Some suggestions for the ISSF

The new post-London rule changes from ISSF are out, and some of them aren’t great at all. But there’s still time to change things before November, and in the hope that someone somewhere might read this to the right person at some point, I thought I’d put up a few suggestions for ISSF to achieve their stated goal:

All Olympic sports today must become more dynamic, attract more fans, engage the public with more drama and provide great shows for youth, spectators, television and the media.

As I’ve said many times before in many places, the problem with being a spectator of ISSF shooting is not that it’s boring; it’s that you can’t see it.

Look at football (any kind of football) and you see people spread out over a large physical area and a visible ball being passed around as the visually distinct teams try to move it to a visually identifiable goal. You can see the game happen, as it happens.

In shooting the game is too small to see with the naked eye from the stands, and unless you know what you’re looking for, it’s not visible to the naked eye from even a few feet away. The average punter won’t notice Debevec’s position being any different from Emmon’s in kneeling; won’t notice the signs that Piasecki is having a good day or a bad; won’t be able to tell who’s really handling the pressure in a finals.┬áThat is the challange you have to overcome. Do that, and you’ll get interested fans and drama and great shows. Changing the number of belt loops won’t change that.

Look at the London Olympics, specifically the Mens Air Rifle Finals. The gold medal came down to the last shot, and the audience went wild watching that last shot.

Why did they go wild? Was it the tension caused by several hundred people watching one man standing there on the line taking the final shot of the match, everyone knowing he would win or lose the gold medal depending on whether his score was higher or lower than a 9.7? Was it seeing that shot land and knowing instantly that he’d won it? Was it the commentator taking the entire audience to that point by walking them through the progression of the finals and winding them up for that final shot?

Or was it down to the blinders being smaller? The belt loops fewer? The buttplate being restricted from turning on an axis parallel to the boreline of the rifle? The shooter walking in a normal fashion? The dress code being adhered to? I don’t think so.

So with that in mind, here are my suggestions for how to meet that challange and achive the goal ISSF has set itself:

  • Make it mandatory for World Cup level events and above to have wireless Noptel/Scatt/Rika electronic trainer setups attached to barrels for finals and presented on screens above the shooter. Show the spectators the shooter’s approach to the target, their settling, their hold and their wobble and their triggering. We’ve tried that before in a Eurosport shooting match some years ago and it was magnificent – and more to the point, we know it can be done and how…
  • Make it a contractual obligation with Suis Ascor, Megalink and any other ISSF-approved electronic target manufacturer to produce software that lets you share scores live on the web (and by software, I mean software that works well, is robust and easy to use, not the poke-your-own-eyes-out-with-a-butternut-squash nightmare they currently have). Every shot, as it’s fired, should be up on the web, whether on a custom website or on Facebook or Twitter or all three. It isn’t rocket science, it’s a fairly simple task, using standard well-understood tools (I say this as an engineer who’s done this for a while).
  • Hire the commentator from the London Games to be the official ISSF commentator on the ISSF youtube channel and for all ISSF major events in the future.
  • Make it mandatory to use Twitter and Facebook duing ISSF major events and to up the amount of interaction we see. One single press release with an image from an event was a good step forward, ten years ago; today it’s just not cutting it, and the demographic ISSF want to capture is used to far more. More than half the shooters from the international circuit are on Facebook, and lots are on Twitter as well. If you can access both from a mobile phone, and you have professionally paid PROs at these events, then you can tweet/facebook from them too.
  • Drop this idea of resetting scores to zero for finals. If you have to do this duelling model for finals – and you don’t, London proved that – you can do it without doing the resetting of scores. Archery’s been doing that for twenty years now. And beware – if you show a wildly different style of shooting to the public in the finals than they’d encounter when they try the sport themselves, you’ll be sabotaging yourself…

 

New ISSF Rules for 2013-2016

The new, much-anticipated, rule changes for post-London are now out (or at least, a summary of them) and are the subject of much discussion around the web at the moment.

New ISSF RULES 2012

Lots of changes to times for matches, to kit, and a scarily inexact comment about banning Vibration Reduction Systems from all rifles and pistols, without a clear definition of what those would be.

Not comforting reading and while most of the changes are things we could live with, and a few are changes that will make events more efficient and which aren’t bad ideas in and of themselves; I still think the thinking behind these changes is failing to acknowledge one very fundamental principle. All of these changes are being justified by wanting to make the sport more exciting and accessible to the general public. But┬ánone of these changes are things the general public will ever see or notice. Belt loops, shoe shapes, times during qualifications – nobody ever sees those unless they’re eager to see them, and if they’re eager to see them, then they’re not the demographic the ISSF is looking to attract, they’re the demographic we already have.

Look at London, and ask yourself – why were the crowd going wild for the last shot of the Mens Air Rifle Finals?

Was it the tension caused by several hundred people watching one man standing there on the line taking the final shot of the match, everyone knowing he would win or lose the gold medal depending on whether his score was higher or lower than a 9.7? Was it seeing that shot land and knowing instantly that he’d won it? Was it the commentator taking the entire audience to that point by walking them through the progression of the finals and winding them up for that final shot?

Or was it down to the blinders being smaller? The belt loops fewer? The buttplate being restricted from turning on an axis parallel to the boreline of the rifle? The shooter walking in a normal fashion? The dress code being adhered to?

I don’t think it was any of the latter, do you?

If you want to bring in a spectator who knows nothing of the sport and get them excited, you have to show the spectator what you’re doing. Look at football (any kind of football) and you see people spread out over a large physical area and a visible ball being passed around as the visually distinct teams try to move it to a visually identifiable goal. You can see the game happen as it happens.

In shooting the game is too small to see with the naked eye from the stands, and unless you know what you’re looking for, it’s not visible to the naked eye from even a few feet away. The average punter won’t notice Debevec’s position being any different from Emmon’s in kneeling; won’t notice the signs that Piasecki is having a good day or a bad; won’t be able to tell who’s really handling the pressure in a finals. Unless you show them, with big screens showing electronic target results, cameras showing the shooters close-up, commentators explaining the state of play for neophytes, even things like strapping noptels or the like to the rifles.

You want to attract people to our sport? Do that. Don’t write rules that nobody understands and that seem to ban every firearm made since the late 80s!

 

This smells of change for change’s sake, and change made without sufficient analysis or data. And that’s bad news for our sport.