New Year = New Challenges? What will you do in 2024 as we reflect on 2023?

It’s that time of year when we reflect on the year that’s coming to an end, most of us do it, only natural I guess. For me it’s just a blink of an eye from last New Year’s Eve. Walking in to see my parents and spend a couple days with them but realising that likely wouldn’t be the case. We had spent time over Christmas FaceTiming and laughing and those memories will always make what came next easier, it certainly gives me comfort to recall the laughter shared between dad and the children.

So my 2023 started with the end of dad’s life, 3 days when we were supported by an amazing team who we didn’t even know on New Year’s Eve.

We had spent 6 and a half months having big conversations, hard conversations and talking about little things- we knew what was going to happen and we prepared for it and I have had a year of his voice in my ear with the messages he left from those conversations.

2023 was going to be the year I tried to build on the recovery of my mental health after the horrific 2021/2022 and everything that it brought, but I would be doing it without my dad.

So, did I achieve it? In many ways, yes! My head is a calmer, stronger place but I also still have more work to do there, a lot more work. I am pleased I have the years of messages that contain the promises that were used to destroy me, they reassure me that my memories and recollections are right and my counsellor confirms that my reactions to everything that followed are reasonable and I am grateful that she’s always there when I need her.

2023 has allowed me to breathe and look at Integr8archery CIC with a more relaxed view. I am proud of what I achieve and grateful to those who help me. It’s also the positive of what came from that very dark period of my life and it’s something I shared in our weekly chats with dad, his love of listening to me talk of “my little business”. He was proud of those stats in the blog on the 26/12/22 and it makes me proud to have those 6 monthly reflections as I can hear him speak to me.

2022 and 2023 have taught me that I give so very much to my sport and that it’s ok to admit that it’s not always a good thing and with that in mind 2023 saw me start to build on some of the other things that I do and change the balance of where I use my time.

In 2023 – I gave a total of 1243 hours to volunteering, averaged that’s 23.9 hours a week. 2022 had that figure at just over 30 hours a week. So I have claimed a bit of time, not a lot, but those who know me well know that 7 hours a week for me is massive!

Of those hours 20.66 a week are for Integr8archery CIC – a total of 48 hours from that 1243 had nothing to do with archery at all!

I absolutely advocate volunteering and what you can get from giving to others, I really wouldn’t advocate giving the number of hours that I give!

Professional change came from a change in job but not to the one that I had been offered a year ago, in fact what I do hadn’t even been a thought a year ago! But I love it and I have been promoted, is it difficult some days, yes! Is it worth doing – absolutely and I cannot imagine what you might offer me as an alternative that I would consider doing! I mean I must love it to be going to an ice skating disco for over 8 hours this evening 🫣😬😱😂

My archery? I had hoped to get back to my 1000 arrows a week, stats show me I have averaged 525 arrows a week! Not what I had wanted but neither had I anticipated the time/balance of new work and family responsibilities or my ever deteriorating physical health. My shoulder has deteriorated, my back is definitely not happy 😬 but my hands, particularly my right hand, the deterioration there in 2023 has seen me loose the ability to grip at an accelerated rate this year, and the weird spasms in my thumb are frankly bizarre/frustrating and weird. Three hospital appointments in the next few weeks will hopefully move us to some answers! 🤞🏻

Of course the good news in my archery is the gift of new cams from the manufacturer for my bow which I now have back and the timing is that I can learn my new way of shooting with my very pretty bow in my hands. Thank you to Maggie, Bowtech and Martin.

These changes meant that the classification I had worked hard at for the outdoor season from starting in 2018 to summer 2022 slipped in 2023 – and yes, I measure the new classifications but also use the old because for comparison they have meaning that the new just don’t yet. Indoors I had finished 2022/2023 on my best ever indoor classification and though this season started way below, the work I am putting in is seeing that climb back up and maybe I might 🤞🏻 end the indoors where I was last year – and it will be fun to see where I settle on the new indoor classifications.

2024? work on my hand, work on my archery, and continue to work towards access to sport for all. It’s going to be interesting to see where it goes but at least I know I will see many of you as I go through the year – and that is by far the most important part of 2024 – I wish you good health, love and laughter 🥰🥂

Week 78 – 18 months – numbers! 🤩 Thank you so very much

As you know I keep track of my stats and what I am achieving to make sure it’s worth the many many hours given to everything that Integr8archery CIC was set up to achieve. I complete the weekly update and most weeks a midweek blog drop too to keep you in the loop. As you know the 6 and 12 months stages I updated with stats.

So here I am 18 months! A number of groups are continuing to work with us on a regular basis, frequency varies from group to group.

