Flu for me and then in my dash to catch up – I broke the website!!!!

Hello!! 🫣😂🙃

8 days in the house with flu and some scary moments in there when it attacked my asthma! But I think I am now well and truly on the mend.

So today I thought I would catch up properly with everything and get up to date and broke the website in my enthusiasm!! Thank goodness for the very lovely people at one.com who with significant patience have got me sorted 😍

So this is now much later in the day than intended and I have still got lots to do, so as a result this will be short.

The schools have all broken up for Christmas break and the children appear to have had lots of fun in their final sessions and were mostly sent home with sweets as a result of their Christmas shooting activities. Thank you to all of the teachers, school instructors, Maggie, Duncan, Jack, Chris and Julie for another fantastic term with over 250 children shooting on a weekly basis, amazing work.

Much love to Julie on her recovery following an accident on the icy paths, please be careful in this weather people.

Tidying up plans in the coming days ready for the new year so we can relax for a few days over the Christmas break.

So pleased to hear that the funding we applied for from Northants Sports has been granted to allow Chris to bump up her training from years as an instructor to now become a sessions coach, I guess that means that the last 15 months on the education project and being a committee member for the club from August didn’t scare you off 😉

Thank you for your commitment to the work that we are doing, never do I take it for granted.

The plans have been set for my disability coach training in the new year and I am thrilled that they have accepted my offer to help out at two clubs on my Saturdays to consolidate my training and utilise me when I make those trips to London rather than the usual one. It’s going to be exciting learning how to deliver 5 new sports in an adaptive environment.

Have a good weekend, shoot strong, stay safe and warm ❤️🏹 and in case you are too busy with plans in the coming days, have a fantastic Christmas break 🎅🏻🎄

Week 24! Lasted a lifetime but some things did get done!

This week started with the funeral of someone special who always encouraged and supported me to do anything and be anything, I shall miss her dearly and will try to remember all of the things she taught me in the time I was privileged to have her in my life. From the coffees she made me to sit and recover from the emotional weekly counselling sessions as she lived close by, to her amazing relationship with my children, definitely a dear friend who’s love I shall carry with me always.

Sessions to catch up on with Northants Sports from the latest NFDS meeting, in particular in regards to the VR therapies and the Special Olympics Great Britain.

I have a lot of catching up to do and apologies to send for missed and/or late communications and I am starting all of those in the morning as I appear to finally picking back up after 5 days of being seriously unwell. If I can make a call I will but most likely it’s going to be majority emails for at least a little while as I recover fully.

As the schools we have been working in are winding up for Christmas it has been nice to hear of the fun being had to bring the term to an end in preparation for their breaks, thank you to Maggie, Chris, Duncan, Jack and Julie and all of the teaching staff who are still using their instructors qualifications across the many schools. Enjoy your breaks and look forward to seeing how 2023 progresses, in particular for those children who have set themselves targets.

Week 23 – disability, inclusion, grassroots and friends

Integr8Archery, Arcus Archery and Archery GB – strength in numbers

Another busy week, a pleasure to attend the West Northants Council International Day of People with Disabilities and the celebrations. Having previously met and spoken with Paralympic Champion Swimmer Ellie Robinson it was a pleasure to hear her speak again and also to watch the performance by Born to Perform. I always come away from these events energised and with my mind racing with ideas around how we can overcome barriers. Absolutely helps me feel that the work that I am doing with Integr8Archery and on my way to becoming a Disability Sports Coach is worth the hard days I sometimes have.

This weekend was the National Indoor Championships, Junior National Indoor Championships and the Back to Back events that end the 2022 AGB competition calendar. I so enjoy these days with my friends who by volunteering together we use the power of the blue shirt to pull off events that enable others to have amazing experiences. We can’t all win but it doesn’t mean they don’t take something positive away from the experience. Registration is also a great way to meet them with a smile, I often hear “I can’t attend a national competition because I am not good enough ” from local archers! Nope, we can all go and experience these things. I see my job to be that first face you see and to make you feel welcome and absolutely in the right place. Where I can I try and keep an eye on some and find out how they are getting on. Being in those environments with hundreds of people can be intimidating- if I can help a little then I did my job, one of the greatest things is when people come to find me to tell me how they got on. It’s a privilege that they remember me from the beginning of the day and come back to say thank you. Long days but absolutely worthwhile.

