I am writing this edition of my blog to respond to a question that was recently posed to me on Twitter, as 140 characters isn’t truly enough to make a compelling and reasoned argument.
As you may have noticed, I have set up a crowdfunding campaign on pledgesports.org (pledgesports.org/projects/olympic-skeet-training-programme/) to help raise funds for my training. When I shared the link on Twitter, I was sent a public response which said (and I quote) “please tell me why other people should donate their hard earned money to pay for you to shoot?”.
I must admit, this response did take me aback a little, not least because it wasn’t the sort of reply I was expecting or hoping for; normally the shooting community is very supportive. And while this individual’s question is perfectly valid, I took issue with it, mainly because it seemed very brash, as though I was doing something wrong by asking for help with costs. It seemed as though they, and the three people who subsequently liked it, were being particularly defensive about their money – and their sport.
In situations like this, I would normally explode in a heated reply back, channeling my anger and upset into a passionate response that is usually taken in the wrong context or says something that I do not truly mean because I use words that are the only ones that pop into my head with all the emotion I feel at the time. Besides, as I said earlier, 140 characters is nowhere near enough to explain why I felt crowdfunding was a viable option for me – or why people might feel like they want to contribute.
I’ve been stewing over this for a few days now, and at one point I did consider letting the whole thing go. After all, it was the only negativity I had experienced around the situation, and perhaps by responding I would merely be opening up a whole can of worms in a confrontation that I did not intend to have and probably would not win. But having discussed with some colleagues and friends, I felt I needed to explain why I started the campaign, and why some people may wish to help me out.
Firstly, crowdfunding is a perfectly viable way of making money. It reaches out to people who may have a little bit of extra cash that they want to put towards a good cause, and there are several platforms on which to do it. It can be used for anything; a friend of mine knows of people who have crowdfunded to get money for their IVF treatment, other people have done it to raise funds for travelling, others for charitable purposes. The platform I am using, Pledge Sports, is specifically designed for athletes to try and raise money for anything and everything they need – travel costs, equipment, training. Everything I am using it for. People use it whether they are already sponsored or not. So my first question would be, if other people can do it, why can’t I?
Secondly, shooting is an expensive sport. At local levels, it is not funded like the ‘popular’ sports such as football and cricket; there is no county governing body for shooting here, for example. Cartridges, especially after the recent price hike in lead, are expensive, but an essential for the sport; they are a continual output of cash that can’t be skimped on if you want to shoot. Clays too, although relatively cheap, add up when you are shooting 100 at a time, and unlike buying, say, one pair of football boots a season, clays must be bought every time one practices, and cartridges must be bought regularly.
In addition, my discipline – Olympic Skeet – is not very well catered for in my county; only two grounds offer it for practice, and neither of those is a GB Shooting training ground. The nearest one to where I live is in Hertfordshire, and a two hour drive away. It takes just over half a tank of petrol to do the round trip, and as fuel is slowly going up in price again, it’s another increase in expenses. Then take into consideration that some of my sessions have to take place at Doveridge, which is a further two hours away. I know that I am not the only person in this position, as others on my level of the programme have the same problem.
Thirdly, I am already working two jobs to try and pay for everything I have outgoing. Like most people, my own hard-earned money is already being stretched by household essentials like rent, food, and car payments. What is left does go towards cartridges, fuel and practice clays as it is, but it isn’t always enough. I set up the crowdfunding page to see if there were people out there who may have had just a spare ten pounds to help out somebody who is trying to make her way in a sport that is not only male-dominated, but also receives very little extra funding unless shooting at national level. I am not asking for people’s money ‘just so I can shoot’, but for contributions to help me increase my skill, train more in between my coaching sessions, and maybe one day be good enough to shoot internationally and represent Great Britain. In this way, I also aim to inspire other young women, showing that the paradigms of certain sports being ‘just for boys’ is not true, that women can succeed as athletes, and be as much of a role model as I can.
Finally, looking at a crowdfunding page is not an automatic obligation to donate. I myself have been in positions before where I wanted to help a friend with funding, but because of my own monetary problems, I have not been able to donate, yet I still shared and liked the pages to try to reach others who may have been able to help. If you can’t afford to contribute, or don’t want to, you don’t have to! I recently read in an article by Standard Issue magazine (http://standardissuemagazine.com/health/one-giant-leap-womankind/) that a recent study by Women In Sport recorded that only 0.4% of reported sponsorship deals in the UK are for female athletes or teams, so it is small wonder that so many resort to crowdfunding to raise the money they need to access the training, practice and resources necessary for their sport.
I am not trying to use this blog to start an argument, or even to pressurise you into donating towards my cause – it is, after all, a choice – but rather to show that there is not a problem with crowdfunding or any issue with people asking for help. On Pledge Sports, there are athletes who have asked for similar contributions – people who went to Rio, people who are trying to train for the 2022 Winter Olympics, for example. It is a perfectly reasonable and viable method of raising money, and I hope you can like and share even if you can’t contribute. Thank you very much.