But today I am concentrating on new hands on bows from June 2023 – December 2023 –

Education including primary and secondary schools and colleges = 384 & 32 = 416

Children in foster care = 13

Community Groups = 81

Disability sessions = 36

The group sessions for those in refuge saw us work with 25 individuals and I am proud to say this period has included a group of men, having previously been just women.

So a total of 571 individuals picking up a bow – (inclusive of soft archery but mostly pointy) in the last 26 weeks

Also 4 archers who had stopped shooting feeling that they had no place in our sport have spent time chatting with me and are back regularly shooting.

Thank you to everyone who lets me share my passion for this sport that I love but also to the coaches who work it’s me, you are all amazing and between us there’s not much we cannot achieve.

I have also attended:

8 training sessions/courses,

9 webinars/seminars,

16 meetings

and 5 conferences.

I am excited for the very many things planned for 2024 and continue to be motivated by what is being achieved by Integr8archery CIC.

There’s lots to share with you all in the coming months and these figures only tell part of the story as you will soon see.

I hope that you have enjoyed the holiday season so far and wish you all a very happy 2024 and I do hope it’s filled with love and laughter for you all ❤️🏹🥂

1st anniversary 🥳 PTSD awareness day – perfect timing ❤️🏹

Well hello there, pull up a chair!

For those of you who have been here from the beginning you may have noticed the date! 52 weeks in a year right? So that would make today the day! 365 days – yes? So that would make tomorrow the day 😜 but as you know I do my end of week blogs on Tuesday and a midweek blog on Saturday. So please forgive me – I’m using the 52 weeks for my celebrating 🥳

A small group of people woke up 52 weeks ago to a message that I had been up all night with paper scattered all over the floor making lists of pros and cons and planning and the decision had been firmly made that I was sticking with my sport, as an archer, with my projects, getting it out there to new people but also continuing to work with those already in the sport who faced changes of various kinds to stay with the sport. After months of various people telling me I could, I had heard the message the evening before and decided he and all the others offering to support me might be right, I had been doing this for years before I collaborated and I could do it going forward without those collaborations too.

So I needed to set up a business, quickly and move forward with the world understanding who I am and what I wanted to do, but first I needed a name – we had sorted it between us within 3 hours, a logo was next – I had that by tea time! A plan, I had created that in the middle of the night. A website started the following day, a Facebook page, instagram ………. an announcement to the world! What a first week! Community Interest Company – non profit – status granted, terms firmly set. An archery club – a committee and away we went!

6 months allowed me to reveal amazing stats, available because in January 2021 I started to keep stats on my hours as a response to criticism about why a person would volunteer and not do all of these things for profit. Stats on the projects were easy as I had been keeping those for years.

Those figures were seen by my dad, my weekly voice of reality in those 6 months as I started Integr8Archery a week after his diagnosis and the news he only had a few months left. Those conversations were a break for us both from the conversations about his illness, his treatment and the information we had about what his wishes were and what a future without him might be. I was proud he saw those figures, he was proud of what I had achieved in those 6 months. A week later – as I was writing my 27 weeks blog, I was sat chatting to him knowing there was very little time left, but he had wanted to know everything and so we shared the writing of that blog just hours before he lost his fight. I want him here to see what I have to share today, he isn’t, but I know what he would say, because he shared his thoughts and I hear him daily 🤗

So, my 2 a week blogs have kept you up to date with events and plans.

52 weeks in Numbers –

52 weeks = 1085 hours of my time given, for free to Integr8Archery! For every 1 hour there has been a bow in the new hands of 1.9 people! So many sustainable groups along with one off sessions or short term groups. Community groups that strive to include everyone – to hit my aims for equality, inclusion, diversity and accessibility.

“ changing lives through archery”

But what else, we know I don’t just give my time to Integr8Archery.

I have given 206.5 hours of my time to Archery GB to volunteer as part of the competition workforce. I shoot and I love competitions and whilst I am only ever interested in what I am doing, comparing myself only with myself, I know competitions only happen because of volunteers – give it a go! It’s by far the best blue shirt there is, to wear amongst a great volunteer family.

I have also given 34 hours to other things, such as marshalling, I use other sports to help me stay grounded, mix with others. It certainly helps with my headspace to keep my circle wider than my sport, one that I love, but one where I was taken to my knees.

So, that’s 1325.5 hours of my time given as a volunteer across sports. 25.4 hours a week! That’s on top of my very demanding day job, my family and friends and my own shooting. I don’t sleep, we know that, what else would I do with my time 😂🫣🤷‍♀️ I mean we get 168 hours in a week, how do you spend yours 🙃

Thank you to my family, friends, club committee and every coach or ear/shoulder of support from 28/6/22 to date.

