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Disability and inclusivity

July 21st 2020
Vicky Sartain

Archery GB's recently-published guidelines in support of getting disabled people back to the outdoor range has meant a welcome return for many to the sport they love.

The news was particularly relished by disabled Northamptonshire archer, Susan (whose true identity we are not at liberty disclose), who has loved the sport for many years and found the lockdown particularly challenging, despite her dedicated at-home training using clinibands and visualisation techniques.

Over the years, Susan’s mobility has declined to the point that she is now largely wheelchair bound, and she has endured an emotional journey from non-disabled to disabled while maintaining her archery throughout. Ever since the new guidance was published for the disabled, Archery GB’s Club Ambassador Helen Sharpe (pictured above), has been helping with Susan’s return to the range. Helen said: “It’s been great to reconnect with Susan and see how thrilled she is to be back at the field – something that the majority of our club’s archers have been able to enjoy for several weeks.”

Though Susan is a competent archer, her confidence in the sport hasn’t been high in the past but, as Helen says, she is now learning to own her sport and, crucially, feel able to ask for help. Helen’s unofficial role for Susan at the range is chief arrow puller, as Susan has no members within her ‘social bubble’ who can perform that task. Helen explained: “I’d asked for advice from the County Captain to make sure that this was something that we could do, and myself and two other volunteers at the club have now organised a system with Susan. I’m also Safeguarding Officer for our club and have regular phone calls with Susan to make sure she’s okay at home. She’s been so positive throughout, despite initially thinking she wouldn’t get back to the sport until next summer. She’s now at the range more than she’s at home!”

Since her return to the field, thanks to Helen’s encouragement, Susan has received more coaching than ever before, which has already improved her performance and confidence. Helen’s young disabled son is also an archer at the club, and learned to shoot before his mum decided she’d had enough of being a spectator and wanted to try archery too! Through these personal circumstances, Helen is hyperaware of issues around disability and vulnerable archers, and is first to push for equality at her club.

Helen said: “One thing clubs can take away from Susan’s experience is to be mindful not to overlook the shy or quiet people who don’t usually ask for help. It’s easy to assume that if they haven’t asked it’s because that they don’t want it, but that’s not always the case. Coaches need to be very diplomatic in how they approach people – they do have a tough gig! It’s taken Susan more than 20 years to find the confidence to speak up, but now she’s embracing being back and finally realising her potential.”

You can read Archery GB’s guidance for supporting disabled archers here.

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