Interview with Alistair Kirk - February 2008

Age: 20
From: Rugby
Swansea University, 3rd year History

Hi Ali – fill in a bit of detail about yourself. What course are you doing, what year of study are you in, how did you get involved with archery, that sort of thing.

I’m a third year history student, so the work is mounting up at the moment, but having said that, it makes archery a nice escape, when a couple of times a week you can go a shoot and forget everything else. I joined late in my first year – I’d tried a couple of sports clubs but they just weren’t for me so after Easter I looked at some other clubs, I’d always wanted to try archery, so I came down, loved it and got on really well with everybody and from then on I was hooked.

You are Swansea’s Captain for 2007/08 – introduce us to the rest of your committee.

I know some clubs have different setups, but we have a 6 person exec. My vice-capt. and coach is Richard Jenkins, fondly known as "barmaid", and he handles all of the responsibilities of bringing on any new guys that turn up and raising performance generally. Next is our treasurer, Cat James, and she does a great job of managing the clubs finances despite her claims that she can’t count past 3. David Coker AKA Cabana, is our social sec. and he ensures we can’t remember much of any Wednesday Night in the last few months, and Penny Edwards is our 1st year rep. who looks after the interests of any first years in the club who are too intimidated to go to any other member of the committee. Finally, Skye Kent is our secretary and she manages the day to day paperwork and organisation that keeps the club running.

How many hours per week do you get to practice and what are Swansea’s facilities like?

We train in two, two-hour sessions – ideally we’d like another session but at the moment we just can’t afford it. Our facilities are good, if a little smaller than we would like, but we’re close enough to the pub to stop anyone complaining.

How do you balance coaching novices and improving seniors?

We divide the two sessions each week so that the Monday session is aimed at participation, getting anyone who wants to shoot shooting, and for those who do it for the social side of things. The Saturday session we normally try and keep exclusively for the more experienced and serious members for them to train, and this system seems to work quite well because the experienced guys find that they can use the Monday night sessions to work on technique.

Are the outdoor facilities at Swansea good?

We’re very lucky with our outdoor facilities in that they’re out on the gorgeous Gower Peninsula. Of course the only problem then is the Welsh weather but when it’s sunny, it’s a fantastic place to shoot.

Swansea had been the whipping boys in SWWU for some time, but there were signs last year that things were improving, notably winning the final leg of the year. How has the improvement come about?

I think over the last few years, the club has struggled slightly, especially against Exeter and Bath, our two local rivals, both of whom have better facilities and some great archers. More recently over the last 3 years or so, we’ve built up a really good core of people, and this has helped everyone come on performance wise and hopefully the club can maintain this improvement.

I have to ask about one of your archers in particular Rhodri Curnow. Who is he and what difference does it make to the squad to have an archer of that quality arrive?

Yeah Rhodri’s not quite the average fresher – he was in the Welsh junior squad and he has a Portsmouth P.B. of 593 I think, so it certainly doesn’t hurt to have someone like that come into the club, but I don’t think it’s just his great shooting that has helped. I really think that you lower or raise your level to who you shoot with and we’ve had 3 or 4 other guys in the club that have done just that and raised their game so that we haven’t just got one great archer, but 4 or 5 good ones.

Swansea have been impressive in the ELeague this season – 30 out of 30 points collected so far in Division 4 but with scores that would not look out of place in Division 1. Is promotion a certainty?

I would certainly hope so! The difference this year is that club records have fallen left right and centre, so we now have at least four 550 plus archers, and some more not far behind, whereas in previous years we’ve had none. Obviously Rhodri is a great asset but I think it’s the team effort that has really made the difference.

The first SWWU match of the season is scheduled for 23rd February in Bath. Are you confident?

There’s certainly a relaxed feel within the club at the moment that comes from quiet confidence but we’re not taking anything for granted. In theory we should be able to win, but our focus is making sure everyone shoots well individually first. If we get some long awaited revenge on Exeter and Bath in the process then all the better!

SWWU has been suffering from a lack of matches. What problems have Swansea encountered with hall bookings?

We’ve not been too bad but I know Exeter have had some problems with their AU trying to get hold of facilities and things were made especially worse this year with the aim to try and double the amount of competitions from 3 to 6, so that we each host 2, but I’m sure next year will be implemented and hopefully we should benefit from the extra matches.

Do you think Aberystwyth and Plymouth, both of whom have squads entered at BUSA Indoors in York, could be persuaded to take part fully in SWWU?

It would be great if they could but from what I can gather, geography plays a part. Going from Swansea down to Exeter can be a bit of a trek, so I can understand how the possibility for them of having to go from Plymouth to Aber could be a daunting one. As long as there are no other problems maybe holding more legs at a central venue like Bath would help? - a suggestion for the future maybe. I did have an interesting email the other day from Ceri Jones, the Secratery up at Bangor, enquiring into the possibility of reinstating an old competition that used to exist between the three welsh clubs, Swansea, Aber and Bangor, so there maybe a few new competitions coming yet.

Do you have many entered for BUSA Indoors?

We have a team of 15 entered for the BUSA indoors and I have high hopes for all of them. We have an in-form recurve team, some very promising novices, two compounds shooting well and a stupidly good barebow archer in Andy Tappenden, so Bath should give us a good indication of how things will go but it will be interesting to see how we perform on a bigger stage. The only thing being debated is what colour to spray our hair this year – I’m trying desperately to avoid it being pink!

There are BUSA points available for the top eight teams at the Championship events. Swansea’s highest ever finish is 7th, Indoors in 1999. Can you beat that? How high up the table can Swansea finish?

I think a lot depends on the other teams and how they shoot. I’ve had a look at the archived results from the last few years and scores that have won it in one year would have only earned 5th the next, but certainly if we all have a good day we are capable of finishing well up the leader-board and it would be fantastic to get our best ever finish.

I heard that, last year, three of your members shot at BUTC 2007 in Edinburgh on the Saturday and then the SWWU match in Bath on the Sunday. That must have been quite a weekend.

Yeah I think it was Jack Murkin, and a couple of other guys [Malcolm Rees and Vicki Burrows - Ed.] who bravely decided to give it a go – from memory they finished 27th at BUTC, got back at 3am and then were ready to go to Exeter at 8ish the next (or same?) morning! You can’t fault them for effort – and hey to Jack, who after carrying the club for a couple of years, graduated last year with a 1st... We miss u mate!

Are Swansea going to BUTC 2008? Who is going to be in the team(s)?

I’m happy to say that Rhodri Curnow, Shaun Mudd and one of our novices, Simon Hendry are going up to Durham to represent us this year. They haven’t got to get back for a comp. the next day but still, good luck guys and do us proud!

It was announced earlier in that year that Aberystwyth, Bangor and Swansea would no longer be part of the University of Wales umbrella. Has this made any difference on the ground, to Swansea University in general and to the Archery Club itself?

There seems to have been no immediate difference, other than the need to change the name of the club, come next year to Swansea Uni. Archery. I think for the University itself, it is an important step in the huge growth and development going on here at Swansea. There is no longer the need to pool resources as there had been previously, because all of the institutions have grown and established themselves in their own right. Given a couple of years I’m sure we’ll see a return from the changes, but there definitely won’t be a reduction in the strong links there have always been between the unis.

Finally you are a Captain and your surname is Kirk. I’m guessing there’s nothing you can do about the jokes. Can I assume that they have all been done?

LOL more than you know! I captained a few cricket and rugby sides in secondary school and sixth form, so I’m used to it by now, but I wouldn’t feel a proper part of archery without a nickname, it just so happens mine is more obvious than most.

Ali, thank you very much.