Interview with Alex Stuart - November 2006

From: Leicester, now living Coventry
University of Warwick 3rd Year Mathematics

Hello Alex. First of all, tell us a bit about your course at Warwick University and how you got sucked in to the world of university archery?

Hi Stewart. I'm currently a 3rd year mathematician at Warwick, hopefully with a 4th year in the works. I was unlucky enough to be an experienced archer when I turned up to Warwick (even though I was shooting at the level of a novice). However, due to being fairly poor myself, and there being a high standard at Warwick, I didn't actually stick at it much, and for the first couple of terms, I would just shoot once or twice. It wasn't really until the Easter Break and the Isle Of Man Festival of Sport did I truly get sucked in. I can't imagine what made me sign up for it really, as I barely new any members of UWAC at the time (except for a very cramped trip to Loughborough BUSA in the back of a Micra :-S). But basically since the Isle Of Man, they've not been able to get rid of me. Luckily I have actually improved at shooting, despite still not being close to the high standard set here, but I have filled my time by making everyone else's life difficult in the club by deciding to organise BUTC and such other stuff.

What sort of weekly practice time in the sports hall do Warwick get?

We get three practises a week. One on Wednesdays afternoons from 2 till 5, one on Sunday from 1 till 4 and one on Fridays from 2 till 4. However, due to the large quantity of novices we get every year, there's not actually much space for experienced members practise on Wednesdays and Sundays early in term 1. Time is occupied with Coaching. But if you are lucky enough not to have lectures scheduled on a Friday afternoon (a luxury not often extended to mathematics students) then that session is reserved for experienced archers alone, so they don't forget entirely how to shoot.

How would you characterise the relationship between Warwick Uni AC and your Sports Union and Sports Centre?

Well The Sports Federation (Union based) and Physical Education Department (University based) actually launched a combined programme called "Warwick Sport" at the start of the 05/06 year, aimed with bringing the two departments together for a more efficient approach to sport. It's a different system to the old one, so it's taking some getting used to, but relations are fairly good (at least as far as I know) between the Club and the staff at Warwick Sport.

Warwick were third in the senior table last season, but won the novice league. What are Warwick's prospects in BUTTS for 2006/07? Are many of last year's side still around?

This may not be something the other Universities in BUTTS want to hear, but luckily for Warwick we didn't really lose any of our team last year. Jon Shaw can no longer shoot, as he is no longer a student here, but he didn't shoot for the club much last year, only shooting in Warwick BUTTS and BUTC I believe. Those others that graduated have managed to wrangle PhD's or Masters and are still hanging around. Add on top of that, for the second year in a row, we've had a large influx of new experience archers. So our experienced team is looking in good shape this year, and with many of our winning Novice Team last year, still eager to shoot for the university, competition for spaces on the squad is at an all time high. We're optimistic for this coming year, but cautiously so. We know that all the teams in the BUTTS League can field fearsome teams if everything goes their way, so we're not taking anything for granted. But I can tell you one thing, if the other clubs bring their best, it's going to be a very competitive, and as such, a very enjoyable year of BUTTS in the experience category.

How are the club's novices shaping up?

On the novice front, we have managed to retain an impressive number so far. We've just had a club competition and they all seem to be doing well. A lot are still at the point where shooting 60 arrows in a single session isn't the easiest thing in the world to do, but they seem to be enjoying themselves. With BUTTS only a couple of weeks away, I think thoughts for teams is in the works. The bonus this year, is with about a dozen of our members doing the Level 1 Coaching Course, we are able to give far more structured coaching to our novices than in previous years, so people seem to be picking up the technique fairly quickly. But the most important thing is that they all seem to be having fun. We have a high proportion turning up to socials, and while they've not had enough practise to access their shooting level, we are fairly confident of our boat race team.

You're the league organiser for BUTTS this year. When did you get this job and outline the sort of tasks you have had so far.

It was quite easy to get elected as BUTTS Organiser as Diana (the last organiser) decided she wanted to stop, and no one else wanted the job. It's been a relatively simple job, nowhere near as stressful as BUTC was. It's been quite leisurely work at the moment, as it has only mostly involved e-mailing clubs. I've also bought the medals for this years league, as I was able to get a bulk discount. But the biggest change I've made is finding a permanent home for the BUTTS website ( as the website has been jumping around from many different locations over the years, and I thought it needed somewhere where it could always be found. As such, when I retire as BUTTS Organiser, I can hand over the site entirely to whoever is lucky enough to succeed me. Aside from that, the job has been entirely based on getting people to choose dates for their legs, and although we've had a couple of problems, it seems to be working itself out.

De Montfort and Derby Universities now both have archery clubs in the BUTTS area. Is there a timescale in place for incorporating them into the BUTTS framework?

