the best days are sharing in others’ successes

I have said for many many years that success is so much more than medals, celebratory moments in sport are about so many things. I can list many examples that I have been privileged to be a part of in the last 7 years.

Today was no different, I love my hour every month with DISC, helping deliver multiple sports and activities to amazing children and their families.

Today there was a boy who I have seen often for over a year, close to 18 months, he struggles to retain the information, communication isn’t always simple and he looses concentration, he is anxious about his mum leaving and looks for reassurance that she’s stayed. He walked in and I always allow him to show me what he can remember, today he picked up his bow and an arrow and completed the shot routine and hit a blue immediately, his mum was stunned and as I handed him a second arrow, he turned to tell her she didn’t need to watch she could chat outside the door with other adults if she wished and just got on with it. Proud? Oh yes, and in these moments, the very hardest thing is not to react, just carry on, when in fact I want to dance and hug and celebrate.

There were lots of other amazing moments, as always, children who still come to see me despite me progressing them to local clubs, for example a young man I met almost a year ago, introduced him to a club, yesterday he was at county coaching, this morning he was competing and this evening he went to his club session, but he still makes time to come and say hello, shoot a few soft arrows and some days helps me to deliver. Or the young girl who having watched her sister shooting, sat on the floor with Rose so that she could leave her walking frame to shoot.

I am proud of these children, but it makes me proud of my children and anyone who helps me deliver any kind of sessions, every person is treated as an individual and my priority, always is enjoyment and smiles. Success is different for different people.

Today I also met a young man who has long been an Archery GB member but isn’t currently shooting, despite an incredibly strong family link with our sport, because his club no longer fits his needs. After a chat, I was able to make the introductions to a club that I believe will welcome him and meet his needs and early indications are correct.

I finished the day nipping in to see some who always has hugs for me, just a quick catch up as I knew they had competed today but when I met them at the end of 2022 they were crying as they believed that their only option was to leave our sport as the disability had progressed and they had been made to believe there was no place for them here. Time, patience, laughter and tears have proven that is not the case, adaption and work and here they are, today bringing home a shiny bronze medal 🥳❤️🏹

I know what it is to be told there is no place for you, I know the damage that can do. I will fight for anyone’s right to be active and take part, always.

It has been one of the days that motivates me, shows me I can play a part. Motivation in the bank for the days when I am told to walk away and leave 🤗

6 year anniversary of my beginners course 🤔

6 years ago today I completed my beginners course!
I have spent the day thinking about what that 6 years have contained! Wondering what might have been if I hadn’t picked up a bow.

I had been volunteering my time before that as everyone else in the house were already shooting but without a doubt I would never have given so much of my time had I not become an archer. I loved the sport for what it was giving my children but I had not experienced what I would gain.

I had friends in the county but I didn’t have the bonds and some amazing friendships that grew from pulling on a county shirt and being part of the squad, supporting each other in the most amazing ways.

I certainly wouldn’t have travelled the path that led to my creating Integr8archery CIC and the projects I have now or those in the years before. It has been a privilege to work with those I have met through the projects.

There are a list of downsides too, I won’t go into those, for a variety of reasons, but again, some of those have brought fantastic people into my life.

It was all of these things whizzing around my head as I sat waiting at the hospital for my appointment today, the first of 2 appointments in 6 days – the good news is I have been given permission to continue shooting if I would like to, so crack on with learning my new routine it is then!

It’s rare I ask for anything, despite how much I give, so as I walked back into the house to mull over the conversation at the hospital I was surprised to find messages, messages which frankly I think are selfish and demanding attention when I have explained that right now, there are things happening that require my attention. Likely not helped by the fact that the wording was triggering for me, initially I was not going to reply but I do not wish to trigger anyone else’s anxiety by making them wait. The subsequent response just reinforced my initial feelings that the sender was selfish and demanding with no interest in me.

So, I emphasise – right now I will give what I can, but this is not my priority, my health and that of my children is and I may just start not replying to rude or triggering messages.

