Rod Gould interview: 20 years in the England Trap team!
- Credit: Archant
This month, Emily Damment sits down for a chat with Olympic Trap shooter Rod Gould, who has just made the England team for the 20th year in a row!
August 2021 saw me spending quite a while pondering who my next victim (interviewee) could be. As I scrolled through Facebook, a post from a gentleman named Rod Gould caught my eye: “Made the England Olympic Trap Team for the 20th time in a row. Shot for England in 18 of the Home Internationals and four times in the CSF events. That’s got to be some sort of record.”
You know what, Rod, I thought to myself, that might actually be some sort of record! And even if it’s not, I definitely want to know more. Victim located; I went in for the kill... Well, I sent Rod a nice Facebook message asking if he’d meet me for a chat, and he graciously accepted. Job done.
A lifetime of team shooting
The very next day, we sat sheltering from the unseasonal rain in the clubhouse at the National Clay Shooting Centre, Bisley, all set to chat more about Rod’s incredible achievement.
“There’s only been two caps in the last 20 years that I haven’t taken up,” Rod told me. “One in 2017 because of a clash with the World UT competition, which I was on the GB team for, and in 2020 the Home International was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I first started shooting after being down the pub and overhearing two lads talking about it. I badgered them to take me and beat them at their own game on the practice stand! I still remember that to this day, because it was the first time I’d ever shot a shotgun. I applied for my licence immediately and shot English Skeet for about three years.
“At age 21, I took up taekwondo, jiu jitsu, aikido and tai chi and that became my focus, practising seven days a week. I did that solidly for about eight or nine years, and it was only when I ruptured a disc in my back practising a kick, which meant I couldn’t do the martial arts seriously any more, that I went back to shooting.”
Whatever stars aligned (or collided!) to cause this return to shooting, Rod was clearly born a shooter, and with martial arts off the table for now, he turned his full, intense, obsessive concentration towards the sport he could do.
“I started shooting Olympic Trap in 2001, which was the year after Ian Peel won his Olympic Silver and Richard Faulds won Gold, and I qualified for the England team in 2002, and every year since,” he told me. “It was their success that inspired me – I wanted to win an Olympic medal! Over those years, I’ve seen a lot of the same faces rotating in and out of the England team, which is great. It’s a really nice community to be a part of.”
I was quite curious to find out why it was Olympic Trap that Rod eventually landed on, rather than Olympic Skeet – a more natural progression from English Skeet, you would think.
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“I’d moved over from English Skeet to Down The Line,” he explained. “Then this place [NCSC, Bisley] opened, and I only live 20 minutes away, so it seemed a logical progression to go from DTL to Olympic Trap. I did shoot Olympic Skeet for a bit, but my scores weren’t quite so good. Trap was the way to go for me as it’s a natural progression from DTL, which I’d been shooting regularly.”
I wanted Rod to take me back 20 years to the moment when he qualified for the England team for the first time, and luckily, that achievement is imprinted on his mind: “The way it worked was you had to do four selection shoots and count your best three scores. Back then, they were 200-bird competitions, so it took four weekends away competing to qualify. It was at South Wales 2000 SG that I qualified.
“I remember it very well. I said to one of the guys that I was going to go out and shoot 25-straight to qualify, and then I actually did! I think he thought I was a bit cocky, but you’ve got to believe in yourself. I had to stay down there by the stands and have a cry; I made the team and that was that. Some people are very passionate, and I am, I have a lot of passion.”
The passion Rod mentioned is something I’d noticed quite early on in our interview – passion that sometimes borders on obsession. And that’s not meant to sound unflattering; the ability to pursue something so ferociously over a prolonged period is impressive! Especially to someone like me, whose attention flickers from one interest to another like a drunk butterfly. A certain level of obsession, or single-mindedness, is a personality trait that I’ve seen repeatedly in athletes competing at high levels; I would even go so far as to say it’s necessary in order to be willing to dedicate the time, money and effort it takes to get really, really good at something.
It seemed evident to me when Rod told me that he went and applied for his gun licence after his first ever time shooting a gun; or when he described in detail the jaw-dropping amounts of time, dedication and resilience that has gone into his martial arts training over the years. This is a man who never does anything by halves; when he decides he wants something, he throws everything at it and does whatever he deems necessary to get it.
“I was fortunate in that I met Peeter Pakk, who shot for the Soviet Union in the 90s. Peeter became my coach for the next four years. I saw him every time he came over to the UK and built up a good rapport. He’s a brilliant coach.
“I told him that I needed to catch Ian Peel, I was still behind him and I wanted to catch him up. I asked Peeter how I could put more effort in to get better quicker. He told me: ‘You can do two training sessions in a day. You get to the range for 9 o’clock, shoot 25, have a five-minute break, shoot another 25. Then you have a cup of tea and relax for half an hour. Go out and shoot another 25, have another five-minute break, then shoot another 25. You have shot 100 targets in half a day. You can have some lunch, then go out and repeat it in the afternoon. Now you have shot your 200 targets in a day.’ And so that’s what I did, religiously, every single Saturday and Sunday, for about five years I would say.”
Point proven. That’s an awful lot of effort, a lot of time, and a lot of dedication, especially considering that Rod has had a full-time job throughout all this.
Giving something back
Alongside his martial arts training, and after his back injury, he taught and still teaches jiu jitsu; he took an interest in the skeletal make-up of the body and the nervous system, which led him to getting a full-size acupuncture dummy, plus another two models, which have helped him to study the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system side by side; he studied and mastered mushin, Japanese for ‘no mind’, which creates a clear yet fully alert mind, essential for martial arts and self-defence. Plus, he now coaches shooting too. As I said, he does not do things by half!
“I thought I was getting a bit long in the tooth, but I wanted to stay active in the sport, so I thought I’d start coaching,” Rod told me. “I was coaching one girl for about four years, and then I asked British Shooting if I could take the ISSF C licence course. The following year I had passed the B license as well.
“At present, I coach about 12 people, and growing, of all age groups. My favourite are the young women, because they’re just great to coach – they just get on with it, there’s no ego or anything. I’ve got Tegan Hart and Leah Southall on the books now; Leah has just qualified for the England ABT Team and the World UT Team. When they qualify, I always buy the juniors their GBR jacket because they’ve put a lot of hard work in. It takes a lot of dedication at that age.
“I think my understanding and knowledge of the musculoskeletal system is really useful even when coaching Trap shooting; there’s a deeper understanding there, and there’s also the mental side of things, the ‘mushin’. Mushin is all about being in the zone, with a totally clear mind, relaxed yet alert. That comes from the martial arts but it is so relevant to shooting and I use it a lot in my coaching; it really enhances what I’m able to teach people than if I was just teaching from my shooting experience alone. It all combines to create a perfect synergy, exactly how it is in martial arts; mushin actually applies to a lot of sports, or rather there are a lot of sports that can benefit, like golf, snooker and darts.”
It’s interesting listening to someone – perhaps unknowingly – putting into practice all the things I read about in Christian Schofield’s elite training articles every month. The holistic approach, the equal importance being placed on both mind and body; I can see why Rod’s juniors are doing so well.
To end the day, we headed out to the range to shoot a round, where we ran into a couple of the juniors Rod trains. They’re not half bad, and it was lovely to watch the focus in their eyes as they completed a round, totally absorbed in the task at hand; a result of Rod’s all-encompassing approach to training, perhaps?
As so often happens in my job, what started as a quest for content resulted in a lovely afternoon meeting and connecting with new friends. Perhaps it’s just because we all share the same interests and passions, but I always meet good people on my travels through this weird, wonderful little community.