Week 77 – plans and new challenges

Busy week for planning and meetings but the only arrows shot this week were the school groups. Lots of reasonings, some groups have stopped for the holiday break, some have kit issues and some were cancelled due to sickness.

It did give me time to sit and draw together everything for the coming year. It’s going to be busy but fun I think looking at the calendar already.

I have been helping a couple of new safeguarding officers find their feet, it’s great to chat with people who understand the role and its possibilities, not just reactive but proactive.

As you will have seen from my post in the week I have been elected as Vice Chair for Northamptonshire Federation of Disability Sports. This is an exciting time as we are going to revamp the way that things are done to improve how we support and create opportunities in the county for increasing access to activities in the county. It’s also going to be hard work in the short term as we look at rewriting the constitution as a beginning step. It is no secret that I love my sport but I am incredibly passionate about access for all and I see multi sport and collaboration as a means to achieve so much more.

That doesn’t mean Integr8archery CIC will get less of me, I give around 30 hours a week to my amazing little company. Dropping that to 25 hours and giving those somewhere else isn’t going to even be noticed, next week sees me hit 18 months and I am excited to share the stats, but I have definitely settled into a rhythm and finding a pattern with family, work, Integr8archery, and even some time for me to shoot! Whilst I believe that my sport is truly one of the most adaptable and accessible sports I also understand that archery isn’t what everyone wants and that was the biggest reason for me training in multisports coaching rather than sport specific.

In other news, it’s my birthday at the weekend and those who know me well know I hate it, historically it’s an awful day and I try to avoid it. I have plans and I appreciate the efforts made by those who are trying to support me through the day. The next couple of weeks is going to be rough so be gentle with me please. I spend my time looking after everyone, if you could be mindful for me that’s all I ask.

If I don’t see you before the break have a great Christmas or whatever alternative way you spend the time and stay safe.

Week 50 – Disability, inclusion, mental health, support – bringing all the work together ❤️🏹

So, I am excited and have news to share, some explaining too! It’s long but you have had some short blogs the last few weeks 😉😂

As you will know I am a huge advocate of disability, mental health and inclusion. I passionately believe that sport can help change lives, I have seen it and I have been a part of it. It takes commitment not just from the individual but those working and supporting to make it happen! Now I am in a place to pull several things together so grab a cuppa and let me tell you 🤗

You will be aware that both myself and my son have disability – his epilepsy, mine doesn’t have a one word label!
I’ll explain me a little –

My bones are twisted, puts a lot of strain on my joints which don’t all work or sit quite how they should, at 20 I was offered the choice of two surgeries to try and help my left knee – one was on the knee itself and especially the ligaments around it to try and make it easier, or more radically they could plate and screw some bones in my legs to set about straightening them and see if that improved things! They were not entirely convincing about what would come of the more major surgery and if there would be any improvement at all so I went for the knee option, and following that initial surgery have had a further three surgeries on that knee.

I am clumsy, my balance and co-ordination vary but I can fall over fresh air and have literally been stood talking and just fallen as my balance goes! Remember – I meet life with humour so sure make sure I am ok but we are going to laugh at these things!

Broken bones – feet, hands, fingers and my left shoulder blade!

Nerve damage from various things lower back, thoracic spine, feet, left lower leg and for added “fun” some sciatica!

I often say everything is fine, my left elbow and my eyelashes don’t hurt! Remember – humour! But pain is definitely one of the biggest barriers I face and I am incredibly grateful to have a superb physio in Ben 😊

I have a hearing impairment in my right ear as a result of damage, for a while there was talk of metal plates in my skull but I managed to avoid that. It is one of the reasons you might see me in my bobble hat even in summer, drafts hurt it and impact the ability to hear, hats stop drafts.

Several health issues, the two that impact my shooting – asthma which can be triggered by a number of things but especially heat, cold and hay fever – did I mention I am allergic to straw bosses 😂😂😂😂🫣🫣😱 I have a blood disorder, we ruled out the serious stuff that kills you but I am left with a reduced ability to store folate and iron, so I eat a lot of food that helps this and take some industrial grade, prescription top ups, but this can create huge fatigue and on bad days being awake is an incredible challenge – let alone moving!

