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Clay shooting champion and coach John Robinson interview

Jasper Fellows learns all about John Robinson and his life on the stands shooting for Great Britain and England, coaching internationals and helping to push the sport to the next level.

Continual professional development. What does it mean? For John Robinson, it means that every day is a day to learn. It means there’s always room for improvement and that you can be better tomorrow than you are today.

This philosophy has served him well. An ex-military man, Team GB triathlete, mountain-rescue team party leader and medic and a Nuffield Farming Scholar, John Robinson has risen to the top of several careers. Now he’s helping the coaching community develop their professional skills as chairman of The Institute of Clay Shooting Instructors (ICSI).

John Robinson’s shooting story starts in the most typical of settings. “I started on the family farm,” he explains. “Aged 10, I was rough shooting rabbits, pigeons and some game, but I didn’t start clay shooting until I was 26.

“I’d always played a lot of ball sports and played for Bath Rugby Club and scraped into the England under-23 team. Then I suffered an injury to my left knee and that was the end of that.

“I was still playing cricket and hockey and coaching rugby, but I needed something on the same level as my rugby. I enjoyed shooting and decided that Olympic Skeet would give me the greatest opportunity to challenge myself.”



Three years after breaking his first Olympic Skeet clay, John made it onto the England team. “I shot my first international in 1989,” he explains. “I then shot for England for the next 20 years and captained the team on three occasions, which was a great privilege. I was also lucky enough to make the Great Britain team during that time, shooting in World and European Championships, World Cups and the Nordic Championship, and managing to win Commonwealth, European Commonwealth and British Grand Prix
gold medals. It was always nice to win and meet some great competitors in the process, but credit must go to the coaches that helped us.”

After 20 years of competing, John Robinson decided it was time for a change, though he didn’t want to move away from the sport he loves. “Twenty years is a long time to do anything,” he says. “So, I qualified as a CPSA and ISSF coach, joining the ICSI in 2006, before fully retiring from competition in 2008.”

John Robinson

Continual professional development has been the key to John’s success

With decades of experience under his belt, it might seem odd that John Robinson went through the process of qualifying at all. “But that’s the thing,” adds John. “I had all this experience, but I needed to learn how to teach the very thing I had all this experience in.

“One of the most important things for any coach to understand is that just because you are good at a sport, it doesn’t mean you are automatically a good coach. It’s vital to learn the art of instruction and to continue to develop your own professional skills.”

With his positive mental attitude and desire to better himself, John soon became one of the country’s top coaches. “I was very lucky to win the CPSA Coach of the Year award in 2013, but don’t ask me how that ever happened.”

“The following year, I was offered the head coach position for Team England for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. It was a privilege to coach at Glasgow, where the English shooters won more individual medals than at any previous Commonwealth Games. Though not down to me, of course. I’m just the idiot who talks a good game. It really is down to the competitors who must produce the goods on the day.”

Even the pros need to practise now and then



Despite his protests, England’s successes in Glasgow cemented John’s reputation as a coach who wins medals. “The Commonwealth Games did lead to further opportunities coaching internationals, and I was given the head coach job again for the 2018 Gold Coast games.”

Readers may remember the successes of the English team in Australia, which John describes in his typically self-deprecating fashion. “We went to Australia, won a few medals; it was great for the team, who thoroughly deserved their success.”

Anyone who has had the fortune to discuss John’s career with him will recognise this modesty. But there’s more to this beyond a typically British reserve about blowing one’s own trumpet. 

“I’ve always thought shooting should be about the shooters,” John explains. “As coaches, we should do what we can to get the shooters in the best possible shape. Then, when they win, we should step away. They won the medal. I just did my job to help them get onto the start line in the best possible shape. But it’s their time and their success.”

This honourable attitude no doubt tipped the scales in John Robinson’s favour when the ICSI went searching for a new chairman. 



“I’d been an ICSI council member since 2008 but never thought I’d have the time to serve as chairman. But by April 2020, when Dr Malcolm Plant stepped down after some 20 years, I’d stopped coaching the England teams. I still coach privately, but found myself with more time to devote to this new challenge; a challenge I knew that I could take on with a strong council of hard-working coaches by my side.”

For the uninitiated, the ICSI is, in its own words, “a formal, non-profit-making organisation serving clay shooting coaches and instructors” that aims to “deliver continuous professional development”.

ICSI members visit each other’s grounds to better understand their trade

“We believe that to become a great coach you must continually look to develop your skills and educate yourself,” adds John.

“Every month, we host seminars on a wide variety of subjects. We bring in an expert to talk on a topic, then chair a discussion group based on that.

“But we also take a step beyond the usual courses you’d expect. As coaches, we often get asked questions on the wider shooting industry, so we work to educate our members beyond the stands.

“For example, we recently visited the Birmingham Proof House to learn about the history of small-arms safety. We’ve also visited Longthorne Gunmakers and many cartridge manufacturers.”

While the ICSI’s visits might sound a bit like a school trip, they serve a purpose beyond education. “Coaches are a very disparate group,” says John. “These trips give our members a chance to connect with other professionals across our network.


For more information

To learn more about the Institute and John’s work, visit