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 🥰🥂

3 weeks since I did a mid week blog, sorry 🙃

Sorry for the gap in mid week blogs, lots of things have been going on.

So it’s been busy, busy, busy. A lot has been planned for 2024 and I am looking forward to all of it and I will share more about each session/group/collaboration as the plans become settled. Particularly after the decisions of the coming week.

I have a lot of decisions to be made on a personal level but whatever these are, the things that I have committed to will go ahead and there have been a number of conversations about how to protect Integr8Archery CIC, I am very proud of everything that I have accomplished over the years for this sport and particularly since Integr8Archery began so this will continue, sitting down and reviewing this second year and looking at numbers and achievements has helped me put everything into perspective.

As well as a number of meetings, this week has seen me attend the Ann Craft Trust training in regards to safeguarding adults, which was a great session, anyone involved in safeguarding will know there’s a lot of efforts put into training for general safeguarding or for children but sessions specifically aimed at adults are rare. It was also a great way to learn more about the Ann Craft Trust, who I have spoken to a number of times in the last few months regarding some issues that I have been dealing with for over 3 years. Many thanks to Northamptonshire Sports to for putting the session on.

A third session in the #look closer programme being put on by the Children’s Society. There is always more to learn, even in regards to subjects ŵe may know about and I do find these are well put together sessions.

I was blown away to receive an email asking me to consider some volunteer posts that are hugely important in regards to disability sports and access, both would be a privilege but I need to consider what I want to do with archery and what will fit in with my future, I think it’s likely I can consider one of the roles.

After a very busy weekend of night shifts, I have had time to celebrate the hard work that has seen me be successful in a promotion in the day job and today I got to visit the amazing young people who I love spending time with at DISC. Always inspiring and gives me lots of motivation. Then a few hours with friends at Towcester Archers catching up with some great people.

Now for an early night as I have some meetings tomorrow and lots of planning to do. Take care and have a great week, thank you to those who share their successs, progresses and joys with me, and the photos I received this weekend of bobble hats following my post last week.

Projects update – seems appropriate today

The last few weeks there have been a number of enquiries and some of those who support me, or who do work with me have also had questions asked by people about Integr8Archery both the Community Interest Company and the archery club. So I thought as we are at the next quarter and I have been doing updates at intervals then it seems timing is good to answer at least some of those questions.

Along with that pre Integr8Archery rollouts were planned from 19th June 2022 to 4th October 2023 – today! Perfect timing then.

I had worked on my projects, then grew them as an ambassador for AGB, then collaborated with Aim4sport, working on their projects, mine and creating some together, in some cases threading them together. Information was out there about some of what was going to be launched after the closure of the shop and training centre. I have explained that I have little to no knowledge to answer questions outside of my work with Integr8Archery though I have tried to help where I can.

So where are things at that I know of?

Archery In Education

This project currently sits at 18 secondary schools and 5 primary schools in Northamptonshire. Along with 2 schools in Norfolk, 1 in Lincoln, 3 in Yorkshire, 2 in Kent, 3 in the south and I am supporting coaches in a variety of areas who work in a total of 11 other educational settings. There are 5 settings I have drawn a line under who were part of my project but I cannot/will not work with the coaches in those settings.

Disability and Health

I thoroughly enjoy spending time with the DISC group hosted by Northamptonshire Carers and have a great time. The group being set up for existing archers with disabilities had some delays but is getting back on track and will be getting together soon. I have had a great time over the summer being invited to a number of groups who support people with disabilities showing just how adaptive archery is and I am excited about plans for some long term work on access around the areas of learning disabilities, wheelchair and mobility issues, physical disabilities and also visually impaired individuals.

Incusive and supportive

Integr8Archery has hosted another 3 groups of ladies who have found themselves in refuge and making amazing progress on changing their lives and regaining control and confidence. As with any individual or group I try to pair projects with the right coaches, we don’t all have the same strengths and that’s what make us great together. This is definitely a group that selection of coaches is key and I thank those who have been involved. It’s been an amazing experience to be allowed to work with these ladies.

I have worked with several groups around accessibility and inclusion of those with different cultural backgrounds and I am excited to see a couple of these grow into amazing ideas for sustainability.

I continue to work with 3 support groups for LQBTQIA+ young people. The idea I had developed around inclusive competition that became entwined with a bigger idea and I took to a working party and the NGB is something that I stepped away from after being attacked via social media that the idea I had joined with didn’t belong exclusively to the person who shared it with me. So I went back to my original smaller idea and we have had a few small local competitions based on inclusion and I have also worked with 3 senior archers looking at competitions and supporting them in their respective journeys.