I do wish to thank those who have sent kind and/or supportive messages too, particularly in reference to helping the children look after Paul, WOAC – as expected, have been amazing – thank you 🥰

week 82 – mostly dictated by the welfare of others

without a doubt this last week has been intense for a number of reasons, the day job saw me become part of a team working in a temporary emergency setting to keep a young person safe, along side those of us working with them. We pulled it off through a great example of what a team of like minded individuals can do, not down playing the efforts of this who stayed in our usual setting to work with the Luther young people in our care, they had to manage without us.

Glad to say the week is ended well with everyone safe and well and as we are so often reminded, the aim of every shift is for us to return home safe.

Saturday was interesting as I was utterly exhausted and I am grateful that Chris and Jack managed to understand my exhausted mind when it often retrieved the wrong words mid sentence 🫣 luckily they often rhymed with the word I actually wanted so that helped 😂

Sunday I woke with the still hovering migraine so decided to withdraw from the competition but due to Paul’s ongoing health concerns I took Rose for the day, I don’t often get to be an archery mum, so it was lovely to do just that. I am so proud of her, with everything she has going on at the moment she wanted to just relax and enjoy herself. She came away with a new PB, two golds and a silver 🥰🏹

Thank you to everyone for their support and care during the day but especially to Anita who absolutely spent the day taking care of me in the very best way – filling it with as much laughter as possible 🤗😜 Great as always to catch up with everyone and thank you to Duncan for looking after raffle tickets, medal collecting and picking up forgotten items when we had to dash off to get Paul to a&e.

Huge apologies to DISC for having to cancel, I love spending time with this group they are amazing and I did miss them, look forward to dropping in soon for sure.

This week is going to be hard as we help Paul recover and Jack is proving to be great at caring for him but I am rightfully supporting them and that does mean you are going to have to be patient and bear with me. Messages will be answered as and when, if it helps to put it all into perspective I have had to take some leave from the paid job too, and for those trying to get things from Paul, Jack and Rose, with my support are keeping as many of you away as possible, he can’t concentrate on you whilst he heals – sorry but there it is.

So, hopefully the next week will see some return to normal but the hospital appointments for me, Rose and Jack continue to land on the doormat so they will take priority 🤗

See you on the range soon ❤️🏹 stay safe and well

midweek – readjustment of priorities, hours reduced but aims the same

Over the coming weeks and months the three of us are going to be attending a whole bunch of medical appointments. 

Happy to share my issues, as I already have been, particularly as it impacts my ability to shoot and the necessity for changes to allow me to continue and I know there are those who like to see what is happening. 

The issues of my children are not up for public discussion. 

They get involved with Integr8Archery CIC often and help in delivery of a variety of things.

With this in mind, the amount that we will be doing this year will reduce to allow time to concentrate on the many health related things going on. 

Existing projects and new projects and lots of exciting things will be happening but there will be some careful selection processes as we utilise our energy on less hours. 

You will see us on ranges shooting, competing, delivering and supporting but be prepared that you may some times hear a polite but firm refusal to be involved in something. 

There are also some things that are important to us as topics such as anti violence and providing alternative options, these will continue to be important to us and you will see us continue to work in these areas.

I make no apology for putting us first. 

See you all soon and I will continue to let you know what is happening with projects 🥰🏹

An old photo but one of my favourites 🥰

week 72 – measuring success can be so many things

Some time ago whilst collaborating I had a discussion about how we measure success, it’s not all about medals and bling and we have to pay particular attention to the individual, their challenges, goals and achievements. I was asked to write something for the website that was being set up to explain as it was believed that for many, it is about ranking and bling.

For me it can be many things. My PTSD creates serious anxiety and agoraphobia, daily I have to build up the strength to step over the threshold to take me outside the house. Every day! It’s one of the reasons that I like routine and structure but also to be busy.

If we go back, before the world of shopping online for everything, the longest I stayed in the house and didn’t leave was almost 10 months. Luckily my GP at the time gave me the support I needed to learn techniques to help me. There are still days though when my head is busy with overthinking and I slip and the work to get me outside is huge.