Mental health? Anxiety and PTSD pretty much see that as a daily thing, some days I can plan for months, some days let’s see if I can breathe for 10 minutes. I have been to the very darkest places in my mind, in fact, they literally sit there daily, but when things are going well, I’m just carrying it with me, as I brave the world and smile. I am blessed that my counsellor is awesome and a tight circle of friends are there constantly 🤗🥰

Why do I tell you all of this, it’s so that you can gain a little understanding for why disability, inclusion and mental health are such an important focus for me.

Archery has given me ways to help my mind, if I don’t clear the messy head space those arrows are going nowhere useful. The process and routine are soothing, calming. Ranges are my safe space.

That’s not to say it’s easy, I have been challenged by people who have questioned my right to be there, on a range, on a shooting line – apparently I look ok – so why do I need to sit to shoot, have an agent? On a good day I might explain a little and try and educate, on a hard day I may tell you it’s none of your business, on a rough day, I might step away, think you are right, I have no place, I am an inconvenience and spiral, if we go back to my longest spell in the house, I literally didn’t leave for many months, long before you could get everything delivered to the house. Every day I have a process to step out of the door, might your unthinking words shut me inside?

However there are also many, many amazing people to be found on ranges who welcome, and support and help, these people question but because they want to understand so they can help, so very different.

Over the last several years I have done a lot of work around health and inclusion and supporting people to step on to a range, but also in other sports too. It’s amazing to watch people try something that they thought would reject them and find they are welcome, archery is one of the most adaptable sports there is and I am lucky to have friends who have worked in many areas, I find it unlikely that if you can tell me what you need that I can’t find it for you in that pool of amazing people.

I am told that I think outside the box, I just see me as me, but it’s definitely helped when thinking of ways to help people come to the range, our own voice in our mind can be the biggest battle we face and it takes different things for different people to push their own boundaries.

I have supported existing archers who have found themselves in a place where maybe they might have to consider their ability to stay on the range, some it’s been adaptions, some changing bow styles and some moving to seated. It’s always a privilege when someone reaches out and says can we talk, you might be able to help me, I know that reaching out for help isn’t easy. Some take the information and go off and do their thing, some keep in touch and some remain as part of our growing support network to give and receive support on our tough days.

With all of this and more in mind, I can now announce a plan we have.

Who are we? Let me explain.

I work with lots of coaches to deliver my projects and support groups who want sustainable archery, getting it set up and then mentoring in the long term. It works, our reviews show this. Northamptonshire carers contacted me to help put archery back into their disability inclusive sports sessions that they run for children with disabilities and their families.
The coaches who help me with this are Nick and Jackie from Towcester Archery Club and a great job they do too.

Early in 2023 I had some conversations (thankful as ever for the technology that allows us to be in different spaces and hold meetings and conversations) around a number of different ideas we have and things we can do together with Nick Wilson, who many know as the Disabled Adventurer. We made arrangements for him to come to Towcester Archery Club who kindly offered to host me, Nick and other exiting archers who wanted to come and shoot and talk about the impact of our sport on their disability and mental health.

Nick had a great time as did coach Nick, this was also a great example of how sometimes we fear what we don’t know, I have seen people turned away from clubs because of their disability and speaking with coaches, clubs and archers I am firmly of the belief that whilst a minority is about exclusion for many it’s the worry that a lack of knowledge might mean they can’t help or what if they injure a person? However we’re as many don’t say that and don’t ask for help with improving their own knowledge they just say no. I have managed to get the odd coach to discuss this and been able to link them with coaches who have the knowledge to mentor them.

This very idea now sees Integr8Archery and Towcester Archery Club come together to offer Nick Wilson a bespoke beginners course and coach Nick who was worried about his own knowledge is taking the opportunity to learn alongside him. The 2 Nicks will learn from each other and I have some coaches experienced with a huge variety of disabilities waiting to help amend support and coach Nick is attending the disability inclusion training being hosted in the midlands. I am excited to see what comes of this for both of them.

When I posted that I was holding the session and invited people along, I was blown away by the messages that I received from archers who would like the opportunity to have a safe space, where occasionally they can come together in an inclusive setting regardless of their physical, learning disabilities or mental health, where they don’t have to explain why they do x,y,z. But to be in an environment with others who love this sport, who enjoy shooting and the things it gives us, but who occasionally feel isolated or uncomfortable and we accept that the person who creates that doesn’t always know and we aren’t always strong enough to speak out.