We've also had interest from Nottingham Trent and Aston University's too. It's a difficult issue. On one hand, we're very eager to encourage archery as a growing sport, and so can see the benefits of including as many universities as possible. But similarly, in the name of fairness we can't include Uni without any of the others, and adding four extra universities would make us by far the largest league in the country. It would basically require an entire mix up of the organisation of the league. One option would be to adopt a system similar to SUS, but some people have made issues that we would lose the friendly feel of the BUTTS League if not every university was present at each leg, and also that it eliminates any kind of individual competition if some of the best archers aren't there because their University isn't at that current leg (and this would further alienate the few Compound archer we have in the league). So we don't want to discriminate against new clubs, but at the same time, don't want to discriminate against the clubs already in the league. It's a difficult problem, but one that ties in with the offer we've had from BUSA, so we're planning to make a decision on the BUSA issue before we go any further with this, as that decision will have a major impact on this one.

So can you explain what BUSA have said to you regarding the possibility of making the BUTTS league into the BUSA Midlands Conference - Archery. (Apart from the fact that the universities exactly match!)

Well first off, they have offered to basically put the words "BUSA" all over the league, which makes every club treasurer happy, as Sports Unions are far more likely to help finance anything to do with the league in that case. They have said that we would keep the history of the BUTTS League (Trophies, Records etc..) which is a big plus as it would basically be a re-branding exercise. But conversely, we would have to allow any University, which want to, to enter the league. This would involve definitely moving to the SUS system (which they say would be a standardised league format across the BUSA UK Leagues) and as I've said above, some people in the BUTTS League aren't in favour of that for a number of reasons. Again, it's a difficult one, but it's a question I've been bombarding our members with, as if we decide to go ahead with it, we need to think about it soon.

What do you see as the short/long term effects of such a change? Do you think this could spread to the other leagues?

I think short term, this change would make a lot more work for me :-p. But aside from that inconvenience I think in the first few years, people would find this quite strange. Obviously it'd include new clubs as well as a new format, which might take more time to adjust to. But Long term, I can see it having both a positive and negative effect; I think in terms of scores, and competitive archery, this would be fantastic, and I would claim that it would be the most hotly contested league in the UK. But by the same hand, I think we'd end up losing a lot of the character that makes the BUTTS League what it is. As much as it has been positioned as a brand change more than anything else, this change would basically shift the league, in my view, from an enjoyment based league brought around originally for some fun, to a far more competitive one. Whether that's a good thing is up to our League members, but I do know that this is a big decision point for the league, and I'm hoping people are seriously considering the options.

How about BUSA Indoors 2007 and BUTC 2007? Warwick were 5th in one and bronze medallists at the event you hosted last year?

BUSA last year was a mixture for us. As strange as it sounds, some of our best archers shot very poorly (for them) while our lesser known archers shot incredibly well (I myself broke my PB despite being no where near qualifying for the team). And it goes to show the depth of Warwick's team that even when we're not at our best, we managed to rank 5th in the country. It was good fun, but I think a lot of people were suffering from a late night travelling down the evening before, combined with a less than idea sleeping arrangement with 3 people to a room in a travel lodge. Hopefully with Leeds being far closer than Exeter this year, people will have better days. But BUTC was undoubtedly our finest hour of the year. Aside from the hectic nature of running the competition, I know the A-Team were kind of disappointed the year before at Nottingham, were they had been picked as one of the favourites, and had gone out in the final 8. To get 3rd this year just capped it off for me as organiser. I had been joking that the team had better win some medals after the effort that had gone in to running it, but our A-Team showed superb stamina and fortitude throughout the day, and they were unlucky to be beaten by Cambridge in the Semi, only to power back with an impressive win. I also have to mention how proud we were of our B-Team at the event too. All three members of that team were new to the University that year, with one of the members (Mark Henderson) being a novice. And yet, not only did they qualify in the top 16 seeds, but they came within a knats whisper [Is that rhyming slang? Ed.] of knocking out the Loughborough A-Team. It was a fantastic day; I don't think there's another competition like it for the atmosphere, and it was a great way to cap off the indoor season last year.

Novices Christopher Butler and Julie Chenery shot for Warwick at BUSA Outdoors 2006, but apart from them, Warwick have been completely absent from BUSA Outdoors since 2002. Why is there so little interest in the Lilleshall jamboree - after all, it's just down the road?

Ha! This is always an issue. Unfortunately, our Sports Federation schedules its Ball on the same day as Outdoor BUSA every year. It's impossible to shoot the round and get back in time (and in a reasonable state) for the Ball, and neither institution is willing to compromise on changing the date. And unfortunately for those as BUSA, The University Of Warwick Archery Club are far more likely to be found having a meal, a pint and a dance if they are available rather than shooting. We've had reasonable interest in shooting Outdoor BUSA this year from some of our members, so you may see some more if us in future, but it's unlikely to ever be a full squad until either BUSA or Warwick Sport decide to move the date of their event. Julie and Chris did us proud last year though, which again is a testament to our Novice Team last year that we were able to put the reputation of the club in their hands. But, I will attempt this year to prise those pint glassed out of the hands of UWAC's hands and try to get some more down to Lilleshall.

