Interview with Ian Caulfield - June 2005

Age: 24
Born in Southfields, London. Currently live in Cambridge.
Currently 3rd year of Computer Science PhD.

Cambridge Uni Bowmen are hosting BUSA Outdoors 2005 at Lilleshall on Saturday 18th June and, bravely, you are the main man behind the bid. Once again it looks like a new attendance record. How are preparations for the tournament coming along?

Well, I still have most of my hair, so it can’t be too bad! Mostly everything is sorted out – this week I’ll basically be tying up any loose ends. The level of entry was something of a surprise and caused some worry, as the original budget would only cover about 210 archers! Thankfully when I asked BUSA for some more money they actually said yes, so the budget now covers all 251 entrants.

How did you go about putting the bid together – nuts and bolts?

I think the original idea came about mid-February-ish in 2004; I’d been discussing various things with Andy Somers, one of which was the BUSA round change – the problem at the time being that whenever the topic was mentioned, people would say “we’re not ready for a FITA”, but if you tried to suggest putting together a three-year plan of how to get there no-one was interested, or people just stated that it would be impossible to host BUSA as a FITA for cost or other logistical reasons. Someone pointed out that if BUSA were already a FITA, then people would have adapted to it and would probably complain about changing to an Albion/Windsor! The idea came about that, as virtually no one was willing to look three years ahead, we would put a bid in to host as a FITA in 2005 – giving one year. The bid would also show some of the details – that logistically and financially a FITA was viable.

Once I’d decided to go ahead with a bid, and secured the support of the club, I did a lot of preparatory research. I got my hands on some of the previous years’ bids and looked at the general structure used. I contacted potential sponsors and judges, and then set about writing my own bid document. I spent several months on this, off and on. In the bid I presented two scenarios: one where we hosted the event in the current format, and one where we hosted it as a FITA Star. I also wrote a separate proposal to give to the SMG arguing the case for hosting as a FITA. Eventually I got the bid finished, having gotten the University to agree to my hosting it, and ACME to agree to run the scoring, and it was given to the SMG for their meeting after last year’s BUSA Outdoor.

Like Loughborough for the indoors, you put together a tournament website. Why?

I think it’s important to have a single place on the web where people can find info about the tournament. The UKSAA site also does this, but I think that an individual site for the event helps add to the event’s identity and is a nice professional touch.

Fill us in on how you got started firing bows and arrows and explain exactly how you ended up Captain of Cambridge.

You don’t fire arrows, you shoot them! I’d always been interested in archery – I’d done the odd have-a-go and the like while I was at school. In my second year at university I decided I’d like to develop a few more interests and I joined several societies, the archery club being one of them. I was keen as a novice and got quite into archery and at the end of the year I found myself elected as Treasurer. Over the next few years I moved around the various committee posts and this year I’ve ended up in charge.

Cambridge has got 16 people entered – one of the biggest single contingents. What do you think your teams and individuals can achieve at this tournament?

This year we have one of the strongest squads we’ve ever taken to a BUSA event – with the dedication and drive that our archers have shown, there’s no limit to what they can achieve. I’d like to see us improve on our indoor result, and I’m sure our archers would like to secure some of the individual medals. I’ll refrain from making any firm predictions, but I’m quietly confident.

Do you have any personal goals for the tournament?

Aside from surviving it, you mean? Yes, I have some personal targets – I definitely wish to be part of our team for one. I think I was eighth individually last year; it’d be nice to beat that. I’ve been shooting reasonably well of late (although that 1100 star just managed to elude me again), so I’m confident I can put in a solid performance.

In the BUTTS season, you were the only Cambridge archer to make the senior team in every single leg. How has the season been for you?

I think I was one of the few to attend every leg – in fact, checking my personal records, I’ve only missed one of the BUTTS legs since I took up archery! This season I haven’t made as much progress as I would have liked. After opening with a solid score at Birmingham BUTTS, my tournament scores slumped somewhat into the high 530s and low 540s. BUSA was a triumph of my stubbornness – I shot a mediocre first three dozen, then realised that at that rate I was going to get around 530 and wasn’t going to make the team. I didn’t want to miss out on that BUSA medal, so I went out and forced myself to shoot 117 for the fourth dozen, then held it together at the end to scrape 550 – I was tired but happy after that! Coming outdoors I’ve been working on my mental side, trying to keep the shots positive. I’ve had some good results here and there so far (including quite a nice 332 at 30m).

Warwick against Cambridge in BUTTS this season has been one of the most fascinating and tightly fought regional league contests ever. Can you describe that last leg at Nottingham?

