Someone else’s perspective25th February 2022
Firstly, read all of this if you are going to read it!
Last year I wrote about my issues with moving to seated to continue shooting.
The response to that has blown me away, thank you to everyone who responded but especially to 5 people who reached out. Each with different issues, some were moving to seated, some a change in bow styles, but all at a point where it was to change or quit?
Each with similar issues around the changes but chatting and sharing and a couple of archers who really let me help, we are all still shooting. That’s not to say some days are not still a struggle as we adapt to the changes.
So, what have I learned in the last year following that blog?
That I am not the only one struggling, that sharing your story can help others in ways you didn’t expect.
But – also?
I have always enjoyed competing, it’s never about anything other than competing against myself. I enjoy the company of other archers and I hope each achieve their own goals, but their outcome does not effect mine, because I am not competing against them.
So with this in mind, summer 2021 was a return to competition for many, opening back up still dealing with the pandemic.
For me, trying to come to terms with taking the shooting stool to places and with people I don’t know, unsure how I would be received.
My team – coach, Dave Leader and physio, Benjamin Horner – always there, when I wobble and need a word. It’s my right to shoot and we are claiming it. My club, Aim4sport AC supporting the change.
Not everyone is open to those who make the shooting line awkward, require some accommodation, but my aim when I applied to become an Archery GB ambassador was to push inclusion and I have worked hard to ensure that disability archers are not excluded, so why is it harder to push for yourself than for others? Admit it, it is for most of us!
Some of the toughest opposition I have faced has been from entirely unexpected sources, those you you’d expect to support me.
I have had an amazing team of people prepared to work as agents for me, a role I have done for many over the last 5 years, wheelchair archers, VI archers, world transplant games!
It took one of those archers to give me firm words to have me accept it was ok to ask for help, that I am not a burden despite the words of some.
So off I went, into the outdoor season, sometimes with an agent, sometimes not!! But determined that I would see only my aim to get that elusive first classification that had been so close but eluded me for 3 years as my body gave into the pain.
I chose the first shoot out of county very carefully.
Guildford Archery Club is somewhere I have enjoyed shooting and watching my children shoot, perfect. Or so I thought!!!! (My mistake not theirs)!
I arrived the night before to realise I had left Bert (the shooting stool at home)!
I messaged the TO and was entirely overwhelmed the following morning to arrive and find they had me a stool waiting!!!!! Wow! A little emotional and hugging the work party who were proving that I had absolutely made the right choice in my first competition out of county with no agent!
It didn’t go so well, I couldn’t finish, though it looks very similar this taught me that all of that time working with my engineers to get my stool set for me was worth it. They are not all the same.
A learning experience so definitely no regrets.
I was encouraged by this to go out and get on with it.
Often finding kindness but also often finding myself sat in the very same place. Right at the end, on the right of the shooting line. Lonely, to be truthful but happy to be shooting and this is perhaps the price to pay to continue with my sport?
The outdoors ended and the move indoors which I hate every year! New bow to celebrate getting that first classification finally!!!!!
For a variety of reasons I haven’t managed many indoor shoots but I am booking in and trying to aim for the target I set myself.
The indoors seems to make availability of agents less?
So key to this is being brave enough to ask for help.
Then I struggled at a competition with my mental health, and as the work party paid attention to me because they knew I was struggling they suddenly noticed what no one ever does!
I am on the far right of the line again, literally my nose against the brick wall for a double Portsmouth.
What happened next however is what is most important. A conversation that they have never seen what happens, knowing they have seen it at theirs and other tournament venues but never thinking of the impact of what is happening in the archer!
Apologies, it’s ok – it really is, or is it?
Most of us just feel grateful that we are welcomed, that we are accepted as a burden as we are often told and you make space for us on the line!
But I can say that their reaction and how talking to me, talking to the judges about practicalities and ways to move us whilst meeting all the needs of everyone, means that going forward anyone seated at Archers of Raunds will be less isolated and definitely included in the shooting line.
It also opened up an entire conversation around how we sometimes look at the easy fix but is it the most appropriate fix for the person you are trying to help, will they ask if they need more?
Can you look at what you do and say did you just do enough or did you put a little more thought into what the individual might need?
Did you accommodate them or did you actually welcome and include them?
I am not asking for you to make people feel special, just considered. I also know that some archers like the very end so they can focus the mind and shut everyone out.
All I am asking you to question is how do you feel when you look at the line, how might you be accommodating everyone.
I know that this will annoy some, those same people who have tried to tell me I have no right to shoot if I cannot stand or if I cannot collect my own arrows. We are, after all, entitled to our own opinion, but if we can make people slightly more welcome in our sport surely it’s worth just stopping to think for a moment?