Interview with Ian Pilkington - February 2004

Age 23
Born Billing, Wigan, resides Leigh, Lancashire.
University of Loughborough - Systems Engineering MEng

First of all Ian, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. Explain how did you get involved with this archery nonsense to begin with? Did you start archery at university?

Yeah I started at uni. Originally tried it at Butlins and really enjoyed it so when I came to uni I sought out the archery club to join. I loved every minute of it since with the highlight being the Isle of Man competition last year.

Loughborough are currently sitting second in BUTTS table (after two legs) and have a good chance of doing very well this season. How do you rate your own form and that of your team?

My own form this season is going quite well, I achieved a PB at the 1st leg of the BUTTS and have managed to sort out a few problems so I'm feeling quite positive. As for the teamís chances, again Iím feeling positive quite a few of our members are achieving PBS recently and our top archers are in quite good form. Our novices are also improving rapidly after a shaky start to the season. Our usual venue was being refurbished so we had to shoot outdoors in Oct then had a few weeks with nowhere to shoot when the weather turned. We are now back in our usual home and able to get the practice in and this is paying dividends.

Loughborough are unquestionably one of the most consistent forces in UK university archery and you currently sit third in the senior table (after 2 legs). Assess Loughborough's chances of winning BUTTS for the first time since 1997.

I think we have a good chance of winning it this year, as long as we keep up the practice and manage to get everyone to go to the remaining matches. It is a really tight schedule and so is often difficult for people to attend all matches. Touch wood, this could be a good year for us.

BUTTS is now in its ninth season and is by far the oldest independent regional league. From an insider's perspective, what do you think are its strengths and weaknesses and what lessons could the other regional leagues learn from BUTTS?

Its strength and weakness is the same thing. It is such a good competition as all unis take part at each competition on the same day, this makes it a very social competition, yet increases individual rivalry as you get to see how each other is shooting. I have a mini competition going with Ed Rial the organiser of BUTTS. The prize is a drink to the winner of each leg, which reminds me he owes me 2 drinks. As archery is growing in popularity, or it is at our uni, this increases the number of people wishing to take part and so makes finding venues to fit the numbers more difficult but we have coped so far. My only tip other regional leagues is to make your competitions enjoyable and people will want to come.

BUSA Indoors is next weekend in Leeds. Given that nearly 400 archers from 36 institutions have entered the competition, how important is being competitive enough to win set against competing at all?

I think both are very important. Student archery is the platform for the next Olympic athletes so being competitive is important. However itís also got to include everyone. Archery is not a large sport and if everything was geared towards elite athletes then the clubs would not exist. I know ours wouldnít. We have 45 members on our books and only a handful of these score over 530 (recurve). If we were to gear the club towards these people then the rest would leave and there would be no club. We are not as fortunate as some other sports like football who can afford to have 5 squads that compete at BUSA level and then the recreational teams.

How many senior/novice archers are Loughborough entering and what are the targets for the teams and individuals?

We are taking 13 senior archer and 5 novice archer to BUSA. Fewer novices than we would have liked but this is a knock on from being messed around with venues at the beginning of the year. Our targets are to come away with a medal in the compound event, be in the top 5 in the senior team event, and to be in the top 10 in the novice team event. I personally hope to score over 540. As for other individual goals I suppose you will have to ask them.

Loughborough are the only university apart from Edinburgh and Cambridge to actually win a national university competition in the last 10 years - BUSA Indoors 1998. That victory was set with a score of 2270, the oldest BUSA team record. Is that record important to the present day club?

The score does have some importance to the club, it reminds us what can be achieved when we put our minds to it. However it was 6 years ago and we have to look to next week and the future on how we can try to get back to that level.

In 2003, Edinburgh shot 2269 - how long do you think the record will last?

The record could be broken this year, but if I was a betting man I wouldnít place a bet, even with the rumours of the scores that Edinburgh are achieving at the moment. The reason being it takes 4 people, not just 1, to be shooting very well all on the same day. If it is broken I will be one of the first to congratulate the team as it is a remarkable feat.

Last year, your novice team of three finished second, breaking the 1500 barrier. Do you think you achieve something comparable this year, given the relatively disappointing start to their league campaign?

I would like to think they will break the 1500 barrier again, although this year it will be more difficult. Their scores are now approaching the 500 mark (individual) though effectively they have lost 2 months training so they are at the level I would normally expect during December not February. Whatever scores they do get I will be proud of them.

