Most students don’t know about the university team which exists quietly alongside football and rugby. The Napier University Archery Club (NUAC) has its eye firmly on the target, however, and is having a very successful season.
One visit to see this mysterious club in practice brings home the noiseless intensity of the sport, soon shattered by a shrill whistle and the thuds and thumps of the team’s arrows hitting the bulls-eye. The archers themselves are enthusiastic and passionate, eager to demonstrate the techniques required to make it in this highly competitive sport.
For a sport it certainly is; Napier archery is a far cry from Robin Hood and his merry men. The club has two tiers of ability - novice and experienced. This set up means that everyone, no matter their level of skill, has a chance of competing.
Stewart Barclay set up NUAC in 2004 after being inspired by the Edinburgh University club of which he was a member. He told The Journal that one of the biggest obstructions was people’s perceptions: “I think probably the hardest time was right at the beginning, convincing people that an archery club would work, getting enough people. A lot of people think: 'archery, I’ve never tried that before, I’ll have a go at that.' Hopefully we retain enough of them to keep going.”
The Napier Students Association (NSA) were at first sceptical but helpful about the new club. Barclay says: “They didn’t give us much money because obviously it was a start-up club and seeing it from their point of view it was quite a big risk to give money to a club in its first year, but they gave us some money.”
Barclay was then able to borrow equipment from contacts at his previous club, and had a helping hand from the archery societies the Fellowship of the Bow and the Royal Company of Archers.
This year has been a particularly successful season, with record-breaking scores and consistent good form. Barclay says that this is down to increasing members: “We have broken a ton of club records this year and some of them by quite a lot. [This is] by far our most successful year in terms of being consistent. We’ve been second in all our Scottish University matches this year which is something we hadn’t done before: we’ve always been up and down. We have much greater depth in the squad this year.”
NUAC plays against six other Scottish universities, as well as in occasional British competitions. Edinburgh University are the dominant team in the Scottish University Sports competitions (SUS). Barclay says they intend to keep up the pressure: “We hope to continue what we’ve done all this year which is to come second: we got quite close to Edinburgh who are usually the most dominant team in our league, so we’ve come quite close to them a couple times over this season, and we want to continue with that.”
The few outdoor competitions over the summer will see Napier archery firing on all cylinders. This is a club which has much to offer those willing to give it a chance - just leave all jokes about men in tights at the door.