There have been another 2 groups of foster children who have taken part in a number of sessions and have had a great time and I am currently working with a couple of different agencies and creating opportunities for children in care to be involved with our sport.

Safeguarding

My most important role I think, those that know me well know this. I constantly work to improve my learning and knowledge in an area that has impacted my paid employment for 30 years and my years of volunteering. Safeguarding is something I have done for years in my sport and I see well-being an important part of this role too.

A large portion of my time here is taken up with something that sees me having been dealing with 14 years worth of information from 42 archers and coaches and sees me continuing to support 9 people and their families on an ongoing basis but also new people come to me at intervals. Some days this fight can be overwhelming but though I have occasionally considered walking away from it, I can’t, changes need to be made so on we fight. I do need to thank Mario, Lynn, Ted and Martin though because I couldn’t fight if I didn’t have a support network for my own wellbeing.

A network in safeguarding is especially important and supporting other officers has always been an important part of what I do.

Charity and franchise

Having spent over two years working hard on contracts and legislation and seeing it all fall into place was amazing, we had it sorted. Creating the charity was something to be hugely proud of and I had a number of people who were ready to invest and donate when we were to launch in June 2022. Linking these two things with the education project was a fantastic project and had amazing potential so pulling it apart was upsetting. Keeping my education project and growing it has made me proud. Being allowed to help look at where those donations could go instead was a privilege and combined it was a huge amount of money, though some offered it to me for Integr8Archery I refused all offers out of this pot as it simply wouldn’t have sat well with me to take it. I do thank those who have sent me updates on the impact that money has had, it’s great to see young people enjoying opportunities that have been given.

That positive energy and news has helped balance the ultimate decision I had to make to pass on some of the abuse I received to the police and that 2 of those people had charges made against them. What was to be an amazing project certainly beat me emotionally and mentally in the end. The decision to pull the education project out of it was the only thing I could do, the other elements were not mine to push forward without the collaboration.

America

The app and the coaching elements that I had worked on here were not mine to continue. However I was blown away to be asked to continue to consult with what had been my elements and I do enjoy the process of developing the community sports projects across the Atlantic, even if that means I am usually shattered and ready for bed when they are excited 😆 again it’s great to get updates and even a couple of little videos from some of the children who have been involved in the three cities involved. It’s not the right time at the moment for me to go over but it’s lovely to have the open invitation to visit when I am ready. I have however had a couple of visits to Camden to chat with my friend who’s business opened those doors when I contacted him and been rewarded with a couple of my favourite sandwiches as thanks for what I am doing – I’ll take that as reward for giving my time.

Volunteering

The very many hours that I give to Integr8Archery all given as a volunteer.
I also love giving my time to the other sports that I join occasionally, especially within the running community who are always a great crowd. I love the time I spend with the competitions team at Archery GB for national and international competitions and have been a little disappointed this year with how few I have managed to attend, Grand Prix, JNOC and I will be at the indoors in December but I think the changes we have agreed at work will help me balance paid employment, family commitments following the loss of dad and my own archery and let me attend more AGB volunteering next year.

I have also submitted an application to volunteer in something entirely different, I will keep you updated if this happens and I think it may surprise you to hear what it is!

Employment and my own learning

I love my job, 6 months in I can say it’s fantastic and gives me a level of satisfaction and motivation that I haven’t properly had in paid work for many years. Exhausting, mentally and emotionally draining at times, of course, but I really do feel it’s the right job for me. I don’t complain about my work, I may complain about frustrations that all of us who do the work have, it that’s very different. I am about to embark on a level 3 diploma for that job, along with restarting some courses I had paused due to my mental health and devoting time to dad so the next 12 months will be busy.

Collaborating?

I spend a lot of time in webinars, meetings, conferences with a number of groups, organisations and agencies looking at lots of areas that impact sports and how we can all work together towards common goals.

I am also enjoying working together with other Community Interest Companies and charities to bring access to sport to such a variety of groups and individuals – it’s a privilege to be part of these.

CIC and Club

Simply, we will continue to enable people to try our sport, access it in whatever way they wish, stay in it if the feel change may prevent this. When the recent kit damage is repaired our little club will pick up and carry on with its plans too. If you wish to belong to our supportive community please contact us. You don’t have to leave your club to be part of us, everyone is welcome and it’s lovely to get updates on how everyone is doing.

