I remember talking to my son after completing my beginners course and saying that summer I would do 2 competitions that were club only, put on more for social reasons that serious competition and it would give me several months to practise. He and my daughter love competitions and most Sundays saw us sat somewhere watching them shoot. He calmly replied that I had been entered for a great competition they had chosen for me in March – 5 weeks away!
What I had planned to be 2 gentle competitions late summer, became constant Sunday peace on the line. Never have I competed to beat anyone else – 6 years on and all I ever do is compare me to me.
That first summer saw me receive an invitation to shoot for the county, I recall the anxiety of walking onto the field for that first county competition, that was soon taken care of, never have I had a warmer welcome than that morning and many of those people are some of the most supportive, amazing friends in my life – family for sure. I have been blessed to earn a county year bar every year from 2018 – 2023, time will tell if the work I am doing to continue shooting will see me earn one for 2024? Certainly having the county captain as a shooting buddy has helped me stay when I might have quit the sport entirely.
I have earned lots of medals in my 6 years of shooting, there have been a range of achievements and on a few occasions I’ve been given a medal when there was only me in my category. I remember the first time that happened and wondering if it was at all meaningful? I was told that it represented the many hours of shooting I had put in before the competition, the hard days, the painful days, the days when I might not have picked up my bow but didn’t give up. So those few medals do actually carry meaning for me, helped by the fact that I have always kept a shooting diary and so I can see what went into the build up for each.
Flight has seen me earn national medals, 4 golds in 2021 and 2 golds, a silver and a bronze in 2022. 2023 saw circumstances keep me away from the competitions but hopefully this will not be the case in 2024, I love flight 🏹
Anyone who knows me knows that whilst I will always celebrate with you, I measure achievements in much more than medals. From a child who was being excluded from class daily who excelled when picking up a bow with us and gradually took that discipline into class and 8 months later their teacher emailed me to say they had just completed a month of being in class all day every day! A child who had become stuck in the house for many many months due to mental health issues created in lockdown, who gradually, steadily took the time to build up the courage to join me in our pjs to stand on the range!
In order to celebrate achievements I created the progress awards for those who are learning on a slower path than a traditional club environment may provide. I have celebrated with cake, hot chocolate, stickers, laughter …… many things. Occasionally I see something special that gives a reason to do something a little different. With this in mind I sometimes give away my medals, I explain what it is, how I came to have it, the effort it took not just on the day I received it. 2 of those have been a national gold medal.
In 2021 I had the pleasure of meeting an amazing young man, quiet, intelligent and awesome. Initially anxious, gradually settling, week after week feeling more comfortable. Some times we would share some lemon cake, a great ice breaker and I often believe it’s easier to be brave with food or drink in our hands, like a safety blanket. In May 2022 I had seen him flourish and again felt the privilege of someone who had trusted me. I gave him a gold medal, explained what it was and told him he deserved this for the efforts he had made, week after week, to walk in and gradually grow more comfort when social anxiety was very clearly a massive issue.
The other one? A special young man, who watched his grandfather, his best friend, battle cancer but ultimately loose that fight. In those early weeks of grieiving this young man had to travel across the world to spend time with family, many who he had either never met or only chatted with over FaceTime. Coming together because there was another significant loss in our family. In a strange country, surrounded by grief whilst dealing with loosing his grandfather he was brave enough to let us all in, and to let me take him almost 2 hours away to walk him onto a range and spend some time shooting arrows, a strange new sport, in a strange country with strangers. Since February 2023 that medal has lived across the Atlantic with a brave young man 🥰
So what do you do with your medals? I have photos of all of them and my diaries to tell me what and when I earned them so most are in a box that I put them in, but some of my medals are out there with others, including those 2 medals, doing a little bit of extra work ❤️🏹