So after some conversations around what we can do, Towcester Archery Club and Integr8Archery will be hosting sessions inviting those who consider they have a disability and or want a space where they can feel their mental health is safe, to come together and shoot every 2 months. We are just pulling together the first list of dates and will announce these in the next few days along with some information around what we have planned for some of those dates along with the ones that we can just chat and shoot and share a cuppa. There will also be instructions on how to join us.

I am excited as I am not aware of anything else offered that is similar to this so I think Towcester Archery Club and Integr8Archery are hopefully going to show what we can achieve and others may set up similar sessions.

So watch this space over the next few days and follow the instructions if you would like to join us, let’s grow this community I have started, for archers who want support and also for coaches who want to learn how to help. Thank you so very much to Dean and Nick for your help and support so far, let’s create change together 🥰🏹❤️

Week 47 – Children’s Coaching Collaborative, Play Their Way

As you will be aware from the information that I published I signed up to the Children’s Coaching Collaborative last autumn. This year the Child-First Coaching Coffee Catch Ups began. These sessions are for anyone who’s signed up to join together at the sessions as and when they can, to discuss important topics but over a virtual coffee session, the sessions are kept to an hour per session to allow people to fit them into busy schedules.

I find these particularly interesting as it is one of the initiatives that I am involved in that sees people from many sports come together and discuss common issues and share ideas.

The has been a very strong theme throughout – voice, choice and journey. Very much linked with the theme behind any good coach around listening to and coaching the individual.

As a coach this is of huge importance but also in my safeguarding role this is a massive issue. A large amount of my time is taken when voice and choice are removed. Surely something that we should all have taken from the publication of the Whyte report and the subsequent reform 25. Do not sit complacently believing that issues are only in other sports, there are examples of issues across all sports. It is with these in mind that I was interested in the Children’s Coaching Collaborative.

Today the next step is launched – Play Their Way. Please see above my statement that Integr8Archery CIC has signed up to the movement and I would ask you to take the time to consider signing up yourself as a coach but also your organisation and lead those you work with to look at joining too.

This week’s meetings and reviews, which I frequently complete on my projects and with the coaches and groups we deliver to, are about safeguarding and delivering the right service, in the right way to help achieve the goals. This is what the Children’s Coaching Collaborative and other groups that I am part of are aiming to achieve across all levels of all sports.

Week 45 – start archery a great example of pulling things together ❤️🏹

This week saw Integr8Archery host its first community event. It was a pleasure to welcome Wellingborough Muslim Community to our range where we reside at the invitation of Weavers Academy. The club – school arrangement is, I believe a new kind of way for a club and school to work together.

I have worked with Northamptonshire Sports looking at how we can include archery and share knowledge across multiple sports in the county to the benefit of clubs and community for several years.

They have sponsored a series of 4 sessions for the group and the 8th May saw the first of these, timed to be part of the Archery GB start archery week and to allow the first session to include the Eid celebrations.

The coaches who have come together for these dates also include one sponsored by the Northamptonshire Sports Couch to Coach funding, Chris is using the funding to increase her skill level from instructor which she has done for a number of years for guides, to become a sessions coach, something that she has been inspired to do after joining the coaching team for the Archery In Education project from 2021. She is part of the delivery team for Weavers Academy after delivering at a number of schools for me.

I would like to thank Suzanne Fossey of Archery GB for joining us on the day and taking a lot of the photos that we now have from the event. As always it’s a pleasure to see you Suzanne 🙂

The day saw 73 people pick up a bow to try the sport and this was despite the weather forecast. The decision was made to delay the Eid celebration until a later session due to the rain but that did not stop the feeling of community, sharing each others company and chatting over food. I think the best way to describe the day was a sense of family, people coming together and sharing the day and when they weren’t shooting there were games of cricket and football to entertain as they took turns to shoot in groups.

Many things were discussed including future events and ideas for different groups and sessions with different purposes, but also conversations were opened around ideas such as self defence but also mental health and bereavement.

I had anticipated a great day but what we got was so very much more. I look forward with the coming 3 sessions but also moving forward with the other things discussed on the day.

Many thanks to Wellingborough Muslim Community for trusting us to introducing them to our sport and to Matthew and Ben from Northamptonshire Sports. Integr8Archery look forward to seeing what comes from our joint relationship.

Week 44 – what do you know about VI sports?

