A fresh report has found that 48% of women take a break from and return to their sport. Two female archers share their journey through the sport and why they are glad they came back as Range Returners.
Rachel Hutchins was first introduced to archery by a man dressed as Robin Hood at her school summer fair. She stopped shooting when she went to college but has recently returned after a break of 20 years.
She said archery improved her self-esteem and confidence when she was bullied at school. She now wants to support more people from diverse backgrounds into the sport.
The 36-year-old, from Surrey, said: “I love how skill is still very much required for archery, but these are skills that can easily be taught to anyone. I love how inclusive it is; archery really is a sport for everyone.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing my husband enjoy the sport when by his own admission he is clumsy and at times awkward and could never do team sports when younger due to not having great hand/eye co-ordination.”
Talking about when she first got into the sport, she said: “I loved going to the woods on a Friday after school for a couple of hours and just shooting different targets whilst being outdoors. For someone as shy as me, it was a great way of improving my self-esteem and low confidence.
“The children at school that bullied me because I had short hair and played football (I therefore had to be gay in their minds!), were somehow impressed with me doing archery and I was never once bullied for this.”
Rachel, who also performs as a 1940s themed singer and volunteers at a miniature railway in her spare time, added: “I want to be able to help people realise the sheer joy of shooting a bow and arrow! I’d love to help someone understand that although they may not be good at team sports, archery really is a wonderful alternative and they can find this sport they could easily excel at.
“I want to be able to support different people getting into the sport to showcase it really is a sport for all, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, ability, etc.”
Karen is another archery returner. She was inspired to return to archery after watching the Hunger Games.
She told her story to Women’s Sporting Journeys, a research project conducted by Sports Marketing Surveys aimed at discovering how to keep women engaged with sport at different life stages.
She said: “I was a shy and quiet girl at school. This was a very, very, very big barrier to sport for me. I found the rules difficult to understand and as a visual learner I needed to be shown to learn but that didn’t happen.
“I was always picked last and was never good enough to be in the team. Everyone else was better than me. I did try an archery course with my family one holiday when I was 16. I LOVED it!
“I joined my local gym for a bit in my twenties, I got a good membership deal so it seemed like a good idea. I did some classes, but my motivation soon waned.
“In my thirties I developed a chronic health condition which meant it became stressful and difficult to manage certain activities.
“During lockdown I watched The Avengers and The Hunger Games and thought why not see if there was an archery club nearby. I liked it when I was younger and it gives me the opportunity to compete against myself, I’m not letting anyone down.
“I get time outdoors and the chance to have a bit of a chat. It gives me some exercise and movement to my shoulders and neck similar to my physio exercises. But at any point I can have a rest, I can manage the stamina aspect so much better than cardio exercise.
“I even booked my family in for a taster session too. My daughter and I took part as something to do together. It wasn’t long before the whole family was shooting.
“The kids have now drifted onto something new but my husband and I are still actively engaged in the sport. I love my archery family!”
Acting on the research conducted by Sports Marketing Surveys, Archery GB has developed Range Returners, to help you to return to the sport you love, to enjoy guilt-free activities that help you to take a break from day-to-day pressures and connect with others socially to feel part of the archery family.
What is Range Returners?
A campaign to welcome back lapsed members and help people rediscover the sport they love.
We’re working with archery clubs around the UK to help them address barriers that all individuals can face when returning to sport after a break. Participating clubs have been offered places on our Empowering Archery course aimed at supporting everyone whatever their personal targets or motivations. In the last year, we’ve welcomed back more than 1,500 archers and we’d love for you to join them as a Range Returner.
As a Range Returner you will be guided towards a club that will offer you a warm welcome. You will have the opportunity to work with the clubs’ coaches for a welcome back refresher session. The coach will work with you to remind you of anything you may have forgotten to help ensure you are ready to return to shooting.
You will also have the opportunity to receive support from other club members who will be able to offer you ongoing support. You will have the opportunity to attend up to six sessions before having to become an Archery GB member!
If injury, ill health or the effects of Covid have prevented you from keeping active we have coaches who can work with you at your level and find adaptations or solutions to get you shooting again.
How do I get involved?
To find a list of participating clubs click the button below and you could be back on the shooting line in no time!