Do you think Loughborough's reputation as a sports-based university actually takes away from the achievements of its archery club?

Ooo, you have probably hit on a sore spot there. As you said Loughborough is very sports based so unless you win BUSA then you are almost seen as sub standard. It is almost expected by the union that we should win as is our heritage. So is the apathy of the union, that our most honoured member in recent times - Rich Wilkins - who won BUSA gold last year and went to the World Student Games, didn't even get his name spelt right on the role of honour.

A year ago you were part of the Loughborough A side that were quarter-finalists at BUTC 2003, qualifying 6th and beating Heriot-Watt B in Round 1 and Dundee A in Round 2 before losing to Imperial A in the last eight. What were your impressions of the day?

I was really impressed with everything about the day, its organisation, the style; it was so different to me and new, and a lot more fun and relaxed with the commentary and music. I had a really good day and was pleased with our teamís performance, especially as one of our team was a novice.

Last year didn't enter a B team at BUTC. Why not and will you be entering one this year?

We really wanted to enter a second team but we simply couldn't afford it. Accommodation had to be paid for by the competitor and half of the petrol costs, if we sent a second team that would have meant a second car and all the petrol costs associated with it. I seem to remember we didnít have another team member who shot recurve and could drive. The distance put off a lot of our members too. We hope to be entering two teams this year but it again depends on cars. I am unable to go as I have a friends wedding to attend in Newcastle so one car has gone. If people want to go then they may have to go on the train. It will be a big shame if the only reason Loughborough can't enter any teams is because we can't get them to the competition.

When did you have the idea to email the UKSAA (as BUTC's "owners") asking about the possibility of hosting BUTC 2004 and what sparked this interest?

I really wanted to host a large National Competition this year as it is my final year and have been trying to organise it now for 3 years. As I had already registered interest in BUSA last year I was concentrating on trying to hold this one. Our main drawback was the cost of the hall to hold 400 archers. When I found out this may be over come the date that BUSA wanted and was free last year when I could have booked it, was now taken. So with BUSA a no go I applied for BUTC as when I checked the UKSAA website there was no details about any uni hosting it. So I emailed them straight away. This is not trying to say that BUTC was a second choice I just didnít think holding two tournaments would be possible so concentrated on the one I had said I was going to host last year.

The selection process for choosing the BUTC 2004 hosts had to be hastily arranged as York had been the only candidates. Although Loughborough presented a good bid, the so-called "four wise men" decided to give BUTC 2004 to York to host. In retrospect would you have preferred to react on the message boards in a different way, or not at all?

As I said when I applied for BUTC there were no candidates, so didnít realise there was going to be a hasty selection procedure. My only comment on the message board, with regard to the decision made, was about the numbers entering. I am sure that York will organise it very well and that was never under question. I was under the impression that struggling to fit people in if large numbers entered was one of the deciding factors and to see that numbers were eventually restricted to 32 was a bit of a shock. This then led into the debate of elitism vs. inclusiveness were I think I put my point of view across constructively. Although the highlight for me was being called a petulant child, that made me laugh. Returning to the original point, I apologise if my comment over BUTC angered anyone. It was not meant to question York's ability to host a successful competition, I was simply questioning the ethos behind BUTC

You were also vocal on the issue of inclusive competition. If someone gave you a magic wand, with the ability to start again (in terms of university archery only sadly), in detail, what sort of competitions would you create and why?

Thatís a very difficult question. I actually like both BUSA and BUTC style competitions so my magic wand would be to produce a venue big enough to allow as many people to enter as wanted (or the money to hire such a venue) this venue would also have to be in the middle of the country (wherever that may be) to allow easy access for all.

Finally, you current belle, Sally Metcalf (no e), competes for Bradford. Bradford of course are in NEUAL and not normally in direct competition with Loughborough. Who will have bragging rights come next week after BUSA and how would you deal with shooting directly against one another at BUTC?

We don't to brag over which uni is better than which, in fact when we visit each other we try and help out if we can. As for personal bragging rights well thatís a different matter. We have friendly banter, generally I tend to win, but she did beat me, no thrashed me at the Isle of Man last year, and has never let that drop ;). I hope we both do well but I wouldnít like to say who would win as it could jinx either one of us

Ian, thank you very much.