What do you know about sport for the visually impaired? This is something that annoys me and those who know me well have listening to me complain and make a fuss for years! There is simply not enough information or signposting for somethings, for those who might use them, who might consider trying them or for those who might choose to give their time as a volunteer. Two such things that I have enjoyed giving hours to are the transplant games and visually impaired sport. Today I am going to give some information about British Blind Sport as it’s a subject that has come up half a dozen times in the last month or so.

One of the things that I do as a volunteer is spotting for visually impaired archers. I have worked on a semi regular basis with two. It came about as a result of covid, then lockdown rules allowed disabled athletes to practise and someone I knew needed help to find a range that would allow her to shoot (many refused to allow their disability members to access their ranges, a conversation for another day) and also a means of getting there and that role of spotter. Having agented numerous times for disability athletes I said I would give it a go, however I was more than a little anxious as this is more than just collecting arrows for someone and my ability to describe what was happening was going to be key to how useful I was! Turns out all those years doing surveillance in the day job gave me a useful skill on the archery range! 


I gained a friend too and have been able to proudly watch Deb maintain her success on the archery field in the time since.


In recent months I have put a couple of coaches in touch with British Blind Sports in regards to archers who needed support. Whilst physical disabilities and adaptations around these are focused on and access is improving significantly, help for visually impaired is still not obvious. 

British Blind Sport offer amazing support to people to access a multitude of sports

and they have an activity finder to help you locate something to go along to. 

My friend Clive has used their services and now shoots for GB in a sport that he loves as much as I do

The sport that I love, where I found my people, that allows me to be me, is the most adaptive sport that I know. I have yet to come across anyone who cannot shoot, it’s one of the very reasons that I love it so very much and why I am so very passionate about it and what it has to offer. 

There are a couple of significant events this year that need volunteers and you may be looking for somewhere to give your time so I would urge you to consider looking here:

What have I been doing this week? Mostly lots of planning and attending a couple of multi sports meetings. Lots happening over the coming weeks as the summer moves towards us! 

Not so many arrows shot myself, as I would like still but getting there and this coming weekend will see me shoot my first outdoors competition of the season at one of my favourite places and will have the chance to see lots of friends. My only aim, considering the lack of shooting that I have had, is to enjoy the day, see how it all goes and enjoy the company – and not to cry for dozens of arrows like I did last year! 

Catch you all soon, have a great week and enjoy this run of bank holiday weekends ❤️🏹

Week 42 – mental health, safe headspace and arrow counting

It is incredibly rare that I ask for anything for myself, particularly in regards to my health – this, above, I tried to do at the weekend!

It’s something that my counsellor and my friends have been trying to get me to work on for a long time. The last few months I have been trying, it’s new to me and a work in progress. Whilst volunteering at the Grand Prix it was something that was discussed with me at length and I worked hard on it, the Wednesday and Thursday actually making decisions to put me first, guess what? The world continued to turn and my family of blue and green shirts not only accepted and welcomed my decisions but encouraged them! I may have taken all of us by surprise! 😱😂

Fast forward to 15th April, I posted my blog, and I asked for 36ish hours for me, I needed to deal with lots of things and they were affecting my mental health, I wanted to get everything in order. Projects, communications, lots of things. Despite my request still people contacted me with questions, queries, none of these could wait that 36 hours, I pointed out to each of those people that I wanted to be left until Sunday evening. Did it stop them! No! So I made some decisions and now people are disappointed 🤷‍♀️ you pushed me, you didn’t let me have that short time I was brave enough to ask for. Apparently for some I didn’t answer questions they didn’t ask 🤷‍♀️ why in this sport is it so often expected that we can mind read?

What I am especially curious of is, if I asked for the weekend because I had a migraine, a stomach bug, an injury, would I have been granted that 36 hours? Is it just mental health that doesn’t get respected? Have a think, you don’t have to answer me, but please do be honest with yourself!

What it did do was confirm work that I have been doing and several events and projects I am working on are most definitely needed as I had already believed.

So now we have people disappointed because I cancelled things, and angry people who have now had things cancelled who were not actually the people pushing me and being disrespectful of my request! So the people who pushed are ok, and I will deal with yet more annoyed folks 🤔

Integr8Archery CIC is mine, a one man band, no one else makes the decisions and no one else chooses what I do, and no one else steps in when I am overwhelmed. I am working on my projects, work that was always mine, my goals, my aims and new ideas. Not for anyone else, for me. There are also a number of other things I have that I may restart, they are mine too. Don’t make the mistake that because people have collaborated in the past dictates what I am doing now, because that would also be disrespectful.