To be honest, by that point it was fairly obvious that Warwick would win – we needed something like a win by 60 points that leg to secure the title, and we knew that Warwick were sending a strong team. I was more excited over how our novices might do, as they had the league victory well within reach. That being said, we still did our best that leg – but Warwick got the victory they deserved.

Your novices won the BUTTS league by winning the last four legs – and scored well over 2000 for team of four Portsmouth in the last one. Add in BUSA Indoor silver team medals – you must be very pleased with your novices’ development this year.

Definitely! Our novices never cease to surprise me with the level of their dedication and achievement. While we’ve given them the support they need to succeed, the results have all been down to their hard work. Our results of coming fourth at the first two legs and then first at the remaining four might seem a little odd, but it reflects our training strategy – toward the start of the year we work on developing technique and don’t push people to compete too much until later in the year. Their team score of 2021 was not only a club, BUTTS league and (I believe) an All Unis record, it also beat four of the six senior team scores that leg, behind only our own senior team and Warwick. I still believe, however, that we’ve yet to see the best they can achieve…

Given that Edinburgh are only bringing three novices (and all three gents at that) are you favourites for gold in the novice team category.

I don’t know about ‘favourites’ – there are a lot of unknowns up ahead, and I’d say Exeter are definitely worth watching, but I’d say we’re certainly strong contenders and that if we do emerge with the novice gold, our archers will have earned it through and through.

You peaked at the right time for BUSA Indoors, picking up silver medals with a convincing performance, along with individual gold for James Keogh. Add that to a good score at the Varsity Match and things seem to be progressing well. How important are things like the Varsity Match in these times of more complete regional league coverage?

Well, for Cambridge and Oxford, the Varsity Match is very important, not only because of our longstanding tradition of keeping the Dark Blue Scum in their place, but because (due to arcane regulations) it’s the only event on which we can receive Half Blues! While I’d like to see our Blues criteria move toward a system more like Edinburgh’s, that’s not likely to happen any time soon.

In general, I think it’s always good to have more competitive events – we need to remember that archery is a competitive sport, after all. Particularly I think it’s good to have more outdoor events – outdoor archery is the ‘real’ side to archery, and indoors is just something we do when it gets too cold and dark in winter. I think it’s unfortunate that, mainly due to the timing of the summer vacation, university archery is almost entirely based on the indoor side of things; all the regional leagues are competed indoor and most have only a single outdoor shoot – many university archers will only attend two outdoor competitions per year!

BUTTS could legitimately claim to be the most successful regional league, with 4 teams in the top 10 at BUSA Indoors 2005. What, do you think, are the secrets to its success?

One is its age – this year was the tenth in which the BUTTS league has been held. Having several GB team archers within the league doesn’t hurt. I think it also helps that many of the universities are at similar levels, so we can spur each other on – while Cambridge has won BUTTS often, we haven’t dominated it to the same degree that Edinburgh have the SUSF league. I believe that a previous interview mentions the “Edinburgh effect”, where universities try too hard to beat Edinburgh and end up suffering. I think that any “Edinburgh effect” actually has the opposite result – people believe that Edinburgh are unbeatable and give up trying! Given that it’s now been three years since Edinburgh have lost anything significant other than BUTC, many archers don’t remember a time when they were defeated. I’m going to do my best to make sure that Cambridge rectifies that situation.

Here is an extraordinary statistic. Despite winning BUSA Indoor no less than seven times (1986, ‘90, ’93, ’94, ’95, 2001 and ‘02), Cambridge have never won BUSA Outdoors. That’s not to say you have a bad record, 2nd, 4th, 4th and 3rd in the last four years. Can you explain it?

Not really; I think all the standard excuses such as lower commitment around the time of exams and the fact that BUSA Outdoors is traditionally held at the end of ‘May Week’ – a time when few Cambridge students see the world with any sense of sobriety – can be brought out. Recently our outdoor performances have been more on par with our indoor ones, so I’m hoping that this year will see something of an improvement. Some have pointed to the gender split on teams – Cambridge has often been short on the female aspect of its membership, and it’s often said that women tend to get higher scores on the Albion/Windsor. Last year’s result (with Tim Mundon winning an individual medal but failing to make Edinburgh’s team) could be taken as an extreme example of this – it apparently prompted the SMG to suggest switching BUSA to a format of Albions for everyone!

If this is your year to derail Edinburgh what will be the key factors?

I think the main factor would have to be getting more points than them. That usually helps. Seriously, I think to beat Edinburgh, you have to take them on at their own game – Edinburgh win because they have a squad with both depth and breadth, and they have plans in place to ensure they can keep training archers up to their high standard. This is something we’ve been working on and making some progress with.

