Interview with Barry Cottrell - May 2004

Age 25
Born Taplow, Bucks., resides Walton-on-Thames, Surrey.
University of Surrey 1999-2003 BSc Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics. 2003-present Economics.

Barry, thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. Tell me how did you get involved with the world of bows and arrows?

It was all down to my brother. Since we were kids he would find a sport and a few weeks later I would somehow get involved. From badminton to rowing to archery, though Iím a bit uncertain about his next interest, which is lawn bowlsÖ Canít really see myself doing that, but I surprised myself by getting involved with archery. I donít think itís because we are competitive with each other, I never did the same sport to beat him, we just seem to have very similar tastes, itís also great to have someone to talk to about your interests. He recently got me into compound archery but I really only see that as a bit of fun.

What is your role within Surrey Uni AC?

I am currently the president, and tournament organiser for the 5th Stag Hill outdoor competition. After my first year of archery I seemed to have made a name for myself at my club. Some members thought my enthusiasm and drive would be good at the top. I always put this job second to shooting so sometimes my organisation has left a little to the imagination. My main goal was to show that 500 isnít a number to be scared of and secondly the importance of practice. I think I surprised some of the club with my relatively fast progress which led to them to try that bit harder.

Describe Surrey's archery facilities, indoor and outdoor.

We are able to shoot most Saturdays in our sports hall for four hours. We can at a push use eight bosses up to 25m. This last year has been a problem with outside bookings taking sessions away and other users going over their time. Once we arrived only to find a basketball coaching day had been arranged. Our relationship with the sports centre is turning sour so we have begun to look at alternatives.

Outdoors we have a dedicated archery field that many people will know from our Stag Hill outdoor competitions. Sometime soon it will become a slip road for Guildfords second park and ride. The university did a deal with the local council, they get a park and ride and Surrey get to build on the green belt. We have been promised a new field twice as big with an indoor range; I will believe it when I see it.

How helpful do you find Athletic Union and Sports Centre staff towards a minor sport such as archery?

In the old days the university sports staff bent over backwards to help us. For a reason (one I do not wish to bring up) the sport centre is in a lot of debt. Their idea to increase revenue was to charge all sports clubs for gym membership. It costs each of us one hundred pounds a year to do archery at Surrey. It is a really big problem. We are worried about take up next year with costs being pushed so high without notice.

Congratulations to Surrey for winning the first SEAL, right at the death. This was despite narrowly losing the very first match of the campaign to Imperial. It must have been exciting to be have been involved at the beginning of the new league.

Thank you, Seal has been a wonderful addition to our archery calendar. I think it means a lot to any club to win a league in its inaugural year especially as there are some big clubs and big names in the league. Leaving it all to the last minute really added to the excitement. My thanks to David Jesson, Gavin Simmons and to everybody who made it happen.

Did you think you could still win the league after the result against Imperial?

As you know we lost the first match to Imperial only by a few points; with Seb Tsakah out of form and Dave Wilson not showing up we thought if IC can shoot this well without two of their star archers we have no chance. Eloise Fowler was also looking to move into that Ďstarí category. As it turned out we were presently surprised with our consistent shooting over the year. We are fortunate to have depth and commitment and perhaps luck that our first team could make it to every shoot . I think it has been a problem for other SEAL clubs to get all the first team together, something which has worked much to our advantage. With IC being the clear favourites before the start, we had something to prove. The feeling ran deep and every archer put in 100%.

Did you approach the last match any differently knowing a win and a score over 2048 would secure you the title.

I was feeling good as the week before I shot a personal best of 578. The rest of the team felt confident too, in practice we were averaging over 2200. Come judgement day, I was surprised to see half the team showing battle scares of a Friday night! One man appeared to still be drunk and a few others had less than a few hours sleep. I was glad to have convinced Nadia Khan to pick her bow up again. Despite being in the process of submitting her thesis, she put things on hold and her help really paid off. Our shooting in our last match wasnít pretty but it was enough, just.

Surrey were the only SEAL university to maintain an average over 2100 and did so without any individual score over 550. How important was team spirit and consistency to winning matches?

Team spirit was critical. Our first team made it to every match even when they were shooting horribly or were extremely busy. Other clubs might have had better archers but I think we had the strongest team this season. People say archery isnít a team sport, when youíre on the shooting line it isnít, but the rest of the time it is.

How much better can the present Surrey side get?

The current squad has great potential and will only get better with time. As one example, David Jesson was averaging 520ís at the start of the year. A few months on and he has achieved full club colours and shoots 550ís. Iím not sure we are EUAC beating material yet, but we are certainly heading in the right direction. Where this team will be next year Iím not sure. Many are finishing PhDís and many are going on placementsÖ

SEAL completes the regional league coverage. What do you think the long term positives of SEAL will be for a club such as Surrey?

We have made a lot of friends, especially at IC. Archery is more fun when there are lots of friendly faces around. SEAL is also good as a way of breaking in novices. It gives them experience; they learn a lot just by being there. The seniors will benefit by being in a long term competitive situation. They will be more focused with their practice and eager to do well. Competition with other universities also sits well with the sporting powers at Surrey. If we do well we are more likely to get help in the future. Overall I believe seal will create a better archery community in the south east and raise the overall level in archery ability.

After being a very successful novice yourself (2nd and 1st Gents Novice Recurve at 2003 BUSA Indoor and Outdoor), to what extent can intermediate archers be left to fend for themselves?

Personally I feel that it is a critical time. The few who can find a good coach will thrive and move on to a high level. For most it will be tough. At that level your form is consistent enough to get reasonable scores, but subtle problems with equipment and errors that creep in to your technique can make progress slow and frustrating. I have been looking for a coach for a while now only for the county coaching officer to tell me that at this level there are none. Iím lucky to have experienced people around to ask for advice.