A FITA round is being trialled at BUSA Outdoors this year. Is the FITA (with novices "down" a round) better than the Albion/Windsor format? Is there a better solution and if so, do you know what it is?

I'm not really in a position to criticise as I've never shot at BUSA Outdoors myself, so my opinions are based solely on my experiences of shooting Albions and FITA's. I'm personally a fan of the GNAS rounds over the FITA ones, as they tend to end quicker as you always shoot ends of 6's (this gives you far more time in the pub afterwards). The last distances of FITA's for me (especially at 30m) always seems laboriously drawn out, and I do worry that for Novices who have only been shooting for 10 months, they'll not only get quite bored, but also quite tired. Although I do understand the thought behind bringing in the FITA, as it's the internationally recognised round. But at the same time, not only do FITA rounds seem to go slower than the equivalent GNAS ones, but a full FITA will add an extra 3 dozen arrows to the shooting (over the previous 9 Doz for an Albion/Windsor). I'm not really sure what the solution to this is, and as I said, I'm not really in a position to criticise. I think trialling the FITA is a good step, but I would suggest that it's the novices who you want to talk to after the trial to see what they thought. The experience archers will take it in their stride, and I guess even the novices from the larger clubs will probably adapt easily enough. As I've said I (and the UWAC) am all about keeping the fun in archery, so I think you really need to speak to the people who are there for the enjoyment rather than the competition, and get their views before any final decision is made.

Going back to the BUTC question, you were the chief organiser for the very successful 2006 event. As we "speak" an unknown number of unis will be preparing to bid to host BUTC 2007. Looking back on it now, what advice would you give them?

First of all you will need Patience, and you will need it in shed loads. And if you're thinking of running more than one hall, then you need to get something in writing from the ICT people you speak to... preferably signed in blood. The guys we had changed their views on what we could do so many times that it almost made me physically scream. The thing is, if you're thinking of hosting BUTC, plan EVERYTHING in advance. Rather naively, when I was thinking of running to host a competition, I picked BUTC cause I thought it would be easier than BUSA. I was so very wrong. There are so many more little things you don't remember about BUTC; you need Danage BUTTS, you need viewing areas, you need up to date IT networking... all kinds of things. I've made it seem to be like a horrible sort of beast now, and I don't want to scare anyone off, but it really is a case of being prepared well in advance, cause I found with BUTC, if something can go wrong, it probably will... and normally it'll go wrong within 48 hours of the competition starting. Oh, and finally, don't think about doing it if you're a finalist... to say my degree suffered last year because of BUTC is an understatement. It's not a job for someone who has no free time.

Was it worth it?

If you had asked me at 11pm on the 10th March earlier this year, I would have bit your head off. But now, I would say definitely yes. It was great fun, and there truly is no other competition like it. The atmosphere was so electric, as can be contested by me having absolutely no voice by the end of the day due to the great amount of shouting I was doing. It's probably been one of my biggest achievements since coming to Uni, and looking back, I did learn a hell of a lot of stuff, not only to do with archery, but with handling people as well. At the time, it seemed like hell, but really, I'm not sure if I would have been happy if I had gone through my university career without organising it. And of course, without it, I would never have experienced working with Tim [Mundon]. That was definitely an experience I don't think I'll ever forget. Sometimes I wanted to scream in the man's face, and other times we had a really good laugh. But the event overall is something that I will treasure for the rest of my life. It's definitely the biggest thing I achieved in my 2nd Year at Warwick. I have been banned from ever hosting it again by members of my club with the threat of being physically beaten, as they were as equally stressed out as I was at point (I would especially like to thank Paul [Chleboun] and Sarah [Lloyd] who stayed up with me till 6am writing our proposal bid), so if you asked me whether I'd ever do it again... I would have to decline to comment. :-p

This is the first UKSAA interview in quite a while, mainly because I was too busy last season. They have proved popular in the past - why do you think this is?

As much as I'd like to think that it's because I'm an incredibly interesting person (as were the people who have been interviewed in the past). It's probably more likely that people like to read about these crazy people who organise big competitions or shoot particularly well, and quietly laugh at our insanity. In all seriousness, I think archery is a sport where people are genuinely interested in furthering the sport as a whole, and they like to read up on people who have been helping. It's also quite useful, I guess, if you are thinking of running a large competition, to refer to people who have done it before. I mean, if people do have questions about BUTC, they can find my e-mail address in the BUTTS Section of this website, or click any of the e-mail links on the website, as that'll get to me too, and I'm more than willing to offer help where it's needed. As a whole, it's nice to see other people enjoying the sport and getting involved as a whole; and these interviews are a means to do that so people like to read them.

So, any final words?

I'd like to thank you for giving me this opportunity, and thanks all the awesome people who helped out with BUTC last year. I couldn't have done it without them. Also, a quick plug to the BUTTS Clubs to get in training for the upcoming season, start preparing your leg and think about hosting the BUTTS Friendly. And finally, and most importantly, I think I have to end with: GO WARWICK!!! WOO!!!