What sort of role has Andy Somers played for Cambridge since he ceased to be a student?

I suppose you could say that Andy has been sort of a father-figure to the club. There have been many aspects he’s assisted with or worked on. He’s coached various archers over the last few years – including having been my own personal coach since I started my PhD. Andy has always had various ideas about how to develop and progress the club and has given advice to the committees of the time about how to implement them.

I want to move on to a slightly more contentious topic now, that of a possible change of round at BUSA Outdoor. You have been vocal in advocating such a change. You’ve got 100 words – sell it to us.

That’s a tricky one – I could quite easily (and have previously) write thousands of words on the topic! Here are exactly 100 for you:

Choose to be a ‘hard man’ and shoot a real round. Choose not to have people in foreign countries laugh at us all the time. Choose to have your tens actually score ten points. Choose to be able to score your passthroughs instead of getting a miss. Choose to shoot the international standard outdoor round and use it for national rankings. Choose to get classifications better than First Class. Choose funky coloured badges for getting certain scores. Choose a round where compounds don’t clean the shorter distances and the competition isn’t over after three dozen. Choose metric, choose a FITA. [If MS Word says 100 it must be true, although the full response weighs in at nearly 600 - Ed.]

On a more serious note, the change of round is just one aspect of the bigger picture that is the development of student archery. Where are we going? Currently the answer is probably ‘nowhere’. University archery clubs are proving that they are excellent at getting people into the sport – the continually growing attendance levels at BUSA show this – but how many carry on after graduating? We’re quite good at training novices and to some degree intermediates – but why did less than a third of the recurves at BUSA Indoor get over 500? I’m not saying that we’re doing a bad job, or that everyone is rubbish, but the future is something that needs to be worked towards, not something that you just let happen.

If you look at the clubs that do well every year, they all do some degree of development planning. We also need to do this as a community for the sport as a whole to develop. Some of the university clubs struggle to develop because they lack the experienced members to train and develop the others, while other clubs have many old hands who train up the newer members to become old hands themselves. I think that we, the university archery community, have some kind of duty to help out the newer or smaller clubs.

I would like to see a thriving student archery scene, with an elite Championship event – currently I’d like to see a multi-day event with a FITA qualification round heading into individual and team head-to-heads. I’d like to see a novice championship where the newer archers can excel. I’d like to see some level of competition where the intermediate archers who aren’t comfortable with the championship level of competition can still compete and enjoy themselves. I’d like to see some sort of coaching support (probably at a regional level) so that all clubs can develop their experienced archers. I’d like to see a definite path where an archer can, given time, progress from being a novice to being on the GB student team. I’d like to see more students going out into the wider world of UK archery and showing the older generation that we are a force to be reckoned with.

I think it’s probably clear that this is an issue I care a lot about and one that I’ve put a lot of thought into. I’d like to hear more opinions from other student archers – I didn’t think much of the survey at the Indoors, where my original FITA document had been butchered into something a lot of people evidently didn’t understand, and I was very disappointed to see that some clubs were telling their members what to answer. If people want to nobble me after the shoot on Saturday, I’ll try to listen to what they have to say.

Would you be in favour of changing BUSA Indoors to a FITA 18 at the same time?

I haven’t really considered the format of the indoor event as much as the outdoors. I think the advantages of a FITA 18m over a Portsmouth are less clear – a FITA 18m is basically just a Portsmouth on a smaller face. I’d be more interested in seeing a move toward something like a head-to-head tournament – perhaps including a BUTC-style team element. If someone were to make a proposal regarding changing the indoors, I’d read it carefully, and if I agreed with their arguments, then I’d be in favour.

I believe Cambridge are also planning to bid for BUSA Outdoors 2007 as well, is that correct?

That’s the first I’ve heard! I think the confusion may have arisen from the fact that we bid to host BUSA as a FITA and the SMG have decided (for now) to go FITA in 2007. I have various ideas about things I get involved in, but I hadn’t planned on another BUSA anytime soon. That being said, if Cambridge does put in a bid, I expect I’ll get roped into helping on the day!

After the results get published for BUSA Outdoors and you can have a sit down, what do you have planned next?

I haven’t really planned far beyond that… the outdoor season will be moving into full swing come July, so I’ll be travelling around to various tournaments, working on improving my national ranking and trying to collect those various trinkets we archers like to collect. Longer term I expect I’ll carry on supporting the Cambridge club and completing my training as a Level 1 Archery Coach. I’m also interested in working on development of university archery in general – I welcome comments and suggestions from anyone involved. And of course, I have a PhD to finish!

Ian, thank you very much.