AoR’s Fun Weekend and BDFR

Brad Denny shooting at the AoR Fun Weekend.
Brad Denny shooting at the AoR Fun Weekend.

This weekend consisted of a couple of days shooting with a difference at Archers of Raunds (AoR) and it was a difference that would have people laughing both with success and disappointment.  Plus, it was all in a good cause.

Usually, the last weekend of the AoR indoor shooting calendar is given over to an internal tournament on the Sunday.  However, a couple of months ago, Roy Harris (senior AoR archery coach) came to me with an idea for a fun shoot in aid of Bradley Denny’s development fund.  A broad smile spread across my face as Roy outlined his plans because I could picture the surprise and mayhem that it would cause right along the shooting line, but with the word ‘FUN’ running right through the weekend.  Of course, I gave him the green light to propose his ideas at our next committee meeting and they in turn passed the motion unanimously.  Over the next few weeks, Roy worked hard on planning and preparing the Saturday fun shoot and I’d take a lead on the Sunday Knock Out – and that would not be normal either.

Before I get into the weekend, let’s understand a little more about the young man for whom the weekend was in aid of.

Roy Harris - Senior AoR Archery Coach.
Roy Harris – Senior AoR Archery Coach.

Bradley (Brad) Denny, came to AoR 5 years ago after experiencing archery whilst on holiday.  This is a pretty common route for people to get into archery, but he took to the sport like a duck to water.  One of Brad’s earliest coaches was Roy Harris (Senior AoR Coach) and it was fitting and right that the idea for the weekend should come from him.  After all, it was Roy who helped to give Brad the solid foundation and discipline that has set Brad on his path to stardom.

Brad worked hard in the early days, applying what he was taught and then going home to study archery technique and form away from the club.  YouTube and the internet are wonderful resources if you have an initial solid grounding and the ability to wheedle out the good from the not so good.  In addition, Northamptonshire County Archery Society (NCAS) invest in the county’s juniors with regular training sessions and these lead to a higher level of training offered by East Midland Archery Society (EMAS).  Over the last few years, Brad has also invested in some highly productive training sessions with Maggie Squires, often when something need tweaking or things were not going to plan, after all archery is not all plain sailing and it is full of ups and down.  She often quickly put him back on track and she still follows his progress today.

Although Brad has taken advantage of all of these resources, he used his home study extremely well to support the more formal coaching and he was largely self-taught before catching the eye of Archery GB and the junior training coaches.

Like many archery families, the Denny family have supported Brad throughout his career.  Initially, this was through financing his attendance at local and then regional archery tournaments.  This then extended to National tournaments and then Internationally through representing England and more recently Archery GB in various countries.  It is this International success where the families sacrifice has really escalated.  For example, Brad has to double up on his kit for International tournaments and this has meant purchasing or borrowing duplicate equipment.  On a more regular basis, Bradley’s father (Geoff) has found it necessary to find the time and money to take Brad to Lilleshall (the home of Archery GB) to train with the Archery GB squad and some of the best coaches in the land.  This is a 200 mile round trip undertaken three or four times a month which sometimes includes overnight stays when flying out early in the morning and the cost adds up very quickly.

These training visits to Archery GB have been worth their weight in gold.  Bradley has had the opportunity to work with two of the country’s top Archery GB coaches (Lloyd Brown, Olympic Coach and Songi Woo, Performance Coach) and every time he comes back home to shoot at the club, we all see the benefits and how Brad is just getting better and better.

We’ve had Brad on the radio a few times and he is regularly invited to talk at different events.  This has led to a small amount of sponsorship to ease the way, but given Brad’s current success and increased expenses, AoR felt that it was right and proper to undertake a fun weekend to help Brad with his aim of becoming an Olympic archer with Archery GB.