This weekend I had plans, all in my calendar, get home from work Saturday morning, off to LBAC to drop off my bow and cams and shoot a little, over to AOR to shoot a Portsmouth scored round and get everything ready for Sunday – my first indoor competition of the 23/24 season.

However an email Friday pushed all my anxiety to the front, off to work I went, but Saturday, once home I didn’t want to leave, not a surprise and so began the battle. Eventually I did leave the house and took my bow and cams to LBAC, I deliberately didn’t take my other bow so no shooting. A catch up with friends helped my mood a little but the anxiety and the delays created meant no scored round. Sunday morning? Seriously struggled to leave the house, a million excuses to stay at home, safe. However Rose was going to this competition and there would be friends there, so I accepted the offer of a lift from Paul and dragged myself there. No expectations as I had failed to do the prep this week and I am still dealing with the decision over the future of my release aid.

My PB for a Portsmouth is 548 – scored several times, so close to that next elusive Portsmouth badge of 550! I had sat down Wednesday to consider a realistic expectation and a challenging goal. So I set up at Green Dragon Bowmen with 2 scores in mind – 450 and 500.

My boss buddy was welcoming and we had a friendly session chatting about the sport and our experiences. I saw friends I expected to see, made new ones and saw some friends I hadn’t seen for a while who I hadn’t expected to see. I enjoyed the session and was incredibly happy to finish with a score of 528, had I not had a miss with a shoulder spasm I would have been close to my PB! So much better than I had hoped for.

However, the other unexpected gains from the day were conversations, about disability and adaptations or considerations that can improve their experiences. People that I didn’t know asking about Integr8Archery and the work that I do because they have seen references to me on social media, lots of positive feedback based on people’s thoughts on the projects. So by the time we left my head space was significantly improved over the last couple of days and I had some thoughts about how to improve things in regards to my release.

Top off the day with news that I had managed gold, unexpected but welcome news and a raffle prize! Perfect end to a day that starting with me almost not leaving the house 😱 The medal isn’t the measure of my day, it’s the ability I had to follow my process despite having to keep coming down during the shot routine as I repeatedly lost sensation in my fingers. Careful and controlled process got me that score. I am lucky to have friends who support me and who help me answer questions and find solutions as I continue my journey to shoot for as long as I can ❤️🏹

Busy week ahead with planning meetings and some training but I will update on those at the weekend. Take care of yourselves 🤗

There is nothing more important than safeguarding!!

In all areas of my life I think safeguarding is the most important aspect. From parenting, to residential youth worker and in sports. Some times this can be big things, often it’s little things. Some times it’s reacting to huge issues others it’s supporting wellbeing and welfare. Some times an ear and a coffee, sign posting or contacting other agencies.

It’s an area that I have been actively involved in since I started working in the public sector 30 years ago. I undertake the mandatory training and renewals but I also do other additional training, things that I believe can teach me to be better for those who need me in any of the areas of my life.

Those closest to me know the biggest piece of work here is something I have been doing for over 3 years, it’s massive and involves a lot of people, it grows almost constantly, people being pointed towards me to add context to what I have, years and years of experiences and issues told to me. Some just do that, they want nothing more than to feel someone has listened when previously they believed no one has. Others need ongoing support and the most important part of this is ensuring that there is the right professional help and I am then just part of their team of support. Mental health professionals are key but my ears are there to help. Not just those who come to me to explain their story but their families who often feel they should have seen something that they missed, and now feel guilt.

I can understand this as I carry it too, I missed what was happening to my child whilst I was busy supporting others.

There are days this is so incredibly draining and I am left emotionally and mentally exhausted and I am grateful to another safeguarding officer who sits and let’s me debrief with them, but also others who support me, they don’t need me to share details but they know I give and give to support these people, to be the person who hasn’t walked away.

Why might others have turned away? It’s hard, the massive issue needs so much work from so many people to change what’s happening. That level of energy and fight is hard to carry every day. I have considered walking away more than once, but I am struck with the fact that if I do, I am another person who has let these people down and who else will fight?