I am sat here feeling like I have forgotten something 🫣 no doubt someone will point it out to me 😂

So whilst I wait for that I just want to say thank you to everyone who has supported me in any way or who has trusted me to help them. Never do I take any of this for granted and you, the people are always the priority 🥰🏹



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 62 #sitting down does not mean sitting out

This week I had to choose between national flight championships and an invitation to shoot for the county.

Having shot flight nationals in 2021 and 2022 and making great friends there as well as bringing home medals has been amazing and flight is my favourite type of archery. So much so that I include it in the list of things I deliver and share.

The county squad have been with me almost since the beginning – I hadn’t been shooting long when I received my first invitation to wear the county shirt. They have stood by me through every challenge, never judge me but always support me and in return I do what I can to support each and every one of them, always. They are my family.

So I guess the decision was easy even if I was going to miss something I love, this was about my people. The county struggle to field a squad for the Thorsby shoot every year so even injured and trying to regain form I was in.

As I sat on the line waiting for arrows to be collected I saw that there were 4 of us sat on the line, 3 out of the 5 counties had seated archers on their squad. This is hugely important for me as I am privileged to be allowed to help archers who need to make changes to stay shooting and also to introduce new people who have thought they have a disability that excludes them from sport. #sitting down does not mean sitting out. Ours is the most inclusive and adaptive sport I know.

The other noteworthy thing of this week was the completion of the NSPCC welfare officer training: time to talk delivered by UK Coaching. 3 hours very well spent and as always I do find multi sport environments incredibly rewarding as we share good practices.

Lots to do this week for work, for me and for Integr8Archery so I hope you all have a great week ❤️🏹

Lots of data gathering this week for me ❤️🏹 – Thank you Dunster for everything so far ….

When I started shooting I believed that I had 2 years before this broken body would crumble and stop. With the help and support of a number of people I have reached 5 and a half years. It’s been a rollercoaster, the physical pain, moving to seated, the emotional trauma. Shooting for the county is a privilege and no, I am never aiming to “just make up the numbers” as has been suggested by one coach.

The last 18 months have been about fighting to remain on the range mentally and emotionally, people literally holding me together as I breakdown and cry on ranges, spiralling to darker and darker places. In my very darkest place friends decided I needed to see the sport differently, they knew a massive amount of the damage to my relationship with the range was created by a coach and the NGB amongst others.

I was taken to a field course and welcomed with incredible warmth and a huge discussion about why many found themselves there and what a different type of archery and a different governing body had given them and what they might offer me.

However I cannot shoot field, there is a risk with the shoulder spasms that a loose arrow may hit an archer by the nature of the lay out, it’s simply not a risk in target. Plus there is my love of flight archery.

I was also taken to longbow day at Dunster on the 15th June. I had barely survived the 16th May and so was vulnerable on that range but I was met with warmth and laughter and the feeling that I would be welcome here. So Clair and I decided to come this year and spend 10 days taking part in the whole thing, from the county championships, the week’s festival and ending on the regional championships.

I had 13 months to get myself in shape mentally and physically to be here and have fun, something that had been taken away from me.

A week later we had the devastating news about dad and the training on the shooting side took a step back, the focus was on him, rightly so and never regretted.

I did ground out that second seasons first classification, hard work pulled it off and as I had spent a huge amount of time with unclassified or 3rd class scores I was again proud to achieve it. It was evidence that I was pulling it back together. Also some shiny bling again from my second year at the national flight championships and my new found love of the footbow. What is not to love about a bow that sees every single arrow shot make me laugh like a drain! My first raptor badge, Merlin earned too.

Winter shooting was cancelled for me as it simply wasn’t to be a priority but with the small amount of shooting I managed around the important time spent with dad and the few shoots I managed after he left us and the time spent with mum, I managed to end the season with a C classification, I had only ever achieved a D previously.

The work I was doing on my mental health was hard, very hard but it was gaining ground.

Outdoor 23 has been a very mixed bag, hard work and some PB’s but also some terrible days and terrible scores. My body is again breaking down.

July arrives and it’s Dunster time, here I am a week in, my scores are horrible but I am having an amazing time. The plan had been shooting 7 of the 8 days, target on the field day and volunteer on the clout day. I would be standing on the longbow day as the practicalities of the stool on a 2 way shoot were likely to create me more issues than resolve.

I wanted to shoot longbow day as a nod to last year, my first visit that gave me purpose in my sport when I had lost all hope in believing I had a place on the range.