Another big shout out to my amazing friend Deb Horn, who I have mentioned several times over this 23 weeks. Our aims are linked and collaborating will make us stronger and she is moving forward with Arcus Archery as I announced a couple of weeks ago, but doing things a little differently can be a little slow when technology has to be tweaked to fit our needs so many thanks to Arran Coggan and Helen Smedley who have been very patient whilst we sort all of it out. The support of the National Governing Body is something that I have never taken for granted and I do believe that there is strength in collaboration and whilst there has been some change for me in 2022, collaborating is still going to help my projects move forward. Also thank you to the people who stopped me to discuss what I am doing it’s always going to blow me away I think to hear that people are interested so thank you for the kind words.

So now I want you to think about safeguarding, a topic I know makes many people groan and their eyes roll. For me it’s the biggest, most important issue. I work hard in this area. But, ask yourself, do you keep up with issues that relate to it, do you just think it’s boring so don’t pay it too much attention? There are lots of other things that tie into safeguarding.

The scenario is this:

A busy competition day, lots going on. Someone missed something and as they were asked to do it, needed a little further explanation. The person behind was getting a little impatient and said something rude to the person who required that little bit extra help. The person explaining pointed out that it was taking a little longer because the person required help because they had a condition and named the condition.

So, safeguarding? GDPR?

Personally I will do all that I can to help, I will not allow people to be rude, I don’t believe an explanation is needed and I do believe that disclosing another persons medical issue, physical, mental, learning related is a breach of GDPR.

I will leave you to think on it.

Competition days are not just about medals

Volunteering, friends and rewards

So this weekend sees the last AGB tournament of 2022. What do I get out of giving my time to these events? The privilege of being part of an amazing team who together put on world class events.

The only way you can find out how much you can enjoy it is to have a go. So why not take a look and see what you could be involved in.

Is it hard work? Yes. Will you enjoy it? I would be surprised if you don’t!! Will you want to do it again? I believe so!! My family of blue shirts are pretty amazing and achieve fantastic events by being the best team there is.

This weekend my amazing friend is joining us – let’s see how she gets on.

With everything that has gone on this year I had withdrawn from competition volunteering but that didn’t last very long did it 😂

I have volunteered at:

Junior National Outdoor Championships

European Youth Championships

European Para Championships

National Tour Finals

AGB National County Team Competition

AGB National Indoor Championships

Junior National Indoor Championships

18 days – you don’t have to give that much of your time 😂but I think you should give it a try and see what you think.

I was asked why I hadn’t just walked away this year and why I stayed with my sport and fought for my projects. There are still days I see it as a possibility- but it takes care of me as much as I take care of it! Plus I only have to start looking at stats to remind myself of what I am doing it for. I have been looking at numbers in a big way for the last month. I will share more of these another day but how about this one? Every week in Northamptonshire alone my Archery In Education project sees 225 children shoot on a weekly basis, that doesn’t include the ones who drop in for a taste!

Worth fighting for surely? Then there are my other projects!!

I have not lost sight of the ones I had to drop either, every now and then I look at them and ponder, could I pick them back up? It would be a lot on my own and at the moment I have to be realistic and say no.

Right I need a cuppa, see you Tuesday for 23 weeks!!

22 weeks, it’s getting cold, still outside where we can be though.

Great spaces in the schools who work with us

Lots of admin, meetings and planning this last week.

Without a doubt I am most proud that the club at one of our secondary schools properly started this week, in addition to their curriculum sessions that have been running several weeks. These are the children who have been setting themselves goals and are now making arrangements for having video kit in place to watch themselves back and also these newly formed club members want to make a number of videos to help the curriculum sessions – these children are amazing, a few weeks of shooting, set up their club, set their individual and club goals and already looking at how to coach each other and help their peers improve.

Thank you to Duncan for agreeing to join the Integr8Archery coaching team, I am careful who I choose to engage in projects, and I am thrilled with how my team of coaches is doing and of those who are agreeing to work with me. Also the reserve list of coaches who are looking to help in the future but have currently got commitments stopping then starting right away.