I have sought advice from the right places, agencies etc and I am at my next step, I don’t have many left and the last big step is one I hope I do not have to take because I hope that it can be dealt with without me taking that step.

Imagine as a safeguarding officer declaring yourself as vulnerable, on 3 separate occasions in 18 months, and not receiving the support or care for your well-being but yet I am expected to reassure those who have come to me that the support is there to be found?

I have repeatedly advised that my PTSD, anxiety and my ability to seriously overthink any situation means that we have to try, where we can, to manage the available opportunities for me to reach out when information is dumped on me.

Yesterday was another example of how the repeated lack of attention to this can impact me on a massive scale. A situation I am not aware of seeing a letter emailed to me at the end of business on a Friday. I opened it with no idea of what I would find as I am waiting on contact from that very team regarding my latest communication on this massive issue I am dealing with. Yet when I opened it, it hit me like a brick wall, because it was something new that sent me spinning, that required a response, but that saw me have no ability to reach out with my questions.

I sent my response, I had to, in an attempt to stop that spiralling that I have repeatedly asked for support to prevent. Had I been able to reach out and ask a couple of questions I could have dealt with it smoothly and calmly, but that was denied me. So now I wait, with just the serious overthinking to keep me company for however long this will take.

Thank you to those who have stepped in and supported me in the last 20 hours, never do I take you for granted, but I am certainly stronger because I have you here. It’s also shown me that whilst I am vulnerable I am, most definitely, stronger than October 21-October 22.

Take care of yourselves please.

Week 67 – busy making plans into 2024 but not forgetting important dates happening now ❤️🏹

Lots of planning bubbling away for existing and new groups and I love sitting with people who don’t realise how adaptive our sport is and how easy it is to make it work in so many ways.

School groups are nicely back and settled and I am hearing lots of positive things so that’s all great stuff.

October is Black History Month and this year the focus is ‘Saluting Our Sisters’.

At the age of 13 my English teacher handed me a copy of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and I became absorbed in the book and the conversations and discussions we would have about what I was reading. I recall being amazed that whilst my teacher gave me this and we delved deep into it, at the time it was released many schools set out to ban it from their shelves. I thank my teacher for sharing the book and I have read all of her others and her poetry is one of several books that I often pick up to read when I have a window of time to loose myself and I have favourite quotes of hers that I scatter through things.

“If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.” Maya Angelou

Today is also World Mental Health Day. I make no secret of my battles with mental health, I am grateful for the peace my sport can help me find, the calm, quiet time on the range is a blessing. Please do look after yourself you are important and if you need support ask for it. Mind is a great starting place and there are other organisations out there some I know better than others.

I have a rest day today and I have lots of things to do but I am going to take my coffee and my book and sit in nature for an hour, I deserve the time to breathe. Looking after yourself is not a luxury.

On Friday as I dashed about at the beginning of a long weekend of work with 56 hours on house I was made aware of .International Smile Day. Harvey Ball created the smiley face in 1963 but became concerned with the commercialisation of his symbol and created this day to remind us all that the smiley face knows no politics, no geography and no religion.  Harvey’s idea was that for at least one day each year, neither should we.  He declared that the first Friday in October each year would henceforth be World Smile Day® and the first was held in 1999. The idea is that a small act of kindness can make someone smile. If you know me you know that this is something I truly believe and try to achieve daily.

As many of you know October is breast cancer awareness month and wear it pink will be on 20th October. I am grateful for the care I received from the unit at Kettering General Hospital several years ago. Please take the time to check your health and remember men can and do also suffer from this.

The other subject I feel it’s important to highlight and you are aware I do is October is also used to highlight Domestic Violence an area that I have worked in for many many years and I enjoy the time I have been allowed to use Integr8Archery to show how sport can help with mental health, confidence and to allow new friendships to be formed in a safe and supportive environment by working with some amazing people in refuge.

Have a good week and stay well and safe 🥰

Wow what a weekend that was ❤️🏹

In March I sat down and set my goals for the outdoor season.