The timing of this weekend was spot on.  On Friday, I learned that Brad will be off to Turkey to train with his fellow Archery GB teammates.  Then in three weeks’ time, he will be off to Shanghai to shoot with the Archery GB Senior squad in the first stage of the Archery World Cup.  During that shoot he will be teaming up with Sean and also Larry Godfrey (Larry being a London 2012 Olympic Games Archery GB archer) to represent Great Britain at Senior (not Junior) level.   Brad won his place in the Shanghai team on merit by shooting an amazing 662 for a FITA 70m in the selection shoot at Lilleshall last week – a real indication of the hard work and dedication that Brad has put into his archery over the last few years.A great achievement for a young lad who is still only 16, and we wish Brad and the team all the best for those shoots.

Anyway, enough about Brad for now, but I will come back to his character and attitude towards archery at the end of this article.  So, back to the AoR weekend:

To help with Brad’s archery development fund, the club decided to host a Brad Denny Fund Raising weekend.  This would consist of a two hour fun session on the Saturday afternoon and a three hour knock out tournament on the Sunday.  The event was open to all AoR members, friends of AoR and clubs in the surrounding region.  It was great to welcome archers from other clubs for the event and even better to see several members of NCAS come along on the Saturday to support the event.  I’d also like to officially thank NCAS for promoting the fun event on their website.

The AoR Fun Weekend bespoke target.
The AoR Fun Weekend bespoke target.

The Saturday session was put together by Roy and it consisted of a specially designed target with marked out areas of different colours and sizes.  Leza Paul had put together a wonderful tuck shop with cakes and other donated goodies and, with the help of some of the mums running the shop, it put the icing on the cake and swelled the fund – all proceeds from the tuck shop were being donated to the fund.

Some of the marked out areas on the special target had a points value and others something a little special.  There was a go to jail area which put the whole team in jail and needing a couple of sixes to get out..  The whole team was able to hit the sixes, so luckily no one was in there for long, but it definitely helped to mess up the team’s scores for that end.  There was also a chest and chance area.  Landing an arrow in one of these two areas, resulted in a chance or chest card which could reward the teams with some welcome extra points, or land them with a nasty surprise – every card got a laugh though because even losing points was fun today.

Of course, archers could avoid the chest and chance areas, and shooting indoors at 20 yards it was not hard for the average archer to avoid those areas.  For that reason, Roy handed me a small envelope that was to cause havoc at times.  This small white envelope contained cards that would be read out after the archers had shot and it ‘could’ mean that teams had not quite scored what they thought.  For example, after the first end of shooting, I had the pleasure of stepping forward, before the whistle to collect had been blown, to let everyone know that any team with a three recorded on the score sheet would receive an extra 30 points.  That went down well with most teams and especially those with the less experienced archers.  It was also great for those archers hitting the lower scores, as they very quickly learned that their wayward arrows could still count big – even misses were rewarded throughout the session.

One of Roy’s best ideas was to issue each team with an envelope.  Inside were a number of sealed pieces of paper.  It was the teams choice as to whether they opened them or not, but there were some big bonuses and some nasty surprises.  This really got the teams fired up and the volume in the hall raised considerably as people argued about which to open, which to pass to another team and which to discard.  At one point, I saw Geoff and a teammate holding up a sealed orange card to the light, trying to read the contents.  Curiosity won out and the card was soon opened and points added to the team total – a nice success.

As a spectator helping to run the event, it was just pure magic.  Take Katie’s team for example.  She’d picked a team of junior girls and they were doing well.  They decided to open most of their cards, receiving one bonus after another.  They were then left with just one card.  Should it be opened, should it be left?  With a host of bonuses in the bag, half the team opted to open it and half not – there had to be a bad card in the pack somewhere.  In the end, and after much discussion, temptation got the better of the team and the card was opened.  Was it good, was it bad??? – It only halved their current score.  Groans and laughs emanated from the four girls and they now had a lot of catching up to do.

Brad aims for the pin to win his challenge.
Brad aims for the pin.