My little longbow has never been shot at a target as she is for flight and I have her as I love watching the arrows float, you don’t get to see the arrows with compound! She brought me home a bronze medal at flight last year but I didn’t expect much of her at Dunster as it was unlikely the arrows would even reach the boss! But she made me proud as the arrows constantly fell around the feet of the boss, they were making the distance! I learned what petticoats are – we don’t get those in compound and I hit a 3! Shortly after starting the second distance it was clear I had to make a decision about the pain and I withdrew, it was a fantastic day regardless and well worth the effort.

Friday saw equipment failure and make up arrows, another new experience at Dunster 😂😂

More importantly, I have constantly had issues this week with my shoulder and back, as expected, I had a little cry on Tuesday as I pondered if this was nearing the end of my shooting but I was sensible and contacted Ben and Martin to arrange some time when I get home to look at what is happening, what we might do and what the future might hold. This equipment failure suggested it may not all be about me as there could have been this piece failing over the course of the week!

So here I am, heading into a double Hereford to end the week, I am going to enjoy it with no expectations and just see what happens. Scores are irrelevant this week. Dunster has been about something so very much more than where my arrows land. It’s been a celebration that I made it, that last May didn’t take me and that my sport may still have space for me for just a little longer. I do still have 2 important goals for 2025! For now Dunster 2024 is on my calendar to return and celebrate me, my shooting and it’s 150th meeting! 🥳

Week 54 – events, delivery, prep and my archery!

Another busy week in the bag.

Some exciting new projects being discussed and planned and some great collaborations with other local Community Interest Companies too.

I never like having to refuse things and this week saw me have to turn down a couple of things but all with very good reason and luckily there are possible ways to supply different things at a later date for these groups.

As always I love going into the schools and it was great to go into Wrenn and catch up with some of the children who had been doing the curriculum sessions, and a privilege to go in to help them provide sessions for the children who have to attend on strike days.

Today I have been in to Sapcote Primary to help deliver the latest taster for one of the Leicestershire schools. It’s great to see this all coming together after the months of work we have been putting in. The children were enthusiastic and staff are very keen to learn and get this going as an after school event. They took care of us in the fire alarm test too.

Weather saw us have to postpone the latest session for Wellingborough Muslim Community group but we will sort this out soon. All archers know there is very little weather we don’t shoot in but thunderstorms are a hard no.

We are Undefeatable and also the Belong networks both had their latest meetings always great to share and learn from each other. Safeguarding and some great proactive discussions rather than just the often proactive actions. Looking forward to developing the ideas from these meetings and seeing what we can achieve.

My last competition before my trip to Dunster saw a great day with a double Windsor at Long Buckby Archery Club. A great day of testing the techniques I have been working on to enable me to get through the long days of shooting, definitely going to be important next week. I have no expectations on scores and the phrase “here to make up the numbers” intrigues me. No I am here to have fun, enjoy my sport and do what I want for me! Along the way I am lucky enough to have met amazing people who chat and allow me to help them. I started shooting thinking I might have 2 years but with the help of a friend who is an archer and a physio we are dragging this wreck through and I have surpassed 5 years! Making up the numbers? Shove off am I! My goals may not be your goals but I wish you well with yours whilst I get on with mine.

Friday 14/7 to Monday 24/7 will see me away and focusing on me, something that I just never do so be patient with me it’s a new experience for me too, not putting everyone else first 🙃

Take care and stay well 🥰🏹

53 weeks – a year and one week 😜 I appeared everywhere this week! In print and in person❤️🏹

Thank you to Jonathon Yau for his photos this weekend and the various parents who caught me as I ran around.

I have spoken before about volunteering for Archery GB and the competition team. As I enjoy competing I am grateful to those who work hard to put events on, whatever the level, local club scored rounds to international competitions the basics are very similar, just number of competitors that often see the need for an increase in the numbers of workforce required. Don’t be afraid, give it a go, those who have been doing it a while are always on hand in the moment to help and as with any busy, time restricted happening, there’s occasionally a cross word, but at the end of the day when we collapse over food and prep for tomorrow this are resolved and forgotten and replaced with laughter.

We are successful because we work hard together and take care of each other, we are a team. Blue shirts, green shirts, paid staff and volunteers and by far the most important thing is we have a sense of humour, as can often be seen in the photos.

Why do I do it? This weekend I had a child approach me to ask if they could show me a photo, a collage of what they have won or earned since last year’s JNOC. This same child stood on this same grass a year ago crying and they were going to quit, not withdraw from the competition but quit the sport. I, as I often do, saw them and started a conversation, with them, with their parent. We kind of sorted it, they went back to the line, and a couple of times came back to find me over the weekend for another little chat. A year later they wanted to show me their achievements and thanked me for helping them stay in the sport.