Taking into account that 2018, 2019, 2020 I got a second class, 2021 finally my first and after an awful, torrid 2022 ground out another first. Knowing that where I had been in 2021 was gone for me, but the terror of 2022 was being dealt with and that mentally I had safe spaces I set those goals and looked forward to the summer.

One that would see me enjoy the whole week at Dunster and volunteer for AGB along with starting a new, amazing job.

Knowing that I hadn’t barely had an indoor season as I devoted my time to family and particularly dad’s last weeks but had, in those few occasions I had picked up my bow achieved a C class – my best ever indoor classification. I signed up to AGB’s #great arrow count and set off to see what summer would bring.

Well initially I achieved 4 personal bests in different rounds and 2 x bowman 3rd class scores – decent start I felt.

Then my shoulder started to grumble and over the next few weeks that grumbling got louder. The issue with my hands but especially my right hand, that I had been having for 6/7 years and had been gradually deteriorating suddenly, rapidly becoming a huge issue. So my shooting fell apart, no matter as I set about asking questions and looking for answers whilst carrying on, scores didn’t matter at all, smiling with a bow in my hand certainly did! Then of course we have those vocal folks who believe their opinion matters! That my scores are so appalling I have no right to be on the shooting line! Well huge raspberries to you and your opinions because your knowledge of me is zilch so you don’t have an opinion that I need!

So the great arrow count is done – 26 weeks and I have shot 15,669 arrows. Not as many as I planned. But 60% of my aim back in March. A combination of 19 scored rounds or competitions in target archery, approximately 2/3 of what I had intended. None of the 3 flight completions I had intended to attend. A combination of the new job, shifts, health and family commitments and the responsibilities I now have with dad gone impacting these aims.

Plans made with work and family to help me resolve the time issues and of course huge plans to work my backside off over indoors with bow, new release aid and pretty much a new way of shooting for me to continue to be on the shooting line and get ready for outdoors 2024.

Desperately disappointed in my classification but also happy to still be shooting at all. There has been a constant theme since I signed up to my beginners course in 2018 that I should not bother and I should quit. Thankfully I am possibly one of the most stubborn and bloody minded folks or I would certainly have quit on many occasions!

So I have one more outdoor competition in a few weeks and then indoors it will be to learn my new way forward! Planning ahead for what the possible surgeries might mean and two further steps in case the issues with my hand/arm/elbow deteriorate further and further again. Like me the county captain is a planner! 🙃

I thoroughly enjoyed this weekend – scored round stood up on Saturday and shooting the county champs Sunday morning followed by agenting Sunday afternoon, all done with amazing company 🥰

Thank you as ever to those who support me in continuing to hold my bow – forever grateful 🤗

Blown away by the words of friendship from three different people in 3 different places this weekend – always strange to hear positive thoughts about me and how I am perceived by people who have opinions I value and they had made those thoughts public!

A photo sent to me Sunday evening that, for me, truly showed me how far I have come from 16th May 2022 – wow 🤩

Lots coming this weekend and I will explain as we go through the week, for now, I am off to bed 😴🫣

Week 64 already?!

So I am a week away from a quarter of the way through year 2 of Integr8Archery! I still can’t believe I have a CIC and a club! I do however love how it’s all tied down tight on paper with the government so that anyone who does any work with me can’t take advantage of the CIC.

So what’s the last week been? Calls, webinars, teams, zoom, webex …… attending the inaugural conference hosted by the Muslim Sports Foundation. Many interesting speakers and some great networking as well as catching up with friends who were also in attendance.

Testing options and making decisions regarding how to proceed with my own archery. Those made and the next 4 weeks planned to complete my outdoor season for 2023 and a plan created for the serious work that will begin to learn to shoot again through the indoor season. Certainly will not be bored! There will be no time for that!

October will see my new agreed rota start for the day job, adjusting to allow family and shooting time and remove some of the stresses of trying to fit those in whilst doing a job I love. It all become a little mangled and messy over the summer so this should be a great step forward to let me have control of time back.