However, what did go well, that I knew would give me the boost when I was thinking of quitting, was my visit to DISC to deliver soft archery, they are such a welcoming and enthusiastic group and a pleasure to spend time with.

Followed by my trip just over the road to shoot with Towcester Archers, some projects discussed and ideas bounced and arrows flung. Last year it was incredibly important to me to create safe spaces for my mind, where, when I am overwhelmed, anxious and scared, I can go to with my bow.

So thank you and much love to Archers of Raunds, Long Buckby archery club, Towcester Archers, Banbury Cross, Kestrels and Bowmen of Glen. By far the most important thing is the gift they give me of space where I am mentally safe to pick up my bow. 

When I started shooting in 2018 I spent hours on the range, practise and competing. From 2018 to 2021 I shot between 800 – 1000 arrows a week. Last year this dropped dramatically – we know why. So I started planning my 2023 outdoor season and how to get that motivation back, perfectly timed as Archery GB advertised for the #greatarrowcount project. I received notification of my involvement in the project which was to start on 1st April. Those first 10 days were impacted by my being at the European Grand Prix but my first week total sees me having shot 570 arrows, not where I want to be but getting back on track for sure.

Week 37 – DISC launch, design visuals and thank you.

If you know me, the projects or just keep looking here for what’s happening you will know that everything I have done for the last 4 years in regards to long term projects is about them becoming sustainable for each group that I work with. The base of this plan is that they have people trained and take over the running of the group and coaches who work with them on behalf of Integr8Archery to mentor them.

Last summer I was approached by Northamptonshire Carers to discuss plans for the DISC group which meets every other week and provides access to their users to a variety of sports. Some years previously they had archery in their cycle but it had stopped.

Upon visiting we found a treasure of kit, they were aware that they had soft kit for arrows Archery but we found so much more, meaning that with just some support and training they could easily be up and running for the full range that our sport can offer.

This week we have finally gotten everything in place and 19th March will see the first of their monthly archery sessions take place! This is so exciting. It is here I must say a number of thank you’s – The Worshipful Company of Fletchers who have generously provided funding for two volunteers to undertake instructor training next month, Long Buckby Archery Club for the donation of the kit for pointy archery, when we found it, it was all very carefully labelled and the club have donated this to the group for their ongoing use. Also to Nick and Jackie from Towcester Archery Club for joining the group of coaches who work with Integr8Archery to go out there into the community and provide access to our sport and will be giving their time to support the DISC group.

Wednesday saw another great multi sport meeting hosted by Graeme at Northamptonshire Sport, always great to look at how we can help each other and achieve our shared aims, more to come about new things I will be doing from that meeting later.

Couple of meetings around our start archery event and some reviewing plans for schools already working with us.

Also design visuals for the medals we will be using for the competitions that we are planning and as Duncan and I have just about sorted our progression scheme, the badges have been designed for this along with a new flight workshop badge after the previous supplier let me down.

Thank you so very much to Duncan for all of the work he has put in on the Integr8Archery progression scheme, this scheme will see individuals work to the level that will then allow them to partake in the AGB progression scheme and something that I have been trying to arrange for over 2 years but have run into difficulties along the way, so thank you Duncan for always listening to my thoughts, also for creating the certificates and now designing the membership card for the Integr8Archery school club members.

I never take for granted any of the work that anyone does with me, wether voluntary or if they are paid by one of the groups.

I wanted the clean simplicity – these will look amazing in person with the shine of the metal.
As soon as I get these I will hand out the ones already earned, including the long awaited flight workshop participants

Week 36 – busy few days, a lot happening and I actually shot some arrows of my own 🥳😱😉

Yeah! Flinging arrows at last!

