What if resisting change means having to quit? – by Helen Sharpe

I signed up to my beginners’ course in January 2018, knowing at the same time that I would have a limited amount of time available to shoot because of the restrictions to my body and the pain those restrictions create. So I guessed 2 years?

Lots of issues in lots of areas and over the previous 22 years several surgeries, physios and whatever it took bit by bit to keep me going.

Being the last person in the house to pick up a bow meant that I had been around archery long enough watching what happens to know probably my best chance to shoot was with a compound bow.

So away I went, met with some resistance from those who felt that no novice should start with a compound – whatever was I suggesting!

I was lucky enough to have a coach on my beginners’ course who was happy to go with me in that starting process, so beginners course completed off we set.

So, 2 years? What could I cram into 2 years! Cram I did, shooting every day, bow in the car – office to range.

Clear advantage to living in a house of archers, if I hadn’t gotten my bow and found myself stuck at the office, I would often get a text message to tell me my bow was waiting, set up and ready to go on the shooting line, taken by my family.

I had learned over the previous 43 years to ignore the pain (not recommended in any way) and plough on.

Perfect in my mind because I wanted to compete, my plan was 4 specific local competitions in my first outdoor season – my reality? 18 competitions – including being selected to shoot for the county!

County selection surprised me, but this amazing squad have proven immensely vital in helping me face the changes that, though I anticipated, have still been surprisingly painful on an emotional level.

I love long days of competition, but they come at a cost, I cannot sit down during the day because the moment I relax I can’t move. So, a 1440 – amazing day often with great people. Walking slower as the day goes on but pushing through and often achieving more than I had hoped.

At a cost though, those closest to me would see me when it was over – and help me find my space to lay on the floor as my body seizes up and I cry – a lot – as the pain hits. Some of those friends might pour me a beer, some might cry with me, I learned later what watching someone in great pain can feel like for those around you, but that is someone else’s story.

There are no categories in archery that allow for pain, it’s incredibly difficult to quantify pain so how would you make rules that fit it? A challenge but if someone wants to pick it up and try, there are many of us who would be grateful.

I set myself a target for that first outdoor season and surpassed it.

Indoors came and a new coach, but someone who knew me and wanted to work with the issues.

Back outdoors and by now nearing 18 months and the toll was hitting – that original predicted 2 years looming and the reality that the pain was definitely becoming unbearable. My coach found himself away often due to work commitments.

So on I tried to plod a lone with increasing pain.

Until the offer of a new coach arrived, one who thought we might have ways to try to get me more than 2 years in a sport that I now loved and didn’t want to give up. With a phone call he turned our team of 2 into a team of 3, a physio to add some knowledge to the situation.

Not an easy few months as those assessments and conversations happened.

When you have fought to walk and move and do everything without giving in, to have these people come into your life who think they have answers that sound in your mind like giving into those issues – it’s not easy if you are stubborn! And I might be just a little bit stubborn, possibly.

At different points it has been suggested I sit to shoot, always met by my less than polite reply to whichever brave person suggested it.

This coach however may be slightly braver than anyone else had been because despite being warned and the reaction the first time he mentioned it, he did mention it again!!

I am an evidence-based creature so to believe it was the answer regardless of what we thought we might know, I needed to see proof. So data gather started to prove what different scenarios and arrow counts would show, with sitting, standing and with or without an agent.

I am immensely grateful to those people who lived through that process with me, coach, physio and agents because quite frankly I was unbearable, and I didn’t behave well because I saw it all as giving in and letting my broken body and pain win after always fighting it.

We all survived the process – just!

The decision discussed and agreed that if I wanted to shoot I had to sit because crying as I shoot due to pain isn’t really acceptable.

Sounds simple? Nope.

You can’t walk into a store and come out with a shooting stool and to add to the issue we found ourselves in a pandemic!

My county squad mates came out as soon as possible and spent time, session after session creating what I needed and letting me rant and stomp about in the process.

So I spent the summer of 2020 learning to bond with Bert the shooting stool.

Dealing with my own head space whilst at the same time being faced with opposition from people who had opinions about if pain, regardless of how severe, should see a shooting stool allowed on the shooting line, because after all, pain is not a disability, right?

It’s a lot to get your head around but as coach keeps telling me – laying on the ground immobilised and crying in pain means giving up shooting so get sat on the stool and get on with it or quit.

Am I that resistant to change and so impacted by other people’s opinions that I never want to shoot another arrow? No.

Am I still learning to accept that I must change to carry on shooting – yes!

But I am also very blessed to have some amazing people in my corner to support that change and a coach who has most definitely become my best friend and will let me scream and shout and stomp and then tell me to quit moaning and get on with it.

So I can and I will change and learn to accept it and contend with opinions of others because I want more than 2 years, in fact I just had the 3rd anniversary of my beginners course. So maybe if faced with the option of quitting I can, in fact, be strong enough to change instead.

Author Archives: Helen Sharpe

I completed my beginners course in January 2018, the last in the house to pick up a bow.

I love my sport and along with shooting whenever I can, I volunteer - a lot!!!!

I believe that we are all lucky enough to have found a sport that welcomes everyone, regardless of age or ability.

Outside of archery I am a trading standards officer and having worked in enforcement for over 20 years I love rules and so when I grow up it’s my ambition to become a judge.

On the weekends just to top up my archery hours, I am the Saturday girl at Aim4sport.

Archery has also made me realise that what I had thought might be a little OCD to my personality - is actually much more than I thought and I think it’s because of this that my favourite target face is the Vegas 3-spot - shoot my arrows in number order at the targets in order - all of my happy boxes ticked.

But my belief is simply enjoy every arrow you shoot, regardless of how your day is going - where else would you rather be than at the range.