Lots to do for Integr8Archery with new groups and sessions being requested and lots of great things in the pipeline.

I love getting updates from groups and individuals who keep me up to date with what is happening and I am loving the data for this next quarter as much as I did those first 12 months. It is a privilege to be allowed to bring my sport to people and work with those already in it, thank you.

This weekend will see Chris undertake her assessment to become a sessions coach, I am so very proud of her, having been an instructor for years, joining the education project in September 2021 when she answered the email Archery GB sent out for me to the local instructors, she has become an important part of the team who supports me, continuing to work with schools and wanting to further her knowledge. Thank you too goes to Northamptonshire Sport for funding to help with the cost of her course.

Today is Youth Mental Heath Day – check out Young Minds or Stem for help with support. This years theme is #bebrave which can mean many things to many people. Take a look at The Children’s Society page to look at the latest good childhood report.

With this in mind it was extremely good to receive the email from The NSPCC to announce that the online safety bill has been passed. It’s been a long road but absolutely worth the efforts of anyone who’s supported it.

Have a good week and take care of yourselves please ❤️🏹

Busy, busy, busy – but some fun amongst the challenges too

Two weeks ago I sat on the line in my county shirt knowing that my hand was going to prevent much of anything, but I was going to have fun with my county squad mates.

I have had issues with the nerves for around 6 years and it’s impacted my fingers on and off. 2023 has seen it really ramp up and loss of sensation and dropping things is now incredibly common – I have broken some things that are irreplaceable this summer 😞 From an archery point of view shooting when your fingers can’t feel your release aid is a little tricky and constantly picking the release aid up off the floor is tedious!

So I gave in and visited the medical centre, nerve damage in my wrist, hand and the ulnar nerve – impacting my thumb, three fingers and hand. A lump of escaped fluid from the wrist that has settled above the nerves in my lump – not helping!

I am waiting on an appointment for nerve testing to then allow us to make a decision going forward, a whole bunch of things have been suggested in that appointment including some surgeries. In the meantime the wrist brace, those who know me well know how well I take to these things, like the shooting stool – I see everything as giving in, not aiding me to continue – I hoped to prove I didn’t need it, but it was clear, very clear that it does help, it makes a difference. I have to take it off for a number of hours and have to think about when to time that but when it’s on I carry things, when it’s off I drop them 🙃 it works then!

Having to wear the wrist brace means I have to think about release aids. Yesterday saw me on the field and trying options, yes the photos aren’t pretty – you can’t adjust the bow for each when you are trying multiple and flipping back and forth asking questions! So judge if you like but I am not asking for hints and tips on draw – thank you for the advice, social media is awesome for armchair coaching!

Easy option is stay with what I use and tie it to me, but we have to consider the long term, which lends itself to the wrist release. Absolutely will mean working my backside off over the indoor season but I started to flesh out my plan and create a little team to support me. Good old pen and paper and a table – whoop all those hours at school wondering when I would ever do this as an adult – even played with the glittery highlighters 😂

So my hand it would appear going to be wearing the wrist brace and a wrist release, well at least it’s going to help keep it warm over the winter – right? Silver lining right there 😂🫣

What else have I been doing? Conference with the Muslim Sport Foundation and meetings with Sport England and a couple of new community groups, getting back to what’s important – introducing people to our sport, people who think they are not welcome to pick up a bow. More to come on these over the next few weeks.

Today I shall be at DISC, I love this group they are so welcoming and we smile – a lot. Then off to Towcester to shoot with friends and just practise using my release aid whilst it’s tied to me as I have a couple more shoots planned and I am not playing with the wrist release in competition.

Have a good Sunday ❤️🏹 Can’t wait to hear how Rose and the Northamptonshire Junior Team got on today.

Not going to lie, the decision to use my middle finger for the wrist release and not my index finger, does feel poetic 😜

Also, my hair is growing back! Who knows for how long but last weekend at work didn’t see it all jump off my head so maybe it will stay a little while, notice the white hair is always the first to grow back 🫣😂