So I am technically unemployed for a few days as I await the new job to be sorted, I could sit and relax but we all know that ends badly, we are after all approaching the 3rd anniversary of impaling myself on a tree for those who forget I don’t just sit and chill! 😱🫣

So what have I done:

  1. Sensory football webchat and discussions around conversation and instructions for complex needs with SENSE.
  2. meeting with AGB.
  3. catch up and planning with DISC for Northamptonshire Carers and everything back on track, including two new coaches on board with Integr8Archery to support our community groups and aims for sustainable archery – exciting on several points.
  4. First face to face Integr8Archery club committee as both August and October were online.
  5. on top of this there have been 5 other meetings around existing projects, coaches and new instructors and coaches.
  6. meeting with sport4fitness to finalise plans for their CIC and the groups that we will introduce archery to, including re-starting the out of school educated groups and the Send4dads group.
  7. Today I have a Sport England webinar.

I have had lots of fun this weekend, shooting three times 😱😂🫣 maybe I will soon be back to my 800 – 1000 arrows a week after all! 4 ranges, countless friends, county squad mates – essentially my archery family. Smiles, hugs, chatting, a couple of tearful moments but mostly just back in my safe places with people who I am safe to be around, never to be underestimated and very definitely proof that the fight to stay with my sport was worth it. Days where I most definitely thought I was beaten since November 21 but this week was proof it’s worth fighting for.

I am putting in an order to lionhart in the next week or so and for anyone who wants one I only have 5 Integr8Archery big bobble hats left from the initial production batch. Let me know if you want anything.

I shall be out and about this next week and hope to catch up with more people whilst getting ready to announce some events that we will be hosting, so keep your eyes open. Stay safe ❤️🏹

Integr8Archery CIC and Sport4fitness CIC – collaboration for the community

Week 35! Exciting things coming together 🥳

So many meetings in the last week! In person, online and by phone. Amazing things coming together though so definitely worth it all and the juggling act to fit it all in.

A year after first discussing accessibility to sport for the local Muslim community with Northamptonshire Sport, we have finally got dates in the calendar for the first sessions, so pleased we have made the efforts to keep communication open and cannot wait to see what we all achieve together – collaboration is amazing and makes us stronger by working together.

The first meeting of the Children’s Coaching Collaborative was fantastic, so many people across multiple sports coming together for the same aims – that “children first” is the important element of what we do when working with juniors and must remain the focus of everything we do. The Voice, Choice, Journey campaign is going to be a great launch platform and if you haven’t already taken a look at the collaborative I would very much recommend you join up and get involved.

This led me really quite well into some amazing discussions at the regions/home nations/Archery GB 2 day get together with some great topics and ways we can move things forward around a number of things, especially Safeguarding which is my most important focus as many of you know, and again I am looking forward to the future meetings to see what we can all accomplish by working together across all of the topics.

We are Undefeatable was a great conversation across multiple sports and platforms that encourage activity and again a new campaign launching soon that I will be pleased to support.

Incredibly proud of some of the friends of Integr8Archery this week with news of many things from achievements to

pushing their own boundaries but I know most are making their own announcements so I will not be stealing their thunder – but I think I have messaged or spoken to most 🥳👏🏻 well done to you all.

Thanks to a few days between changing day jobs I have managed to book a heap of things in the next few days too so as I slide towards 9 months I am so proud of everything that is coming together.

See you all soon, and yes I actually have plans to shoot my own bow this week 😱😉❤️🏹 and the first in person get together for the Integr8Archery Club committee who have been getting on great virtually so hopefully we will do face to face 🙃

Things change, don’t be afraid to try something new if you want to stay shooting ❤️🏹 but support is there if you reach out

Rarely found without a silly face – my armour!

I picked up a bow in the spring of 2018, I had been around ranges for a while since the rest of the house was shooting and had been for a while. I loved the sound of the arrows hitting the boss, still find it soothing and I am happy to sit and read a book listening to that noise.

I had made friends, supported people, joined committees and thought maybe I should give it a whirl. Talked about it with lots of people, I don’t make rash decisions 😂🫣 I have a number of issues that I knew would likely make my shooting time short, but with some effort I might get 2-3 years. So off I went in the winter of 2017 and got a compound bow ready for after I had completed my planned beginners course early 2018. The issues with my back and shoulder pretty much mean compound is the only suitable bow style.

So there we have the first “issue” a group of established archers who protested – a brand new, novice archer with a compound bow, nope cannot be allowed, so dangerous and time limits were suggested from 12 to 24 months that I should have to shoot an alternative bow style, preferably recurve, to prove I was safe before being allowed on a range with a compound bow!!

