By Charlotte Lim Jia Jie (18A01A), Co-Captain
Sport, or not? Defined as “an activity involving physical exertion and skill” (thanks Google), Shooting seems to hardly fit the bill. Unlike other school sportsman, the average shooter does not exhibit typical indicators of athleticism: many, if not all shooters do not boast impressive physiques, carry with them gigantic bags or lug around sporting equipment with them 24/7. In fact, there is little to discern the shooter from the school crowd, appearance-wise.
This is unsurprising. Lifting a 5kg rifle or 1kg pistol repeatedly does little to sculpt one into a walking Dorito, while to lug our firearms, rifle suit, stand, shoes, target cards and pellets around would be highly illegal, wildly impractical and quite inane, especially since everything can be locked away in our very own range and armoury on campus. So, the physical exertion involved in Shooting appears minimal – but what makes Shooting truly a sport?
Let’s take a look at skill, then. How difficult can aiming a gun and pressing a trigger be? You’ll be surprised. The range is open every day in the week, giving shooters greater flexibility in arranging their training schedules as long as they attend a minimum of two 3-hour sessions weekly. But many shooters go above and beyond this basic requirement, with some attending training three to four times weekly to hone their shooting prowess, especially when important competitions, such as NUS and NTU Invitational Shoots, Singapore Cups and National School Games loom over the horizon. The only technical skill one learns is how to shoot his/her allocated firearm, a lesson that is imparted on the very first day one steps foot into the range. The real challenge, however, lies in perfecting this singular action, with shooters spending years repeating the act of shooting a gun over and over again, first to a wall as “dry-fire”, before moving to actual pellets and targets.
Shooters invest a disproportionate amount of time, energy and effort is into honing a skill that rewards in stingy increments. The shooter must painstakingly revise and refine this action just to land the perfect shot. Even then, this coveted achievement continues to elude many, with only the very best shooters experiencing consecutive bulls-eyes on a regular basis. However, these efforts do seem to pay off. The CCA continues to do well at major sporting events, with our Men’s Air Rifle and Pistol teams bagging double Golds and the Women’s Air Rifle and Pistol teams bagging Bronze and Silver respectively at the 2017 National School Games.
While physical prowess may carry many through their sporting careers, the monotony of Shooting prizes concentration and grit over brute strength. To stay very still, with one’s attention completely focused on the action of shooting itself, requires a great amount of discipline and perseverance, and this skill is in itself challenging to learn and even harder to master. Nothing can be more frustrating than trying very hard but realising one still falls short anyways (a familiar exam sentiment?), and shooters spend hours staring at their hole-riddled target cards in incomprehension, wondering what went wrong and how to improve. If anything, shooters learn to remain unfazed by our scorecards and press on, trying our very best to continually surpass ourselves, even if this can never be quite up to mark. Shooting is difficult, because one’s opponent is not another shooter or a target card, but the person gripping the gun: yourself.
With training so mentally taxing, knowing how to relax in and outside the range is key. Compared to most CCAs, Shooting is a small family of not more than 30 across the two batches every year, allowing us to bond with one another and form friendships that help us get through the most demoralising of training days. Excessive noise is strictly forbidden in the range, so shooters communicate with knowing looks and tired nods, reminding one another that we are not alone in our struggle to land a perfect 10.9 (a bulls-eye). Beyond training, the shooters do more than just bury ourselves in our academics—we book the Hodge Lodge to watch movies or lepak, engage in sporting activity that requires physical movement, and try to go for batch dinners regularly after training. This makes Shooting more than a CCA, but a family you can go back to at the end of a dreary school day.
For a sport that demands perfection, perhaps the greatest lesson shooting can offer is not that perfection is always beyond our grasps, but that we can still dare to dream, dare to try, and dare to aim for greater heights.