Alan Course was another example of the generosity of the archers and summarised the spirit of the day.  Visiting AoR for the day, Alan enjoyed the fun and shooting with us but he had a surprise for everyone at the end of the session.  With a twenty pound note in his hand, Alan asked me if he could challenge Brad to take out a pin in one of the bosses.  Well, this was a fun day, so how could I refuse?  With the challenge proposed and accepted, Alan placed the pin in the boss and Brad stepped up to the shooting line.  Normally he would have nailed it, but with the excitement of the day and with everyone looking on, he grouped his arrows as close to the pin as he could ‘without’ hitting it.  Well he’d lost the challenge, but saved the club buying another pin.  Of course, Alan dropped the twenty pound note into the fund pot anyway, much to the appreciation of me and a number of people in the hall.

Like I said, this was a fun shoot like no other and in the end the winning team was … actually, let’s come back to that a little later.

Throughout the session, every single archer had a ball.  The young, not so young, those with great skill and ability, to the newest archer just finding their feet and barely able to hit 20 yards, everyone was buzzing.  I remember one end when Caitlin came up to me full of excitement.  “I got three misses that end, but now I’m the highest scorer.”  A modifier had just made her day.  The day was so successful that numerous people have asked me to do this sort of shoot again in the future and people were still talking about it 20 minutes after everything was packed away and we were out in the car park.

Sunday was advertised as a randomised knock out session.  Now, you have to understand that a normal AoR Sunday session is a serious affair.  We pre-select a scoring round and it is run as close to tournament standards as possible.  This gives new archers the opportunity to see what a serious shoot is like and it also gives experienced archers at AoR and the surrounding clubs the opportunity to participate in a serious shoot where personal best scores and records are frequently claimed.

However, this was a fun weekend and those that had expected a serious shoot were to be sorely disappointed.  Archers were assigned a number and that number corresponded to a block in a bag.  Those blocks would be drawn throughout the session and randomise who would shoot against who.  The first two blocks pulled from the bag would shoot against each other and so on.  Archers just had no idea who they would be drawn to shoot against and it really mixed things up.  I was taking pictures throughout the session, and I was hugely grateful to Leza for quickly taking over the drawing and calling of the pairings.

The first round was a straight three arrow knock out.  The archer with the highest score went through.  Their blocks were put back into the bag and they were drawn again to decide who would shoot against who.  This provided us with a totally randomised number of ends until we had the last two or three archers.  They then went into a one arrow shoot off to decide the overall round winner.

Martin Davis shooting out the X.
Martin Davis shooting out the X.

That wining archer would then go through to the final.  Now, we had some serious archers in the hall and, for that reason, I had previously decided to allow any archer who took out the X in the middle of the Portsmouth target face to claim a place in the final.  Little did I underestimate how well our archers have progressed this season and very quickly we had the sheet filling up with people taking out the X.

In fact, the very first end, Martin Davis shooting Barebow, landed an arrow smack bang in the middle of the X and he claimed the first spot in the final.

I had also planned to mix things up a little more.  Any archer that claimed a second place in the final was allowed to nominate another archer to join them in the final.  In the spirit of the day, this usually resulted in one of the newer and less experienced archers being awarded a place in the final – or were the experienced guys just trying to make their lives easier 😉

Now, it’s a fun weekend right?  So did you really expect the session to remain serious?  No, I thought not.

From session two, I reached into my back pocket and pulled out a set of modifier cards.  Some were read out prior to the archers shooting. For example; where only arrows hitting black would count and meaning that they could aim for the black scoring area, or maybe try for a higher scoring line cutter or even the X itself.  After all, the instruction was to hit the colour black on the target, not necessarily the black scoring area.  Other cards were called out after the archers had shot.  For example, during one end, the archers found that their three tens counted for nothing.

Remember that the session was in aid of Brad.  Well, I had one trump card in my hand and fortunately the time came to play it.  Brad had been drawn to shoot with one of the clubs youngest and newest archers – Imogen Case.  Not fazed by going head to head with an International archer and potential future Olympian (we hope), Imogen shot a fine six from her three arrows.  Now I’ll get into Brad’s character in a moment, but entering into the spirit of things he matched Imogen’s arrows score for score, leaving the closest arrow just slightly further away from the X than Imogen’s closest arrow – we had a rule that any draws were decided by the archer with the arrow closest to the X.

Imogen Case shooting in the head to head.
Imogen Case shooting in the head to head.