I have learned a lot in the last 18 months about how to select my workforce and it’s most certainly paying off this last 3/4 months as things really start to settle. There is nothing more freeing than knowing that those representing the projects are doing so in such great style.

Chats around data sharing to allow comparisons and best practises and to see how different people working on similar projects can help each other with shared ideas was a very promising conversation.

Also safeguarding best practices and forging a way forward to make positive changes – the future holds great possibilities if we can pull it all together.

Keeping it short and sweet because I know everyone is concentrating on the football, something I love but have rejected in protest this year, the first World Cup I can remember not watching, but some things are greater in importance.

Take care and speak Saturday, I will be volunteering at the indoor nationals so I hope to see many of you there ❤️🏹

Why can we talk about physical health but not mental health?

A most awful day?! But an amazing support crew along the field ❤️

I am often asked about why I talk about my mental health, why don’t I hide it? Erm, because it shouldn’t be hidden!

Easter Sunday 2020 I decided, as I sat drinking my early morning coffee in the garden, to cut down a couple of trees and got on with it, was making good time proceeding well, and boom – found myself impaled on a tree stump! Scared people who cared whilst we waited to find out the short and long term answers. Thanks to an amazing surgical team seeing me in A&E and then going on to see me every second day for a couple of weeks, I can say I have still got my leg, it’s got a scar and a dent and I have covered it in an ocean where every creature represents and is named by an archer.

But as I went through that process and even now when it’s not happy, people want to know, how am I getting on, can they help?

I have joint and pain related issues, my asthma that’s not happy, my damaged ear with it’s resulting hearing impairment and now the blood disorder. (Yes! I know I am physically a wreck 🤷‍♀️). All of these things, people help or ask about.

But my mind, well – it would be easier if you hid it, kept it to yourself, it’s uncomfortable.

It’s still Health!!! So Why?

I am not going to hide it, and if me talking about it helps someone else with their issues then I am glad I shared.

This last year has been horrific, I don’t need to share why, but I can say when I need to – today I need a bit of extra care, or a little extra support or can you just be a little more mindful?

I have been blessed to have a small group of amazing people who have supported me more than I could have imagined and I am grateful. I have cried – a lot! You find it annoying? Not anywhere near as much as I do!!

My counsellor and I have worked harder in 2022 than we have had to in years. We are kind of at an impasse now, there are so many answers I need that are being withheld and telling me to get over IT when you really do not understand what IT is, doesn’t help, but I will likely nod and humour you and just remove you from my circle because then you don’t have to deal with it, because that’s what you are saying, you don’t want to or it’s uncomfortable to.

Those amazing people who stay by my side, they admit, like me that we don’t have the answers, that’s ok, they are however willing to sit with me in my dark, and because of them and my children I am still here when there have been serious spells this year when I almost wasn’t, because I believed (and sometimes still do) that might have been the better answer for us all.

I am not asking you to take it all on, I don’t need everyone to know the whole story.

What I am asking you is why if I am physically unwell is that ok to discuss but when my mind wobbles I am asked to hide it?

Stigmas around mental health are tough to break, but I will not live with them or hide because of them.

There is a lot of information out there and this is important to know where to look because most people have issues at some point in their lives and need a little support, but for some people it’s a daily battle – ongoing.

Please check out Mind if you want to learn a little.

So relieved when I walked onto this range in June that it was one where I do still feel safe, never shot on it, but certainly would have walked away from my sport if this had not been safe for my well-being. ❤️🏹

21 weeks, it’s cold! Illness doesn’t stop everything, emails can be sent from under a quilt 😂

Pretty much the expression that I have been mostly wearing this week

So week 21 saw me hit with germs and mostly sleep. Turns out the already poor functioning blood doesn’t do recovery well!
However, despite all of that, I did manage to get some things done.

Conversations about how we divide the Muslim community group into smaller manageable groups to introduce to archery. I am thrilled at the choice made for our first priority and I cannot wait to see them start.

A couple of new groups reached out and though early, I think they both look like we immediately have a plan of action so it’s going to be exciting over the coming weeks.

