When Dave Leader and Gaynor Hutchison took over Aim4Sport, they decided to build on their love for coaching and create a combined retail and training centre
What connects a shop, training centre, a sports club, events organisers, and archery? The answer is Aim4Sport, a combined shop and shooting facility in Bedfordshire run by two coaches, Dave Leader and Gaynor Hutchison. Archery has been a long-time passion of theirs, and today they run the shop alongside developing a varied, multi-purpose coaching venue.
Dave says, “I have been shooting since I was nine years old – with a small break – for 25 years or so! I went to Centre Parcs and shot their field course and this ignited my passion for shooting. I met up with Dunstable Bowmen, Bedfordshire, and the rest was history. I have shot to county level, and am mainly a recurve archer, however I do shoot a bit of compound here and there to keep my hand in. I’m currently a senior coach candidate, and an Archery GB Coach Educator.”
Gaynor adds, “I was asked to be a guinea pig for a very old leaders award, and after the course fell in love with the sport. I have shot recurve to county level, and have been involved in national coaching squads, at both junior and senior level. I was part of the management team for the recurve squad for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, too. Now I’m an Archery GB academy coach for the National Age Group – I’ve also been working with the Invitus archery team and in 2016 helped the archers to glory in Orlando, Florida. I’m also an Academy ATC coach – currently at senior coach level – and am an Archery GB Coach Educator.”
It was archery that brought Dave into Aim4Sport, rather than a background in retail sales. He has been with Aim4Sport since it started in September 2006, where he began to help out as a Saturday assistant in the store, and has never left. An opportunity to buy the business came up in 2011, which marked the beginning of a nine-month long process for Dave and Gaynor to iron out all the technicalities and take over as owners – which became official in July 2012.
The centre – originally just a shop with an outdoor shooting facility, has continued to grow and develop under the guidance of the pair. Drawing on their extensive background in coaching to build a centre that meets the requirements of archers, coaches and trainers, Aim4Sport now boasts: a classroom facility for coaching and training course delivery; a short-distance training range comprised of six foam bosses for technical work; a full-size 20 yard/18 metre indoor range; a full-size 100 yard/90 metre outdoor range; a workroom for building and tuning bows; a four-way camera system that will take four images of the same shot at the same time – plus the original retail outlet.
“Both Gaynor and I wanted to have a facility that would be unique from other outlets,” Dave explains, “and we thought the best way to do that would be to put together the current training centre.”
Not limited to just offering their own coaching, they also host one of the Archery GB Academies, and are running ATC sessions – a recent initiative of Archery GB that offers coaching to archers of all abilities.
“With Gaynor working with Archery GB as an academy coach it seemed the logical step,” explains Dave, “We have the facilities, which arguably are some of the best in the country, and with this in mind we discussed the options with the performance unit and started the ATC in January last year, and we’ve now increased the sessions to four per month. Gaynor has assembled a group of coaches which offer a high coaching ability and whose main aim is to bring on next generation of top archery talent.”
Speaking of talent, Dave goes on to explain what the Talent Programme is: “It’s regionally based for both coaches and archers. Talent Programme archers are typically aged from 12 to 17 years old, however the programme is open to adults as well. They all have the ambition of making it onto an Olympic or Paralympic podium. The Talent Programme’s coaches are the ones that have the skill, enthusiasm, imagination and commitment to help to develop archers with the goal of making them ready for the next step of the pathway, which is the Olympic/Paralympic Talent Confirmation Programme.”
Far from being a hothouse centre of competitive archers, Dave confirms they’ve opened the centre up to ordinary archers too, who – for a fixed monthly fee – have access to shoot for as long as they want to, as often as they feel like it. With all that going on Dave explains there’s really no such thing as an average day at work: “The job is so diverse it’s difficult to say what a typical day looks like! It could be coaching, sales, admin, tutoring, assessing, corporate days, team building, school archery days … any and all of those.
“The best part of the job for both Gaynor and myself is to assist archers and coaches alike to improve themselves, and see the joy that the new found improvements have made. It sounds corny, I know, but this is the reason we both got into coaching. The worst thing at the moment with the changes we have made is the long hours – but the pros outweigh the cons.” Despite it being such a busy time, Dave hints there might be more to come as he reveals they are keeping an eye open for ‘good people with the right outlook’ to join the Aim4Sport team.
Did he ever worry that Aim4Sport’s background as a retail store would hinder their coaching – or, conversely, that it would have to take a step back as the coaching enterprises grew? Not a bit of it, confirms Dave, “We still have a good range of equipment available both online and products to ‘try before you buy’ in the shop.
However, both Gaynor and myself wanted to bring more to the archery community than just a shop. We have a range of coaching ability within the training centre which totals over 75 years, and it just seemed the logical step forward for us. We currently have a range of clients which use the facilities both locally as well as further afield – including from Bognor Regis, Ashwell, and the Isle of Wight to name a few. We currently have county bookings to use the four-way camera system, and will welcome any clubs, counties and so on to use the facilities to improve their archers’ shooting ability.”
It’s a broad church, but Dave says it can be summed up in just a few words: “We have a simple philosophy – to help coaches and archers alike to improve to the best of their ability.” They’re not quite done yet, either, as they still have plans to build on the setup for the future.
“The main ambition is to promote the training centre over the next 12 months, and have archers, clubs, counties and regions in to use the facilities as often as possible,” Dave reveals, “as the centre can accommodate various coaching options.” He reflects for a few moments on the condition of archery in general, and what that might mean for the future of the sport and the ways that will impact the business.
“Hmm … I think the people that have spoken about the fact that the current level of archers is growing, however, not in the way the sport will benefit. There seems to be an increase of what I would call social archers, those that turn up to the club, shoot a few arrows, and then go home – there is not the drive to take their shooting further. 10 years ago the club tournament officer would chase around the club and a number of archers would go en-masse to an external competition, but now, after catching up with a number of national judges, the competitions which used to flourish have now folded due to lack of interest. This was another reason for setting up the training centre, to offer quality facilities for them to move forward to the next level.
“If we would have the opportunity to change one thing it would be to bring archery back onto the GCSE PE syllabus and work with local schools to feed into the talent development. Being a minority sport it’s tough to get the school PE staff, or other teaching staff for that matter, into offering this great sport of ours to their pupils, but with better access I am sure we would be able to find the archers of the future.”
It’s been an incredible expansion and diversification in just a short space of time, and Dave says they wouldn’t have been able to make it work without the hard work of the rest of the team. “The running of the centre is not just down to Gaynor and myself,” he says, “Without help from a number of people it would not be possible. I’d like to take a moment to thank Val Cooper – without her help and assistance with numbers, orders, and generally stopping me from buying the world, we would not be able to function. Dave Barrett – without his help through the last four years with ‘proper jobs’ the training centre would not be looking as it is now. Mark Carpenter, Dan Smith, Mike Hockaday, Ben Horner and anyone I have forgotten that has played their part in the expansion of the training centre. From Gaynor and myself it’s a heartfelt thank you for being part of the journey.”
He finished by saying he’d also like to thank the archers that have made use of the facilities, both past, present, and hopefully future. With the development of an archer’s ability at the heart of everything he and Gaynor have done for Aim4Sport, he hopes to be welcoming archers to Bedfordshire for many years to come.
If you’d like to find out how your club, county or region could benefit from the centre’s facilities, or would like to enquire about booking a session with the four-way camera, you can contact Dave at email@example.com.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the ATC, please feel free to contact Gaynor on firstname.lastname@example.org.