However, unbeknown to me, whilst Brad was playing this sporting hand I pulled out my trump card.  Stepping forward, I announced that anyone with the initials BD would score zero points for that end.  The hall erupted in laughter, Brad laughing and smiling more than most.

A little later we had a fast and furious knock out round that consisted of a one arrow head to head to get through to the next knock out round.  Again, the overall winner would make the final.  During one of the ends, Brad and Dad (Geoff) were drawn against each other and an impromptu rule was invoked.  The two shot their arrows and then a modifier call was made.  The highest scoring arrow would not count.  Well that failed because Geoff had pulled a high arrow and missed and Brad pulled an arrow left to just miss the white scoring zone (1 point) on Geoff’s target (played for of course, Brad only does yellow at this distance).  So next end and whilst they shot, I shuffled through the cards and one caught my eye.  Brad has a habit of shooting with a quiver full of arrows, I mean lots of arrows.  Geoff was also shooting with more arrows in his quiver than the one needed and the card read “Each archer loses one point for each arrow left in their quiver after shooting.”  The perfect card to play.  More laughter as people looked at Brad’s quiver and Dad went through.  Brad again found himself on the loser’s bench – not a familiar place for our young star.

The session continued in the same vain and a fun time was had by all.  The tuck shop continued to do well and we finished up with rather more archers than I had expected in the final.  So, we’d have to have a final and a final, final.  All the winners were called forward for a one arrow shoot off – the three archers nearest to the X went through.  There were plenty of yellows scored but it went down to four archers with tens and the closest three would be Simon Wright, Lauren Phillips and Brad Denny – three good archers and things were about to get serious.

The final, final, was a one arrow shoot off and it was a close run thing.  However, our superstar in the making had got into that winning zone and Brad planted an arrow into the centre to take the overall AoR Fun Knock-Out Champion of Champions.  A right and fitting close to another highly successful session.

Now I have mentioned Brad’s character a few times during this article and the end shooting with Imogen (mentioned earlier) is a classic example of the sportsman that is Brad Denny.  However, Saturday saw the real maturity and sportsmanship that Brad has.

Brad was picked as one of the six team captains for the fun session.  Left with a large number of very good archers to choose from, he tapped me on the shoulder and asked for the name of a young and very shy looking archer over from WOAC.  Matilda shoots with us from time to time and it was her name that I heard Brad call out as his first teammate.  His second choice was to pick the youngest and one of the most recent members of AoR, both girls have only recently started shooting the 20 yards that we would be shooting and with their light poundage bows it would be a challenging afternoon.  Brad’s final choice was a young lad who has been shooting at AoR to achieve his Duke of Edinburgh’s award.  This was therefore to be the youngest and least experienced team along the shooting line.

Brad’s character and his love for archery could be witnessed throughout the session.  During every single end he could be seen mentoring, motivating, encouraging and helping his young teammates.  During every end, they walked proudly up to the boss with Brad, they celebrated their successes and laughed (kindly) about the misses (sometimes, only to find that those misses became the bonus arrows).  The youngers walked back with broad smiles on their faces, ready to have another go.  They were clearly enjoying shooting with an Archery GB archer.

This sort of behaviour is not uncommon for Brad.  As anyone who shoots regularly at AoR knows, he is often the first to share his love for archery with his fellow club members.  He has never forgotten his club roots and those that have helped him along the way.  He is also the first to help archers (young and the not so young) with their equipment issues, to help identify technique issues and to encourage and motivate generally.

Brad's Winning Team
Brad’s Winning Team

For me, the overall winners could not have been a better team.  Yes, some of the modifiers will have helped, but then they could have hindered as well, and yes Brad was nailing everything he aimed for throughout the session, but he steered his team to an emphatic win, much to the pleasure of everyone.

Brad is a credit to himself and his family.  He is a highly valued member of Archers of Raunds and the level of attendance at these two fund raising days indicates that this is felt right across the club.

We all wish him and the Archery GB team well for Turkey and again in Shanghai.  Furthermore, we wish Bradley well for wherever his archery career takes him next.  He has earned this current success and long may it continue.

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