It is a privilege to be allowed to help someone pause, breathe and reset. I have children and adults who often come to find me at competitions to let me know how they are doing, 6 months, a year, 5 years later, 1 who messages me occasionally from overseas to update me as they no longer live in the UK. Often these are people who I don’t know until I see them crying on a range. In part it’s who I am, I know how it feels when life is biting you, if I can help I will. In part it’s the safeguarding officer in me. Mental well-being is as important as everything else that we are taking care of.

Which is why it’s hard to see children, or adults, crying because a parent or coach is shouting, in some cases swearing at an archer. As they come back from the line, being berated for their scores! There are less of these than those who support, but there are far too many and whilst we are looking at ways to change it, it’s huge, a culture created over time. It’s not acceptable and certainly I have seen and supported some with very real, very serious examples of bullying.

There’s also too many examples of children bullying others, encouraged by parents and coaches because throwing them off their game might bring down their scores and let you win. Sure it might, but it does make you a bully and it’s not something to encourage by responsible grown ups!

As ever my body hates what I drag out of it when I do these events and I now have to recover. It’s worth it to me, another event that was a success put on by team work. Now it’s time to sit and reflect on what happened, what I might do going forward and also how I might help create change for others too.

Thank you to everyone who reached out to celebrate my first year of Integr8Archery and those who have read the membership magazine will see the numbers quoted vary a little from what I was able to finalise for my end of year data, simply because they needed information to get the magazine ready and I still had another 6 weeks work to put in! You will have noticed that I am on more than one page 😱😂 but it’s making me smile how you all think Clair is me too, my shirt and hats are warn by many, I am not the only crazy archer out there getting bows in hands, I do have help 🙃

Thank you to everyone who sent kind words in reply to the Northamptonshire Sports article on my being selected as a Northants Active Champion, it was a little overwhelming and incredibly humbling – thank you 😊

Events delivered last week, more planned over this week and the summer and meetings, meetings, meetings! The latest children’s coaching collaborative meeting discussing play their way, was another great session and it’s always great to be in the multi sports environment as I do think that whilst things need to change in archery there’s lots who need the same change and supporting each other can only make us stronger.

I am trying to pull as much together as I can before my Dunster week, I don’t know what time or internet access I will have whilst there for 10 days so let’s get what we can sorted before I am away. It’s amazing how many people have asked me to shave days off my trip, no! I have worked hard this last year to stay in my sport with a bow in my hand and to relearn the joy and how to smile. So I won’t be giving it up! I don’t care about scores or bling, I am going to experience something I was previously discouraged from doing and doing it with my friend.

I will let you know how it goes as I am sure I will be encouraging you all to give it a go to.

Take care and enjoy your week 🥰 hugs and kisses to you all

Week 51 – busily approaching the 1st birthday 🥳❤️🏹

It’s been a busy week for sure! Meetings, calls, reviews and prepping for the end of school year fun and competitions, the summer holidays and for the new school year in September. So many ongoing projects and new ones in the pipelines. Looks like year 2 of Integr8Archery is going to be as busy as the first one!

I managed to put in a little bit of time for marshalling at the 5k at Castle Ashby, I love the vibe of the running community, Rose and I loved running and volunteering and I still get joy from that environment. It also reminds me that I have volunteered for many years without archery and that I and the outside world have a lot to offer each other.

Multi sports is a great way to find balance and I love sharing ideas around what combining forces can achieve, which led to a fantastic conversation yesterday and maybe new possibilities of us joining together for the community. So many of us have similar aims but can feel the tasks are too big, sharing can be a great way of helping each other at the same time as creating community projects.

Only managed to shoot practise arrows this week at limited distance but it feels good to have the bow in my hand. Planning for Dunster is huge priority and I am very much looking forward to the week.

Lots planned for this coming week as I approach the first birthday of Integr8Archery CIC, the data looks fantastic and I am incredibly happy with what I have achieved and grateful to those who have joined me in this first year, to deliver what we have.
For now I shall concentrate on the three events this week and the several meetings, whilst enjoying reflecting on the high points and learning from the things that didn’t go to plan.

Enjoy your week, everyone.

This is going to make me smile for a while, not being allowed to go as a child, but earning my first brownies badge at 48 years old and sharing campfire s’mores ❤️🏹🥰

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 🥰🏹❤️