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Archers on beginners course

Burscough Archers’ new buddy scheme empowers beginners

July 27th 2021
Vicky Sartain

Archery attracts people for all sorts of reasons. New archers Dr Philippa Holloway and Stephen Reed have rediscovered archery later in life after brief encounters with the sport years ago

Burscough Archers in Ormskirk, Lancashire has introduced an initiative to help new archers settle into club life. Their Buddy programme pairs an experienced archer with a new member. The aim is, over three joint visits to the range, to facilitate the newbie’s transition into a confident and comfortable member.

Philippa Holloway, aged 41, is married, with one son and two grown-up stepsons. She once brought someone back from the dead while working with paramedics at a motor racing event, has been an extra in a zombie movie, and travelled solo to Chernobyl as part of her PhD research.

What prompted you to consider archery?

I have always wanted to learn archery, since I was a child growing up near Nottingham (for obvious reasons!), and have had a go at various medieval fayres, but it was my step-son sharing his enthusiasm for the sport that spurred me to try a taster session. Burscough Archers was so welcoming and enthusiastic, I felt it was time to commit to my childhood dream and give it a proper go!

How did you first hear about the beginners’ sessions?

I saw an advert in the local paper for a taster day, and during that session I learned there were opportunities to take a structured course and join the club. The chance to learn from qualified instructors and to then join their community and continue learning was too good to miss.

How do you feel about the Burscough Archers beginners’ course?  

The beginners’ course was a great introduction not only to the practical skills and safety considerations, but to the ethos of the club. Everyone was working together to ensure the newbies had a good time and felt supported, and everyone was incredibly generous with their time, advice, and humour! I felt relaxed and supported throughout, and there was no judgment from others, only a sharing of knowledge and an eagerness to help one another.

What factors drove your decision to move from trainee to member?

The beginners’ course packed so much learning into a tight programme, but it was clear there was so much more to learn through regular practice and from other more experienced members. More importantly, I felt that the club offered a space for me to learn without pressure, to enjoy the sport as an experience and not as a chore, and to escape the daily pressures of work and routine. And the members create an amazing atmosphere, working as a real community to encourage and support one another.

How have you found the Buddy programme?

The Buddy programme is really reassuring, knowing there will be someone who can help the transition into the club and answer any questions until I become familiar with everything. It’s even more lovely to see that it’s not only our buddies who are eager to help, but others at the range.

Now you’re a member, how have your skills developed?

I decided I wanted to shoot barebow, so after learning on the beginners’ course how to use sights, I had to then step back and concentrate on barebow techniques. Luckily there are archers at the club who specialise, and they have given me some extra support. I’ve been getting steadily more accurate as time goes on, but there are still good days and bad days. The important thing is that I enjoy it.

Where are you up to in terms of your own kit?

I have my own bow, and am trying out pieces of club kit to find what works best for me before investing. Having my own riser has really helped, as it is comfortable and familiar and so allows me to focus on my technique instead of readjusting to a different bow each time. I hope to be fully kitted out soon.

What are your archery achievements to date?

It’s early days yet, but I am slowly making progress, getting more consistent groupings and a few golds. I’m taking it slowly though, learning from the others and listening.

In the longer term, what do you want to get out of your archery?

While on the field I felt a real sense of peace and focus, and for me archery is a kind of mindfulness. I have decided that I want to experience it that way, rather than pushing myself to be competitive. Concentrating on repeating the same physical actions, on the feel of the bow in my hand and the sound of the arrow hitting the target, is a wonderful contrast to the pressures of work. It also feels like I am connecting with a lost skill, with history and with myself.

Additional thoughts?

I’m so glad I took the chance to try a taster day, I certainly feel my life is richer for adding archery to it!

 

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Stephen Reed, aged 62, is an engineer and a fully qualified swimming instructor. He has a hockey-playing son who was picked to play for Lancashire. His daughter has been passionate about horse riding from the age of 3, and has competed in many competitions.

What prompted you to consider archery?

I was looking for an activity and I remembered when my children were in Scouts that I used to enjoy having a go with the bows at the family camps.

How did you first hear about the beginners’ sessions?

I googled archery clubs near me and up came Burscough Archers. From there I booked a taster session back in 2019 and then we went into lockdown. We eventually caught up this year.

How do you feel about the beginners’ course?  

I think the course was well organised and well supported by Burscough. The ‘games’ were fun. One addition could be the opportunity to try bows with different poundage.

What factors drove your decision to move from trainee to member?

The enjoyment of the course and my wish to be able to hit what I am aiming at.

How have you found the Buddy programme?

My buddy made contact with me shortly after I signed up and was ready to come down to the field on first visit. We have been in contact several times since but I have also joined other members (when my buddy was unavailable), who I have found to be most welcoming and eager to assist where required.

Now you’re a member, how have your skills developed?

I think it’s too early to say if my skills are developing but I haven’t managed to ‘misplace’ an arrow yet, which I think is an achievement in itself.

Where are you up to in terms of your own kit?

I’ve had my personal equipment bought for me as birthday gifts, though I will be looking to purchase my own bow and arrows when I have developed some muscles.

What are your archery achievements to date?

I think that the biggest achievement to date is being able to repeatedly hit the target, though not necessarily where I want the arrows to be.

In the longer term, what do you want to get out of your archery?

I would like to get to a level where I could compete in competitions, though that is a long way off yet. I think the main thing is the enjoyment of the sport and the company.

Additional thoughts?

Being a ‘newbie’, I would like to thank all the members who gave up their Sundays for their time and patience introducing potential members to archery, and the welcome received from club members on the range.

Fancy getting started in archery?

If you’ve been inspired by archery in the Olympics and fancy getting started in archery, visit our new Start Archery microsite, dedicated to helping beginners get started in the sport.

With thanks to Rod Flanagan of Burscough Archers for this article.

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