but I know that when I can do it properly there is nothing to stop me. (Well, Killingworth double FITA notwithstanding for those with long memories). When I am not shooting well, and do not feel confident, I know that there are other people who believe in me to a greater or lesser extent, which keeps me going.

You've been very vocal on that old chestnut, the green and white debate. I don't think we need to keep GNAS colours. Convince me of the case for them.

This wil probably just be a series of counter arguments to other people's reasons for scrapping it, but here goes. First, I think that there is a safety/security aspect to it. The majority of people milling about at an archery competition will be archers wearing green and white. They are easily identifiable as archers. Therefore if you see someone in civvies (that you don't recognise) where they shouldn't be, then you're a bit more cautious - eg, someone approaching the shooting line etc. If they are "in uniform" you know that the chances are, they know what they are doing and where they are going. (As an aside, the working party at the National Indoor Champs all wore maroon sweaters, and were instantly recognisable, as at BUSA where the organisers all wore their ACME shirts)

Secondly, it should be a matter of pride (though this argument is a bit spurious). Green and white are the colours of our national governing body. If you are good enough to be on a national/county/club team, you wear your team colours so that the team is easily identifiable, and as a matter of pride. Why not have such a pride in GNAS? (well, yes that's an entirely different argument and I'm not going to go there), especially if you are going to shoot abroad.

Thirdly, the commonest reason students seem to give for getting rid of whites and greens is that it is difficult to get hold of the right clothes. I don't think this is true, go into any sports clothes shop and you'll be hard pressed to find clothes which aren't white (or maybe that's just scally Manchester..). Price is another matter. Yes, why should students on a pretty limited income be forced to shell out for clothes they (I) wouldn't in their right mind wear at any other time?

Which neatly brings me onto my fourth point: You'll be pretty lucky to go through a whole season of summer shooting without getting covered in mud which stains(or maybe I just don't get my waterproofs on quickly enough), so you might as well have a set of clothes you're not going to wear any other time. It is akin to the argument for school uniforms I suppose. By and large in this country, schoolchildren have to wear a uniform. The reasons for this (as far as I can tell) are that 1) the children are easily identifiable (eg on school trips) 2) A standard of dress is maintained - no one turns up wearing scruffy or intimidating (in a fashion/value/scariness sense) clothes. GNAS dress perhaps has the same aims. Pretty lame arguments really.

BUSA Championships operate successfully without GNAS dress regulations. Would you be in favour of a compromise, such as team colours with green and white where not available or more prominent sponsorship?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not really too bothered about what colours people wear, I just think that people should think through their arguments carefully. I think that team colors look very good, again, there is a sense of knowing who people are associated with, even if you don't know who they are. Team colours are very striking, a local club High Elm always turn up en masse with their club fleeces on, and it gives a real air of "We know who we are, and we're happy being part of this club".

I don't think any competition would necessarily operate badly just because people weren't wearing the right colours. The success of BUSA is down to the hard work of the organisers and the dedication and desire to be there on the part of the archers.

Why do you think the green and white debate is such an evocative issue?

I have never been bothered about having to wear green and white because I started competitive archery quite young, and was just told to wear green or white, that was it. (At my first competition I did turn up in some highly dubious greens, and had to borrow some whites, the judge Nick Nicholson isn't someone you argue with when you're 12). I am the sort of person who likes routine and regulations, therefore I am happy to wear white. But, happily, students tend to think for themselves - why should you wear GNAS colours, when there is no good reason? The other major demographic who take up archery, the 40s-50s I think probably go along with it cos they realise it's a pointless institutionalised thing, and can afford to go out and buy the clothes. Probably.

People confuse their arguments (and I am probably one of the worst for doing it) - when people write to message boards, it's usually done on the spur of the moment when you've had a good idea, and (based on my experience) it's only hours later that you realise what you actually wrote, and that you've probably offended the majority of people reading the board. Anyway, my point is, that sometime's peoples arguments aren't as clear as they should be, and therefore a lot of criticism of GNAS as an organisation is done dressed up as the colours argument. From the tone of the stuff you see written on message boards, there is a fair amount of disdain for GNAS, it's perceived as a "southern" organisation, full of and catering for middle-class middle-aged white men, with all of the stereotyping that comes along with those descriptions.

Manchester University hasn't had an archery club for a fair number of years. Is it your intention to set one up for next year?

I would like to start the club up again, it is still in existence and the university still has a fair collection of bows and arrows. There are two main obstacles, me ;) and the fact that UMIST and Manchester are merging, so the sports uni are currently unaware of what is going to happen to them. or at least not telling me. A lot depends on how selfish I am going to be, as I need to concentrate on writing stuff for my PhD this year and would like to do a lot of archery too.

What help and guidance have you received from the university authorities and how much further work do you anticipate in the club's first full year?

The Athletic Union are very helpful, they treat Callum McMillan (the proper ESP archery Bursar)and myself as if we are the club, keeping us informed of coming events. To be fair I haven't sought for a lot of help. I suspect that running a club will require a massive amount of work in the first year, because the committee infrastructure doesn't already exist, so all the week-to-week running of the club and coaching etc will fall on only a couple of people. Once a committee has been elected and the club starts to think more collectively will be the point at which it starts to be less work.

How much of a difference do you think the recent proliferation of regional competitions will make to the standards of university archer in the short and long term?

