week 85! Crikey where is time going!

Some. normalcy is returning slowly to the house. But it’s going to be months before things really settle. Don’t be offended if I don’t take your call or make you wait, I have made it clear that I am here, I am providing what I always do but that right now, me and the children are absolutely first.

what does that mean? I work full time and I am a mum. I have given 25-30 hours a week to other people’s archery for around 7 years, all voluntary. I am currently giving 15 – 20 hours a week, that’s no small amount.

This week has been meetings and calls regarding existing projects and some new ones for 2024. Calls with people I support and plans for archers, projects and coaches.

Not much time to pick up my own bow as home and work have demanded time that I rightly give. I am definitely blessed to have Jack when I come home to chat with 🤗 I am enjoying the brief time at the top of my division in the virtual archery league. I am fairly sure I have predicted the outcome but we’ll see if I am right in the next couple of months 🙃

I am looking forward to Sunday afternoon with DISC, always a great session and I really did miss last month’s, though the cancellation was for very good reason, I always come away inspired and motivated.

Right I am being shouted for my lunch before going to work, 25 hours on house and I have promised Jack some time to chill tomorrow evening so anything coming in will likely be answered Thursday.

Have a good week ❤️🏹

week 84 (+ 2 days 🙃) what do you do with your medals?

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 ❤️🏹

Week 83 – thank you for the support

Firstly a big thanks to the coaches who help me deliver sessions as they have quietly got on with it and made sure much of what is arranged has been delivered, some calls, cuppas and emails at random times – though working with me is a lot like that anyhow 😜😂🫣😋

Thank you too for those who have supported us taking care of Paul, it’s slow but he seems to be gradually improving 🤞🏻

Saturday was weird having electricity put into me hand and elbow, a list of things it isn’t but the news that it likely means whatever it is isn’t fixable. A discussion around the wrist brace with my beloved logic used against me which means it will be staying 🤨 but the very good news that I can continue shooting, obviously the changes will need to continue since the brace is staying 🤷‍♀️ but almost immediately my amazing shooting buddy pinged to arrange range time and a couple of quick messages mean I have a local range in case I need to get home quickly. So many amazing people in our sport – I am blessed to count many as friends.

Teams meetings at odd hours arranged for this coming week and things to do for ongoing and new projects.

Humbled to see a shout out from Sporting Equals at the weekend, always amazing to be recognised for my efforts and the work that Integr8archery CIC, but when it’s from outside the archery community it blows me away.

Take care and see you on a range soon, definitely glad I got my January Portsmouth in early for the virtual archery league otherwise I wouldn’t have managed to fit one in!

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

week 81 so looking forward to arrows this weekend ❤️🏹

It’s been an intense couple of weeks at work, as can be anticipated when working with young people with trauma, and at the moment we are needing to give time for extra shifts as one has had to be moved into a temporary setting whilst we secure a new placement for them, which means we are covering two properties not one, hard work and extra shifts, which means little to no shooting!

I am pleased I have arrows booked Friday night and some things over the weekend as it will help stop me giving up time when I do need to rest.

I am competing Sunday, I wasn’t going to enter this particular competition as I simple haven’t had chance to really practise with the bow and release aid change and there are still adjustments to be made, but when I saw there were a couple of spaces I decided it was just what my head space needed.

I shoot only against myself I wish everyone else well but I don’t compare what I am doing with anyone, ever, because I am not interested in comparison – we are individuals and have different paths.

My indoor season had been going well and I was seeing improvement so I have decided to shoot in the 50+ category for fun. I can then focus back on the senior category when I feel more settled with the changes, this is the advantage to having that big birthday at the end of 2024, I can use the two categories for different things – I like that freedom and I think it will serve me well.

It’s going to be a busy Sunday, competition followed by delivery to one of my favourite groups – DISC at Towcester, such a great group to spend time with, two years on that has never changed.

This week has been about squeezing in meetings and answering emails between shifts and trying to sleep at least a little bit. Northamptonshire Federation for Disability Sports, existing schools, a couple of new youth groups and catching up with some of the coaches who work with me.

Thank you for the patience you have all shown, I was reminded that when I talk of delays in responding I am still responding within 36 hours – it’s just my normal is within 2 hours! I have to learn to be kinder to myself, but hey one step at a time, look at the work I have been doing on my mental well-being in the last 2 years 😋🤔🙃

See you all soon, looking forward to Sunday especially ❤️🏹

week 80 – plans/decisions and what might 2024 bring?