Schools moving into club phase, and the numbers of children wanting to extend their archery from curriculum to club has taken me by surprise but I am thrilled that they are enjoying it, setting themselves goals and seeing it as an alternative to hanging around the streets after school finishes. Most definitely proof of those conversations I had in the early summer at the knife angel event.

Whilst I had been disappointed when first hearing of the weekend’s training for my Disability Sports Coach course being postponed, by the time the weekend came around I was actually pleased as I likely wouldn’t have been able to make it, but it did give me time to plan and suggest ways that I can maximise my days in London for placement days so it wasn’t wasted time.

Lots of talk around well-being, some general but some specifically around issues arising, sometimes a coffee and sharing thoughts is all it takes to see a way around a blockage in communication. It is always a privilege that people see me as someone they can trust for these conversations.

A fitting point, perhaps to remind you all that it’s safeguarding adults week, if you want to know a little more the Ann Craft Trust is a great place to start.

Several other project issues this week would point me to the belief that within the “art of repetition” we could use improvement in the “art of communication”.

Within the three Monday schools sessions 7 children picked up a bow for the first time, these are the things that keep me moving forward on the days I might quit and Monday afternoon seriously was another of those “why am I doing this” moments.

Gratitude to the friends who reached out and made me laugh and reminded me that I love this sport and I am passionate about what we can achieve with it. So I guess I will stay a little longer 😉 (we know that I am unlikely to go anywhere really).

Finished the week with a smile despite the illness and wobbles

International Men’s Day – 19th November 2022.

Firstly I want to say I am blessed to know many men and boys who are amazing examples of what we should be celebrating and are great role models, you don’t have to be prefect to be an example to others.

So I would like to say thank you to every one of you who bring something to my world. I am not going to name names or list what each give me, support, laughter, hugs, listening to me on my worried, sad, excited days. Encouraging me to be the best version of me that I can be. Without a doubt my dad and my son have been amazing this year despite their own issues, but there are others who have not given up on me and gently pushed me – thank you, every single one of you.

The theme of 2022 is helping men and boys. We are all familiar with Movember which is an opportunity to raise money and focus on men’s health and tomorrow, 20th November is International Children’s Day and it is suggested this year that we focus on 48 hours of celebration of men and children the special relationships that they share. With this in mind I would like to thank Paul Sharpe for being a great father to our amazing children and helping them to achieve their goals.

Take a look at these links and enjoy helping the men in your life know that we do appreciate everything that they do.

International Men’s Day UK

Movember UK

Me and my dad – just a little while ago ❤️

20 weeks of Integr8Archery but also another anniversary that I am proud of today too ❤️🏹🥳

Busy busy week meetings, AGM and learning

20 weeks! I still sometimes feel a little shocked and surprised that I have a business and a club!

This week has been lots of paper work, training and emotion for a number of reasons. It takes all of that in the background to get weeks like the one last week when we saw 65 new children across 3 schools pick up bows. Planning, planning and planning to bring those things together. So there has been a lot of that this week.

Thursday saw the NCAS agm where I collected my year bar, this has been a tough year and I am still not sure how much more shooting I have in me, added to the ongoing issues that we have been working on for 3 years to keep me shooting, the emotional and mental health issues from this last 11 months are now becoming very real physical issues and there appears to be a limit to what the team that is me, the counsellor, GP and asthma nurse can achieve but shooting is becoming much more of a struggle. It’s hard not to compare what I have done this year with what I have achieved at my best, but when I tried to say goodbye and thank you to the county squad they didn’t just let me go and I am grateful because between them and my flight family it is most definitely why I am still even trying to find a way to keep going with my bow. Collecting that tiny little bar gave me a lot to think about but a positive boost too.

I absolutely enjoyed meeting the other candidates on the disability sports coaching course, this is going to be a great group to learn with and from, still a little overwhelming to think I have to learn 5 new sports but this together with when I complete my archery instructor course, I will have the ability to deliver 6 adaptive sports to those looking to find a sport they enjoy, and again making me feel more positive about doing something I was always very much set against.

