2018, the start of a new year and new beginnings. I was on a course in Catterick doing me ILM coaching course with Help for Heroes, unfortunately two days into it I had a phone call from my sister in Orkney, Scotland saying that my mum was unwell. I had to quickly sort myself out and get up to Scotland, Mum had been battling cancer for 15 years and sadly a week after I arrived my mum passed away. This may have been enough to break anybody, but Cancer hadn’t finished with my family. I got back home to some shocking news that my sister's cancer had progressed, 5 weeks after my mum’s passing my younger sister passed. My family were left devastated and in between all of this I had to struggle with surgeries on my shoulder and spine. I didn't think I'd be able to do anything, at an all-time low I was close to just giving up.
I needed something to concentrate on. The Invictus and Warrior Games trials were on the horizon and since starting my archery journey with a 'have a go' session with Help for Heroes last year I was confident I would have been able to improve in the novice class. This was the plan, but life wasn’t playing ball. It was just two weeks before the Invictus trials before I could use my shoulder but I wasn’t strong enough to hold the bow correctly. My coaches at Kyujutsu Archery taught me to swap arms and shoot left handed. Getting to the trials was a massive achievement and I couldn't have been happier, if not totally exhausted. I then had to content with the waiting and let’s face it, I'm not the the best at standing around and waiting for others.
It was a full four weeks before I got the news that I wasn't going to be selected. I was crushed but I couldn’t have done any more than I did and had to push on. I nearly gave up archery, but my coaches and my wife persuaded me to continue and not let it beat me. My coach and I made a couple short and long term goals. It was about getting back to shooting but more importantly to start enjoying it again. There was also the option of getting my own bow and equipment (this was a bit more problematic for me because of the costs involved) I had a little money set aside but not enough. I had approached a few people for help but wasn't getting anywhere until I spoke to the Royal Artillery Charitable Fund.
To be honest I wasn't sure if they'd be able to help me due to them previouslt assisting me couple of years ago. Yo my surprise and delight they replied saying “what could they help with”. So to cut this long story short, within a few weeks I have my own complete recurve bow and equipment. Now this is where my life goes a bit mad, in the space of six weeks my scores have gone, up my grouping has shrunk and I'm more constant at the shooting line. All this sound great but most of all my confidence and own mental wellbeing has gone through the roof. I've now hit a couple more goals. I’ve now qualified as an Archery GB Leader/Instructor and I’ve attended my first archery training camp with two fantastic GB archery coaches in Stoke Mandeville.
My other long-term goals are to compete in the up-and-coming indoor competitions with my club and get ready for the Archery National Finals in 2019. Also to promote archery at my club, local communities and the veterans community. This kind of community based sport really helps with the recovery process. Without the help and support of my club and the RACF I would probably still be sat in a rut and struggling.
So, I am now committed to my Primary aim, this is to promote and use my experience of receiving help and support from the Royal Artillery Charitable Fund to assist other veterans. As part of this my first step was to visit the RACF in Larkhill and put names to faces and say a massive thank you in person. The whole team where fantastic. They really looked after me and it was great to speak about my archery and showing them how the funding has helped me. I thought it would be 20 minutes pop in & out, but 2 1/2 hours later and that all important brew. I feel that if I can pass on my experience to help other Gunners then I’m up for that. So, if you need help and you want to progress with anything that you want to do whether it be sports, employment training or just home life in general, drop the team a line and ask.
Alan IzzardRegional News, General