It blows my mind that just 6 weeks prior to that I was sat in A&E because I found myself in a place that meant I could only see one answer, simply not to be here at all! Well if I had succeeded that day over 2000 people are unlikely to have picked up a bow!

Seriously though, I have been asked why I share what’s happening with my mental health? Why? Because it might just help even 1 person and if it does that’s what matters.

In the autumn I was formally diagnosed with PTSD, see why it’s relevant that today – my year is also PTSD awareness day!

My mental health has been an issue since 1996 and the trauma that changed everything, over the years it’s created a number of issues and I do share about them. I have had a number of ways to deal with that and learn methods to handle the issues that I face and live with. However from November 2021 to June 2022 someone set about destroying those methods leaving me in a darker place, with my grounding and management techniques removed – coping was unlikely.

My counsellor is amazing, without a doubt a focus has helped and here I sit, with these amazing numbers to show as a result of that focus.

I have tried new things, we’re still learning how to replace what I had taken. I do know that if you look at how relaxed I am on the range, shooting, smiling on arrival and departure – wow, look at the change from the fear and the tears of 2022. Thank you for the support and hugs and patience that I was shown and to the clubs who now give me safe space where I know my mind can calm.

There have been happenings in the last couple of weeks that have made me stumble and I can say that I am about to embark on another new step, having signed up to a programme with The Frank Bruno Foundation. I will let you know how it goes.

I sit here with a list of planned events, new ideas bouncing around even just Monday 26/6/23 seeing communications starting around some possible VI work and new sustainable sessions. Exciting things to come in the second year of Integr8Archery CIC. I am proud of what I have achieved so far and excited about what is to come. You are welcome to continue to join me – the 2 blogs a week will continue for those who are interested. Saturday will give you a little more information about how those numbers I have quoted here breakdown.

Today? Eat cake and raise a cuppa with me 🥳

See you all soon, it is a privilege to be allowed to be a part of what our sport can give to those who pick up a bow ❤️🏹 thank you 🥰

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!

13 weeks is 3 months! oh wow!

Today is the day! happy anniversary gift – the club is now live!

I have thought long and hard about today’s blog, the questions that I tried to politely answer 4 weeks ago are still being asked. However they will be dealt with at a different time, today is about what have I done in my first 3 months as Integr8archery. Having taken control of some of my work, work I have been doing for years, what have I managed to do with those projects in this 13 week period?

Well my Northamptonshire schools are still shooting, some existing and new schools have had some day sessions for different groups, resulting in me now discussing with a number of primary, secondary and a higher education facility how to get their sites up and running. 3 groups looking to have a number of children join my club whilst shooting on their site.

Hopefully continued involvement with the school games, working on a possibly huge Project Rimaya group and new multi sports collaboration in Northamptonshire with the activity partnership.

Some pilots being ironed out to get my out of school setting children back shooting, focusing on their return for autumn/winter and new children come spring.

Leicestershire is fast turning into a rival in size, likely may even be bigger than Northamptonshire – currently 2 waves of schools planned – the first a possible 17 primary schools going live, the second 12 schools from a combination of primary and secondary schools.

Plus the new development of low active groups within the county and how we can get those moving by working together across the county.

The exciting news that after successfully applying for various grants in the last 2 years, last week I received the wonderful news that the first grant I have applied for under integr8archery will see The Worshipful Company of Fletchers help Northamptonshire Carers.

I have joined forces with Well-being through Sport, the Sport Development Coalition, the Belong Network, and my amazing friend who is evolving her own work and has allowed me the privilege of the two of us sharing the space to safely find our way forward together whilst separately, for strength comes from supporting each other and working together rather than against each other.

I have almost completed the two level 2 courses that I have started in this time and I have, this week, submitted my application to learn something that will totally push my comfort zones but will add so much value to what I am doing, both with multi sports and disability sports.

So, here I am, after a very rough 12 months, finding myself that Monday evening standing crying yet again in the middle of the range, being given a very specific yet amazing brand of pep talk as I did and with the very generous support of people who believe in me, I now find myself with a community interest company and an archery club! It’s been a whirlwind and I cannot see sign of it calming anytime soon, but whilst amazed, I am also proud of these 3 months. Sure I get sad when I think of my work that I have had to leave behind, but my passionate belief in my sport and how I can use it to help change lives is stronger than ever, the work I have done for 6 years, alone or with others gave me many examples of how my quirky self can help me think outside the box to help achieve things. I haven’t lost that and now I have so many more examples to add to my list. I am grateful to everyone who has encouraged me, spoken with me, hugged me whilst I have cried, and who stand beside me in any way, special thanks to the coaches, paid or volunteer, who work with me to help provide what my groups need and for sharing my excitement when they become self sustaining.