Finishing the day early saw me have time to have a wander, so I chose Camden. There had been a surprise plan to be here earlier in the year as one of a number of steps to launch, promote and celebrate all of the projects that would launch from May to October, disappointment that this wasn’t the visit it should’ve been had it been part of that plan, but as I pondered the things that have been missed out on, the steps in place for me to save some of the projects, the prospect of what could happen if things were to be picked back up and collaborating re-started, what I can confirm is that my best friend definitely missed out on the most amazing pastrami sandwich, which I had researched and found at his request. The only one I have had that has tasted better was across the Atlantic Ocean. The hug I received from the person who would have been helping with the surprise and what we were going to do locally was almost as good 😉 I mean come on, what beats pastrami and pickles 😂, but thank you for the chat, it meant a lot that you were going to support us, I am still grateful for that support and belief in what we were going to do despite what’s happened to stop it. I would like to think we could re-start all of that work, but it needs us both to be brave enough – not me alone.

This summer has been the summer of finding hidden treasure at different sites looking to come on board the projects that I have salvaged and last week’s new school had dug around and found kit that had been packed away years ago, excellent when they have big plans and it helps us to focus their budget on what needs to be added rather than starting fresh.

What else is today? It is a year today that Dave and I took the out of school setting children indoors for the winter to shoot at the transport museum. Over that indoor season it was a privilege to watch those children and adults push their boundaries and challenge themselves in so many ways. Along with that amazing day there is of course the Monday a couple of weeks later when I walked in, found a surprise bus and fire engine in the range 😱🫣😂 and had to quickly run back out to warn my coach – made for some fantastic photos over the following months though. The group isn’t currently shooting and this is something I continue to work at getting back on track, but I have plans for this coming weekend to shoot with one of the those children, his mum is going to be doing an instructors course, a little later than planned but I am grateful she has stuck with Integr8Archery and the archery in education project.

Also, seeing one of the alternate placement children from this group back in a mainstream setting a few weeks ago, at one of the schools who works with us, seeing how sport has helped make the integration smoother and discussing how archery was used to help with literacy and maths lesson last year and having the school interested in maybe using it to help academically within their setting too.

I do believe that archery can help change lives, sport can be used for so many things and so I will continue to do my very best to work to help bring about those changes. I am proud of what I have managed to achieve with this sport and those who step in to work with me. 6 years since I first stepped in to help at an event but without a doubt Covid really turned up my determination. Let’s get everyone moving and see the improvement they find in so many different ways.

Out of school setting move indoors 15th November 2021 and the day the vehicles moved into the range!

Quit, change, challenge? Your choice!

Apologies this is a day late, I had drafted my blog Friday evening ready to tweak a little after my first day of training with disability sports coach but we finished earlier than expected and as I took myself for a stroll I thought of an entirely different blog. Unsure which to publish I decided to wait and it was the right decision as I have decided that both deserve to be seen, so here is my originally planned blog and I shall tweak the other and it will be published next Saturday.

Several months ago I was asked about my previously published blogs and if I would link them here, I asked permission several times about adding links to that website here on mine and never received a reply. So, after some quick checks to cover the legalities, I have gradually reposted them here, and I thank those people who pushed me, because they do continue to open conversation and discussion and new people have reached out to chat with me who have seen things relevant to them in what I have written, it’s always humbling to have someone read my blog and then share their story, I carry each with me like treasure because I know it’s not easy to share.

My last republished blog is about trying something new, pushing your boundaries, rejuvenating what’s happening. At the time this was originally written I had been struggling with my body breaking down and moving to seated and the opinions that came with that, but a hand of archery friendship invited me to try something new and it gave me the boost to stay with my bow. It has definitely been the biggest part of why I haven’t quit this year too.

There is no secret that I am passionate that our sport is adaptive in such an exceptional way that it doesn’t exclude anyone and I continue to work daily on getting new people to pick up a bow.

Within this, what I have discovered is their is a shortage of people available to deliver adaptive sports to those who want to take part, after seeing the inclusive activity leaders course advertised on the Parasport website, I decided to apply.
I have been quite vocal for years about not being a coach, many people telling me to go for it, it’s really not something I ever wanted, but I find myself in a position of having to take an archery instructors course, something that I have been quite resentful for (thank you to those who have had to listen to me snarl and stamp my feet about it). The disability sports coach course has also made me feel much more positive about that, it’s no longer about being prepared for when I am let down and jumping in to deliver sessions, it’s now about having the ability to deliver 6 sports to those looking to access them.