Well the plans suggest that most of my arrows for January will be shot at home 🫣 not terrible but not ideal 🤷‍♀️

Trying to resolve kit issues for several projects, fingers crossed there. Finalising plans risk assessments for new projects, looking at coach availability for different groups and deciding who will work best where? I love this bit because when I get it right the relationships that form allow the archery to flourish.

Looking at where to step back, and trimming some things, part of a slow, long term process but incredibly important for the future.

Red January is going well considering the amount of time I have spent at work, so I am happy there.

lots of reading for NFDS and what we might do with the constitution ready for next week’s meeting.

plans around competitions for indoors and outdoors and of course Dunster in the summer, along with volunteering in and out of archery.

Time with my warhammer and very much looking forward to this week’s booked painting lesson – exciting 😊

So, you won’t have seen much of me but I am busy working away. Catch up with you soon ❤️🏹

Week 79 + 2 days 🫣🤨😋

End of week blog is late? Yes, yes it is. 2024 will see me relax a little a little about some of my commitments. I will do an end of week blog, these are important to me and I know some enjoy reading them, when I want to there will be a mid week blog. I will not stress and push myself for dates and times to do things that timings are not crucial for. I work full time on shifts and sometimes, for a variety of reasons find myself picking up extra shifts or having to stay late. These are important, my welfare, my family’s and the young people I work with, if I blog drops a little late, the world will continue to turn.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of dad’s death, I took the day for me and I am blessed that my children stepped in to care for me and spend time with me, resulting in good head space and much laughter.

I have been asked what my resolutions are for 2024, I don’t make resolutions. I have looked at the continued progress of looking after myself and how I can best achieve that. Lots of hospital appointments coming up in the next few weeks, answers will hopefully help, I have long since held the opinion that knowledge is power, knowing the answers gives me the power to look after myself. I have signed up to red January thanks to my activity partnership reminding me! Who better to get you moving? I have also started my jar of thanks – every day for a year you write down something that you are thankful for and drop it in there, it fits well with the work that I do from my therapy too.

Finding hope or good in every day may help with my PTSD and anxiety, anything that might reduce the daily fear and urge to flee can only be a benefit, I’ll let you know how it goes. Building on the work I have done is part of looking after me and that gives me the strength to do what I do for everyone else.

I have a lot of meetings and calls booked in for January and these cover a range of existing projects and exciting new opportunities, I will update you on these as they become relevant.

I have plotted out competitions for both indoor and outdoor seasons and put my name down for a whole bunch of volunteering.

I hope the return to normal after the holiday season hasn’t hit you too hard? See you all soon on the range somewhere.

For now I am off back to building my models with the supervision of Jack who recalled a conversation from 3 years ago and got me my first warhammer set. He’s not wrong, good for my head and almost physio for the fine motor skills with the issues I am having with grip, clever man, my son. It’s never surprised me how many archers enjoy warhammer and some of them have been great to chat with this week too, thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

Children in foster care = 13

Community Groups = 81

Disability sessions = 36

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

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

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

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

I have also attended:

8 training sessions/courses,

9 webinars/seminars,

16 meetings

and 5 conferences.

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

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

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

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 76! – deliberately a day late – grab a drink and have a read

I often get asked how I am here, now, today with all these hats! Literally and figuratively 😜

So I thought I would explain a little, though many of you know already.

As a child I took along while to learn to walk, my mum was told it was because I was on the heavy side, well in actual fact when someone eventually took the time to investigate what was going on with my knees, it was discovered that some of my bones are not straight and as a result some of my joints are not quite how they should be. This resulted in me being offered my first surgery and I could go radical – literally an offer to have bones cut, plates attached and general horribleness with no promises of improvement but certainly some risks or the simpler offer of general poking and tidying in my knee and some ligaments cut to help with the knee. Call me a coward but I opted for the simpler offer. I then had surgeries every 5-7 years on my left knee until they stopped around 13 years ago.

Then there was a huge traumatic event in 1996 which damaged bits of me, bones, nerves, ligaments, etc. Added to the general clumsiness of the last (almost) 49 years and a series of broken bones in various places but my fingers, foot, shoulder blade and a couple of car accidents that have impacted my back, shoulder and neck and pretty much most of me hurts a lot of the time. Years of avoiding painkillers as a result of watching someone with addiction means I have damaged nerves to help me ignore the pain.

At school my general clumsiness saw me in goal for football and netball and an eager participant in unihoc basically a fast and furious indoor 4 a side hockey. I did briefly have a place on the lacrosse team but I was taken off that and the less said about that the better! 😬

I was not built for running – fast or cross country – though as an adult I have completed a learn to run course and did regularly attend park run with the children, completed a 10km that ended in the Olympic stadium and, along with Rose took part in a race at Walt Disney World which I highly recommend.