I was lucky, very lucky, to have a group of archers and committee members support me and once I completed my beginners course, the offer of a coach – brave enough to stand beside the dangerous prospect of a beginner with a compound bow and so began my journey to shoot, not know what was coming!

My coach was starting his (then named) level 2 coaching course and the candidates needed a “Guinea pig” (my term – don’t be offended) to work with and take to their assessment. So we sat with the paperwork where I had to explain the many issues with my body that were going to be an issue with the goals I had set myself. Or rather he sat, I stood as I genuinely expected at some point during the conversation he would tell me it was a non starter and I would be better selling my bow and quitting. Nope, he never flinched and just said, right, let’s learn together!

Without a doubt having someone who never flinches and stands beside you in support is one of the greatest gifts anyone can have.

We worked and I worked hard! My aim was to get to the summer and the club celebration shoot an informal, relaxed environment with a competition and cake! My family however were much more confident in me and advised me that my first competition was booked for April! (I do not advocate booking people on to competition without their permission, my family know me though).

By the end of that first outdoor season I had shot 23 competitions and was shooting for the county – the most amazing and supportive group of archers led by, in my opinion, the best county captain there is. I had fallen in love with a 1440 and enjoyed a Hereford – but these long rounds would see me stand all day, couldn’t allow myself to sit and relax because once I do that the pain hits massively, my relationship with pain, is like everyone’s – personal and individual, but I do not take painkillers because I have watched someone very close to me struggle for many years with addiction to pain medication, I know that there will be a lot of opinion and I am not saying my way is by any means correct, but it’s my way.

I am so very grateful to those who have always supported me, laughed with me on the range whilst watching me struggle with the pain and sat with me and held my hand at the end of the day when, after raffles and medals and everything else is over, I lay on the floor and let my body relax and allow the pain in, and as my muscles spasm and seize up and I cannot move they chat with me and sometimes cry with me.

My coach suggested maybe we look at sitting to shoot, no! No – I saw this as giving in, I don’t give in to my pain, I had never done so. I was 43 and had struggled forever, for me sitting was giving in. So on we went. I had set myself a goal at the beginning of the season – a third class, I came away with a second class – happy? No! I had so many scores that were just a handful of points from a first class! So I saw failure – I had surpassed my goal but felt that I had let myself down! Trust me I know what my counsellor has said about this – my mind is and will likely always be my biggest issue.

Indoor season saw me start county coaching and a change of coach, supported back at club by my first coach. Looking at the issues that impact me both physically and mentally. I never shot less than double sessions indoors but often did the triple, I felt that I needed to keep my body capable of that consistency and volume ready to go back outdoors, a double is a few less so in my mind the triple – a few extra seemed obvious and I was having fun. I hate indoors, makes me feel trapped but I fell in love with the vegas and set myself the goal that in 2025 I will go to Vegas and shoot a Vegas for my 50th birthday.

As summer 2019 approached my body was showing the impact of shooting between 800 – 1000 arrows a week and I started to worry I might not manage that 3 years I had hoped for in the beginning. But consistency started to fail as the pain sometimes kicked in during the day despite my best efforts. My coach found himself away for work and I was a little lost, though he also suggested sitting to shoot! What is wrong with these people!

Another 2nd class at the end of summer 2019, again so close to that first! and the worry that the pain would slowly increase and the chance at the first class would be lost forever. So a new coach? First meeting we discussed all the issues and I warned him friend or not, do not suggest that I sit to shoot! He decided it was time to add to the team, and a call was made to our mutual friend who is also a physio. Sometimes you need an expert!

Within a couple of weeks I had my first session with the physio and lots of tears, the NHS who are brilliant have only ever dealt with me a bit at a time but this was a list of everything, what the implications are and how we might approach them.

As the indoor season progressed the issue of the stool was raised and again I refused, but the subject was raised a few weeks later after a particularly difficult shot and I decided that I would data gather, shooting under different conditions over a period of weeks, set days, stood, sat, with and without an agent. I am an evidence based creature and though we thought we knew what the results would show I needed to prove it. I am incredibly grateful to the brave souls who agented and put up with the tantrums because the idea of sitting was still giving in.

Meeting with the physio and looking at the information and agreeing a way forward. Discussion with him and coach as to what we felt the best way to build a stool was and my county team mates set about creating my stool which I hated with a passion, so I must thank them, though I think in truth they enjoyed having a reason to get the power tools out!