So are you struggling with staying positive, thinking of quitting or cannot remember where you left your motivation? Sure you can sit on the sofa under a blanket, and I do that when I need to, or you could try something new, it can be small, but it might light a spark. Give it a go!


Originally Published 27th August 2021 by Aim4sport.

Having been shooting for 3 years and half of that in a pandemic and the various happenings of 2020 my goals slid and for various reasons I sat down on several occasions with the very real question around quitting everything related to my sport.

I have always enjoyed competing (my first season saw me shoot 26 competitions) – it gives me focus on the days I don’t want to pick up my bow to practise.

I am not interested in beating others – just in pushing myself.

So 2021, I managed to start to settle with the changes I had been forced to make to continue shooting but I needed to find competitions, I enjoy going to new clubs, new places – whilst I have met some people with “interesting” views the majority of archery clubs and archers are incredibly welcoming and I find you don’t feel like a stranger very often.

With the current situation, many clubs have had to cancel or postpone competition which is very understandable. So I threw out a request on social media with some dates I had no plans for.

I was quickly given some ideas and the one that really sparked my interest was a suggestion I could step outside my comfort zone and try flight archery. The offer came via Ian Norwood of Riverside archers who assured me that I would be very welcome and supported if I turned up to the competition having never shot a flight arrow and I could enter the target bow category.

Some quick research made me realise that with little adjustments I could have a go and test my boundaries and generally just have some fun!!

So Sunday 15/8/21 I found myself on the airfield at Church Fenton to learn to shoot flight at the national championships!

What can I say? It has been amazing day spent with fantastic people who have the most positive attitude towards our sport! No grumpy faces just a genuine anticipation of what may be achieved during the day by those who are on the line. And we saw a world record taken with a shot at over 900 metres!!

I say we saw – as a target archer it’s a little unnerving that we don’t actually see anything – we fire the arrows into the sky with no hope of seeing where they are going you cannot possibly follow them with your eye!

We are also used to the “no coaching from the line” rule – so to stand on the shooting line and as you draw an arrow a voice calls out “Helen I’ve got you” and the chaos of voices vanishes as you focus on that one voice who guides you to try and ensure that together your arrow is released at the optimum moment – truly team work.

I was adopted by Riverside archers before the day and they were amazing in their support of me, but for anyone wanting to try and knowing no one when you arrive don’t worry about that – they are the most welcoming group I think you will meet.

With no disrespect, as I am a target archer, and I fully understand the mindset – can you imagine arriving at the national championships having never given it a go and being asked by the tournament organiser if there was anyone there who had never tried? To find yourself surrounded by people who will then help you achieve your best on the day?

So, as there were no other female compounders I came away with 4 gold medals and being declared national champion in 4 categories. I had gone to the event with the aim of taking on category C – target bow compound.

I was encouraged to play with the other 3 categories so I did, these would definitely have belonged to someone else had there been entries with relevant kit.

My category C? Well we’ll never know – had another lady arrived with target bow and arrows it would have been fun for sure to have someone for comparison.

I know I was short by some way of the record for the distance shot in that category, but I also know my score would have been valid to earn a Merlin badge in the raptor scheme if I could achieve a second score to support it.

However, I now have to wait until next August to enter all 3 flight competitions – see if I can earn that badge in the award scheme, make some small tweaks to my category C kit and wonder should I consider another bow style to try in a different category! I have after all been playing recently with longbows!

I have to thank John Marshall for loaning me transport when my own car failed it’s MOT 36 hours before the competition!!

Benjamin Horner, Dave Leader and Daniel Smitton for their help letting me bounce around ideas and plans to prep and get ready. Most declared my plan to be lunacy so thank you for embracing my plans.

And the very best wishes to all at Riverside archers for the next 11 months and I will hope to see you all on the 7th, 14th and 21st of August 2022.

2022 – still encouraging me to move forward and push my boundaries