So I became an adult understanding that sport was not for me, school had tried and failed to find anything I thrived at.

Fast forward to becoming a parent, I finally found someone who was brave enough to teach me to ride a bike 🚲- my first physiotherapist all those years earlier had told me he had me on the bike because he’d never seen anyone pedal how I did!

Jack tried many sports and eventually asked of he could try archery and we had some very real concerns over if he would be accepted with his epilepsy. In actual fact I have no idea that we would all be accepted and welcomed in such a way.

Since he needed an adult his dad decided he might as well join in and they completed their beginners course together. At the time I focused on Rose who was busy grading her way through her taekwondo belts and though she wanted to shoot with Jack, had some growing to do before she was able to draw a bow, though she was often found on a range trying, just in case she was now big enough!

In 2017 she was finally big enough and I was quite happy enjoying the sounds on the range whilst reading my book. Until I decided that I was going to do my beginners course in early 2018 just to avoid looking after other people’s children. Except I actually enjoyed it and with the understanding of how my body was broken I picked up a compound bow and set about shooting, we were fairly certain I had about 2 years in my shoulder. My intention was to cram as much as possible into that time.

I certainly did as I found myself at competitions week after week and was stunned when I was asked to shoot for the county! Worried that the squad would wonder why I was there I anxiously made my way and found the most amazing and accepting group of people I have ever been blessed to be around.

2019 saw me begin to breakdown and also for the first time ever, sit down with a physiotherapist who looked at all of me at once, I am grateful to the NHS but they have only ever looked at whichever has been the critical bit in the moment.

2020 saw me eventually accept that if I wanted to carry on I had to sit to shoot, not a process I easily accepted but I had lots of help from lots of people. Covid gave me the time to work my way through the mental process of change.

2021 saw me face the very real possibility of loosing my sport and a huge mental breakdown. Again some amazing people helped me through this too.

2022? well the head is in a better place but that earlier mentioned nerve damage has progressed rapidly and the issues of not being able to hold things well and my shoulder breaking down have created some issues and so change finds its way to me again, and the long waits for new hospital appointments and tests.

Throughout all of this I have been giving my time in lots of ways at club, county, regional and national levels – learning incredible amounts about my sport, how it works and how accessible, inclusive and adaptable it is. For 3 years I was an Archery GB ambassador and started to grown the work I had been doing to get people into the sport I love but also helping people stay who were already here. Some faced changed – I know how hard that can be mentally, and some had not had the warm welcome that we had received and felt there was no place for them. Over time, as these projects grew, it was repeatedly stated that I was creating too much work, unsure how because I was doing it or sharing it with coaches etc who were interested.

In 2022 I resigned as an ambassador and a few months later, after being told that I had a place and a purpose and I could do it alone I created Integr8archery CIC and shortly after Integr8archery club.

I work hard on those same aims, inclusion, accessibility and diversity. For those who haven’t picked up a bow and those who think they may have to leave.

I still hold club and regional roles whilst volunteering my time to Archery GB whenever possible for completions both national and international.

I am privileged to work with many groups and enjoy it all though it can be overwhelming at times being on my own, but I have a trusted group of coaches who work with me.

Why did I think that it was worth waiting for today for this?

My belief in this sport and what it can offer comes from that first experience when we were welcomed by Wellingborough Open Archery Club (WOAC). When the club was created all those many years ago the word Open was included because they aimed to be inclusive for everyone. Amongst the many people there was Pat Comber who first supported my son, his dad, then our daughter and eventually me. From picking up my first bow – the controversial beginner who went straight to compound! My early selection to county and then the changes I have had to make. Whilst at the same time listening to my ideas for driving inclusion and spreading our sport. Always believing and encouraging and inspiring with the conversations about setting up this club to be open, to creating a disability club and a ladies only club. All those years before when inclusion was certainly not mainstream agenda.

So, yes, today seems incredibly fitting to explain what I do and why and where some of that inspiration came from and why it will be hard work and draining but also a fight worth taking on, because I was shown what can happen when someone opens the door to sport for you. Me – that fat child from the 70’s who has a sport that accepted her and my son with the challenges that epilepsy brings and my shy little girl – in fact as a family, shown a welcome that makes us give so much to the sport in lots of way, but by making it welcoming.

We will miss Pat, not just as a family but the wider archery community too but I shall see what I can continue to achieve on our joint belief that we can bring this sport to anyone. ❤️🏹