As I sit here I know there are things that I haven’t included – my first flight workshop presentation, helping put on 4 Archery GB competitions, 2 were internationals, but my family of blue shirted volunteers are unbeatable! So many hours I have given to grassroots via my projects but also managed to volunteer at some running events too.

So, here’s to the future and whatever it brings us all and thank you to everyone who has read anything that I have written because I lost my person who I share it all with and you have all stepped into the space left behind. Thank you for believing in me when I wobble.

6 weeks and I am now the director of a ” community interest company ” !!!!

So, here we are, 6 weeks from deciding I needed to grab what I wanted or certainly what I knew I could continue alone, from the work I had been doing for several years, work I am passionate about and believe in. I have collaborated in that time and will continue to do so with like minded people, but now who I am, what l have already achieved and what I think I can still achieve is clearly laid out and is protected for the future. (As for the projects I have had to step away from? Maybe the future will see me involved, maybe it wont – we can only wait and see, they are all work that I believe in and have worked hard on).

The government have, on my third submission, accepted all of the outlines and explanations and can now clearly see my plan and have registered my limited guarantee, social enterprise, community interest company – or CIC for short!

28/6/22 to 8/8/22 – I am proud of what I have achieved so far.

Thank you to every one who has shown support to me since 22/11/21 and especially in the last 3 months.

Never do I take anyone for granted and I certainly wouldn’t have found my feet without you all.

So what else has happened this week?

Conversations with 2 new schools, plans with existing schools, communication with a new county, and the beginnings of my own archery club!

Emails sent to AGB, my first meeting with my new club committee and the early conversation with the county. Eek! not a step I expected to have to consider but necessary.

First shirt order sent off – excited to see them being worn on ranges in several areas of the country soon. Thank you to everyone who has ordered one.

Also the bookings for my first 3 flight archery workshop presentations – exciting! More news to follow on flight in the coming weeks and months but the first competition of the season sees me earn my masters classification in flight archery!

Just aheads up, Friday I shall be off to Lilleshall for 10 days of volunteering at the European Youth Championships – I will be answering emails but not as quickly as I might ordinarily.

It’s been a month!!! wow – where did that go????

28/6/22 – With the help of people who believe in me, I put out my idea of how to move forward after weeks of crying about what was happening, and within 12 hours we had come up with a name, I had the most amazing logo and a plan.

24 hours later with the help of a couple of people who proved they had buckets of patience – I had the makings of my website.

Fast forward a month I have taken on and fulfilled some new events , I have tidied up existing projects , moved them forward, and I am creating huge new relationships.

I am currently working on a possible 8 primary schools and two secondary schools in Northamptonshire. 3 events for the summer holidays and working with 2 groups who are new to Integr8Archery.

Along with partnering with a new county that so far has a possible 12 primary schools and 5 secondary schools.

This week? So far I have been to Lilleshall for 2 days of the youth festival to support some juniors who’s parents reached out to see if I could go over and, whilst there , had some productive conversations with people at Archery GB around a number of things, which may lead to me being on some new working groups later in the year.

I am incredibly grateful to have had people support me and look at different things with me, never do I take any of it for granted.

Hopefully in the next few weeks some things I am working on in the background will be in a position to have me make some announcements – so I am still excited and nervous – but now I am also a little bit brave and a little bit proud!!! Oh and as always I am winging it 🤪😂 every single day!!!

Welcome – exciting but a little scary too!

Hello, be kind please, this is all very new and frankly more than a little scary, I know there’s lots to do to get this website fully sorted, and it’s certainly not my strength!

So, after 5 – 6 years of doing my projects and working at improving all things grassroots either for those unsure how to get into archery or helping those who think their time shooting may be coming to an end, I decided to be brave and give myself and my work it’s own identity. Collaborations are great and sharing ideas is amazing, but regardless of who I am working with I am doing my work.

Recent weeks have made it clear that many people work with me because of my energy and passion for what we are all wanting to achieve and so here I am happy to share that with anyone who wants to join me and see what we can do together.

I have also been asked to reassure that my recent weeks of calm dress code will come to an end and the bright, cheerful, look like I have been dressed by a rainbow carrying unicorn will resume. It would seem what started as a safeguarding idea for my own daughter, which grew to encompass many county juniors, has extended pretty much to most who know me.

So the crazy, caffeine fuelled volunteer who cannot sit still and does not sleep is here forging her path and welcomes anyone who wants to join her along the way.

This will be where I post updates and news and though I may have been a little hidden for the last 10 weeks the work didn’t stop and we started 3 more primary schools and a college with archery and I helped at one of the county’s district schools soft archery competition which was great fun and I am looking forward to attending the county finals event in a couple of weeks where the top four teams from the day will join the others to see who gets the medals!!

Not a high draw!! Flight archery which I enjoy at least as much as my target archery!!