So my mind! What do you do when your mind doesn’t want to do what your body needs? Well the county team gave me a talking to, the physio gave me a talking to and a couple of the wheelchair archers who I have agented for sat me down and asked why I wouldn’t give myself what I gave others? Fair question but I wasn’t really in a place to hear it!

As we approached the end of the 19/20 indoor season I found myself struggling to complete even a single round and had several weeks that saw me withdraw part way through competitions, leaving me crying for very different reasons. My last competition on my feet saw me complete the round barefoot, the judge knows me well and knew what was happening to my mental health and with the support of my county team mates I was given very strict rules that allowed me to shoot and finish the session, something I will forever be grateful for 🤗❤️🏹

One of the “naughtiest” things you can do on a range!

Spring 2020 – covid! Turns out this was great timing for Bert, I named the stool to help bond and reduce the resentment, going out when there was almost no one around to get used to the idea and feel of sitting because once people started seeing me they all had questions and opinions – unless you are supporting someone – hold your tongue!

I have cried on ranges, walked out of spaces and had a torrid time, why? My mind still sees sitting as giving in, people say things and enforce the things in my head! What business is it of anyone’s what a person requires in the way of adaptation to shoot? Consider carefully what questions you might ask and also how you ask them, you will rarely be aware of another person’s struggles.

I have learned that as my stool has been tweaked and made to fit me that a substitute can actually hinder me, grateful to the club that leant me theirs when I left Bert at home and it was a valuable lesson.

Outdoors 21 saw me dig in and fight for my right to shoot, as people tried to tell me that if I needed a shooting stool I had no place on the line! What did that determination give me? I finally, by working my backside off to prove myself to others achieved the elusive first class 🥳

It was also in this summer that I found flight, I cannot put into words how much I love flight, it allows me to stand to shoot as there is a very small number of arrows. More than that I am surrounded by the most supportive group of archers, which was so important whilst having to justify my right to shoot target archery.

Indoors 21/22 and outdoors 22 saw other things happening and whilst fighting to prove I had a place on the line the other things happening in my personal life saw me come incredibly close to quitting – life, archery – everything – my beloved sport was no longer a safe place for me to be.

Without a doubt the volunteers who I share the range with at national and international events for AGB and the flight archers kept me shooting.

I was invited to attend a field course and had an incredibly welcoming group of EFAA members allow me to share their day, but as I joined them on their journey through the trees (I was not shooting) it became apparent that the unpredictable nature of the spasms I get in my shoulder mean I will not be safe on a field course, but I would most definitely recommend trying it.

The end of the season saw me grind out the scores amongst the tears to hold onto my first class, but sadly not all ranges are now safe for me to shoot at from a mental health point of view, but I do have several ranges with shooting buddies scattered across them and of course March 23 will see Integr8Archery Club start shooting on our range.

My indoors 22/23 season has been suspended due to personal matters within the family but I am looking forward to getting back at it, though there are some issues with my back which has deteriorated further in recent months, that will need looking at but I have those 8 days at Dunster to look forward to and certainly provide the motivation I need to get out there, that and the flight season will most definitely be high points of summer 23.

Why have I shared all of this? If you have read my blogs you will certainly know some of it already.

The aims of Integr8Archery CIC and Integr8Archery Club are to make our sport open and accessible for everyone, to welcome anyone who wants to try our sport, which is – in my opinion- one of the most accessible and inclusive sports there is, but also to support those who want to stay but face challenges to be able to continue shooting.

It has been a privilege to help those who have allowed me to, some have remained as Friends of Integr8Archery where we support each other. In person on ranges, or virtually in the devices we carry in our pockets and one click away so if we wobble a message from the range to one of us at home keeps us shooting.

Some of those I am allowed to support come to me because they have heard about me from talking to someone I have helped, some approach me on a range to enquire about Bert the shooting stool, but some have come to me through my role as regional safeguarding officer and for 9 of those it’s about their ongoing wellbeing and care. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help, there will be someone you can trust if you are brave enough to ask and I do not underestimate the courage it can take to reach out.

Without a doubt I am probably proudest of using my experience, physically and mentally to help and support others and I am so pleased that people are beginning to recognise that if you are wearing an Integr8Archery shirt that you belong to a group of supportive, like minded archers and you might be on your own on that shooting line but you carry all of us with you.