I think it will make a massive difference, and I imagine the transition will be quite quick too. I should think that there will be more of an emphasis on clubs training up their novices more intensively, and ensuring that their seniors compete on a higher level. In addition competing for something tends to focus the mind, competing against your own club members can get a little staid, especially when you work out your place in the pecking order and don't seem to be able to get any higher. Competing against (relative) unknowns, especially where university pride is at stake, can only do good for both the individual and the club. Just look at SUSF and BUTTS whose member universities always do well at BUSA.

You've got a good record in your two appearances at BUSA Outdoors, 3rd in 2000 (1st team), 2nd in 2002 for Edinburgh and Manchester. Can you go one step further this year?

Alison Williamson and Naomi Folkard are going aren't they? Realistically, the chances are that I'm not going to win, although you can never tell. Bear in mind that Lorna Provan seems to be shooting very well at the moment, and Claudine Jennings put in an exceptional score for a Fita a couple of weekends ago. I do however hope to shoot better this year; last year's outdoor BUSA, I had just fixed a bit of a problem with my front arm, and my outdoor shooting picked up after that. Hopefully the sun might shine this year.

Your record at BUSA Indoor is pretty formidable too, 2nd in 2000 (1st team), 2nd in 2002 and 3rd this year. Do you prefer indoor or outdoor shooting?

I prefer outdoor shooting. I like indoors because it's warm and dry and there's no wind, but it is a rather stifling atmosphere, especially if the heating is just a bit too high. 5 dozen rounds indoors always confuses me, it always take about half the indoor season for me to realise the importance of not chucking away the first two dozen, whereas for outdoor shoots you have more of a chance of gaining on your losses later on. That isn't of course to say that I shouldn't chuck the first two dozen of an outdoor round away either, which is a particularly important thing not to do in a FITA. I know that I shoot differently outdoors, because of the extent to which I have to elevate my front arm, and I prefer the feeling of it. Obviously its always nice when the sun shines and the wind stops for a bit, there's more space, you're not always tripping over someones equipment. The one gripe I have with outdoor shooting is some people's absolute belief that just because they have a tent means that they can displace you from where you're putting up your kit, so you're reduced to a foot wide strip between two tents. I also prefer Fitas to Herefords, because there is more challenge in the distance changes, which always throws people. Everyone else seems to hate 70 and 50m, both of which I love (and shoot at better than 60 and 30). I also like the regimentation of shooting to traffic lights.

Do you think 12 is a reasonable price for the entry fees to BUSA Outdoors 2003?

No. Although it is pretty much the going rate for a competition held at Lilleshall, that doesn't really excuse it, because it would be 12 regardless of where it was held. Obviously such a competition shouldn't be allowed to make a loss, but clubs holding competitions seem to be able to break even at half that price. I have never been involved in financing a shoot, I am not an authority on the subject. I can understand perhaps that lilleshall charges a fair bit for the use of its grounds, but I imagine BUSA is still making quite a profit on it. Still, someone has to fund the football/hockey/rowing/insert sport of your choice.

Your 3rd at BUSA Indoor this year, breaking 580, was the fourth highest female score ever recorded at this tournament. Does the strength at the top of the ladies field mask weaknesses lower down the field or is the ladies section really as strong as it has ever been?

As I mentioned above I'm rubbish at who-scored-what, so I don't want to offend anyone here, but yes, I think this year was exceptional. If Naomi and Alison had not been there, obviously the top scores would have been lower, and so yes, to a certain extent the strength at the top does mask any weaknesses below. However, you have to bear in mind that (at least) the top five women had all done archery before going to university. I don't have the results sheet to hand, but something along the same lines is true for the gents top four as well. So it is more the fact that "imported talent" does better at BUSA than "home-grown" university archers which is where the problem (if it is a problem) lies. This has also been a complaint of Edinburgh's success in the past in its team matches. It's disheartening to the archers involved that they should spend so much time practising and preparing for BUSA only to be beaten by people who have been doing it for longer and have more experience. However, at any external competition, if someone shoots better than you and wins, it is an irrelevance as to how long they have been doing the sport, so I guess I shouldn't make too much of it.

Do you think there is a problem getting women involved with archery and if so, can you pinpoint the source or sources?

Yes, there is a definite problem. At NCB I am the only female recurve archer (for some reason the other four ladies all shoot longbow), and we have difficutly getting anyone to continue after a beginners course, not just women. I guess it has always been perceived (though maybe not in Victorian times) as something men do (Battle of Agincourt, Robin Hood etc), requiring great strength to pull the bow back, and perhaps aren't keen on that basis. I think also there might be an underlying personality thing going on too (though, again nothing I know about). The majority of student archers I know do/did a science-based degree, and by and large, science (excepting biology) is still a male-dominated enviroment, so I don't know if the two are somehow related - ie, there is something in people that makes them want to do science and makes them want to do archery. Maybe women are by and large sensible enough not to want to stand in a field in the rain all day.

You have a soft spot for wearing hats at competitions. Why is this?

I wear hats for purely practical purposes - when it's cold, my woolly hat keeps my head warm and the wind out of my ears, and when it's sunny my sun hat keeps the sun out of my eyes and off my neck. It is my choice of style (or lack thereof) which people find irritating/amusing. To be fair, the woolly hat was a skiing hat and for safety purposes I suppose needed to be colourful and noticeable, the checked blue and white sun hat was a moment of student madness in Accessorize. I suspect a baseball hat will get in the way of my string, which might mean the only option is to take up compound.

Marietta, thank you very much.