Why did Surrey not enter BUTC this year?

The university does not support our involvement with BUTC. Consequently attending it can be very expensive for some. It also coincided with key moments with some peoples PhDís and conferences that had to be attended. My reason for going was quite bad. I didnít want to spend hours in a stinky mini bus, arrive tired with half a squad, shoot terribly then arrive home at 4am miserable. I have never shot at BUTC before so obviously donít know what Iím missing. Maybe next year.

Would you change anything about the BUSA Championships?

I am pleased to see BUSA finally recognising novices. That was one thing that really bothered me. With regard to the competition itself I used to feel it should be a FITA round. I thought this would help student archery to improve in various ways. Now I feel differently. There are so many people who come together to shoot. Some are celebrated archers, some picked up a bow for the first time a few months before. I think for a champion to be a champion everyone deserves an equal chance, and for that to happen, the current round is just fine. One thing I would like to change is the long wait for results, but thatís a feature of any archery competition [ACME - the gauntlet is down - Ed.] Maybe some head to head shooting would be a more enjoyable way to use the wait?

BUSA Outdoors 2004 will be at Lilleshall for the fourth consecutive year on 19th June, hosted by London. Would you prefer to see this tournament held at a university or has remote hosting proved a success?

When I found out Mati Lang was bidding for BUSA at Lilleshall I was really happy. It is a really fantastic venue. Everybody is away from home and there seems to be a better atmosphere, you feel more part of a community. Lilleshall is good, shooting there raises our profile. I have a lot of fond memories from last year. Iím not very keen on BUSA outdoor being hosted at universities. For one it makes the organisation that bit harder. The facilities would also vary greatly from year to year.

Can we expect a significant presence from Surrey at BUSA Outdoors and what are the targets for Surrey at this competition.

All I can say is they there will be a presence. Whether significant or not, time will tell. As a club we are yet to shoot an outdoor round this year. I myself have only shot one. With the sunshine due, it will be hard to stay away from the archery field, hopefully the squad will agree and we will do well.

We donít really have a target for the team, we get what we get. I know a lot of our individual archers have goals. For some it will be not to miss, some will be trying to beat a score or a rival. Quite a few of us have people that we are aiming to beat sometime in the near future; I think itís a good way of improving motivation.

I want to move on now to the issue of equipment. Tell us about your most recent (archery-related) purchase.

It was an Easton Black Max longrod I bought from Lancaster Archery in the US. I really really wanted an X10 setup but they are discontinued. I saw the Black Max and they looked similar, very chunky. It goes well on my compound bow despite the very low frequency vibrations Ė Itís really amusing to watch it shake for seconds after the shot! Other recent major purchases have been a compound bow and a discounted Best Zenit riser to replace my Spig 2001 that stripped its sight threads. I gave up trying to find someone to fix it.

Could you describe the technicalities of your bow set-up and arrows.

I try to get the riser nicely balanced. Simon Needham wrote a very good article about this in ĎThe Gladeí. Iím not a religious bow tuner but try to follow the Ďtuning for tensí method up on the Texas State archery website. As long as I can hold the pin steady I will leave the tiller as it is. I heard a story about Earl Hoyt trying to convince Rick McKinney that tiller wouldnít affect his grouping only move its position. Might not be true but hearing it makes me feel a lot better! I like Limbsavers, they really quieten the bow.

I prefer a heavy riser; the Best is 1.3kg. I use a Hoyt Avalon handle in medium. I also like a heavy bow shooting approximately 47 lbs. This was part of the reason I struggled this indoor season. Shooting once or twice a week isnít enough to keep my muscles strong, but now weíre back outdoors itís just fine.

I have made my own strings for quite a while now. I was kindly sold the clubs string jig for a tenner and now Iím quite into making my own strings. I always use a Beiter nocking point and kisser button. Currently Iím trying out 452x it seems to shoot really nicely. My arrows are 520 ACEís with 120 grain points and plastifletch. I put the heavier points to improve FOC in a vain attempt to beat the wind. It has actually made some difference.

How would you respond to the suggestion that too many archers spend too long on minor equipment alterations and too little time on aspects of technique?

I am partly guilty of this myself. I do realise that unless you're very good the differences will not be noticeable. I think itís caused by the coaching problem in archery. Given a good coaching youíre less inclined to fiddle or waste time experimenting with equipment thatís going to do nothing for you. If you look at Korea the coaches can shoot 1300ís and really know what is needed to shoot well. Over here most coaches shoot 1100ís on a good day and really only understand the basics. Itís an issue thatís important to me and I wish something could be done.

An open ended question to finish. Describe the template for getting a total novice to reach the same standard as you are now.

If there was a template I would use it here! I feel there are certain things that have allowed me to progress faster than most. I am a naturally competitive person and have strong focus. I push myself hard. Personally I have found shooting a compound bow very helpful with my recurve technique. People told me not to shoot both but it worked for me.

I live five minutes from Quicks at Walton on Thames which doesnít hurt! They have an indoor range that I use during the week. Practice is incredibly important! Pete Frost the manager is a gold mine of information and has really helped me when Iíve been stuck or confused with my recurve archery.

I donít think you can just make a good novice. Itís really down to them and how much time and energy they are willing to put in. A good club coaching structure helps. IC is a good example; they have a good novice factory. EUAC are a club with most of the magic ingredients. They have knowledge and the facilities, all a novice needs there is commitment and talent.

Barry, thank you very much.

My pleasure.