I’d never shot arrows before, so taking part in a day of archery earlier this month in the Hunter region of NSW was always going to be interesting.
Did I think I’d enjoy the day? Absolutely.
Did I go into it thinking I’d become the next Robin Hood? Put it this way, I didn’t exactly think I’d leave the Sheriff of Nottingham – or anyone for that matter – quaking his boots.
Turns out I was right on both fronts.
A first time for everything
The day was put on by the VSA and the Australian National Archery Association (ANAA) at the Feral Archery Indoor Range in Rutherford, NSW. Ahead of myself and the many veterans that came along was a morning of practice followed by a bit of a friendly competition in the afternoon.
It was the first time shooting for most of us, so a short instruction session from Lynne Fairhall, ANAA Secretary and Coach, and her team of coaches didn’t go amiss.
Then it was straight into it.
Being in the moment
After some warm up shots and pointers from our coaches, it became obvious that you’re forced to be in the moment when you’re shooting arrows. It really is just you and the target. Everything around you tends to fade away.
“Archery is one of those sports where you focus, you think about what you’re doing, you’re involved in the moment,” says Lynne Fairhall.
And it’s about connecting with a community.
“For me personally, I came here three or four years ago now and I haven’t looked back,” said Stewart Sherman, ANAA Adaptive Archery Liaison and Invictus Gold Medallist. “I’ve been shooting arrows with this club on a weekly basis and I consider them part of my family now. For me, that’s what this reconnection’s all about – participating in the local community.”
It was also veteran Joel Vanderzwan’s first crack at archery.
Joel came up from Sydney for the day and didn’t leave disappointed. He also took to archery like a duck to water.
“I turned up with no idea and no expectation of what the day would be like,” said Joel. “I loved it. It was unreal.”
“Anybody can easily shoot arrows but there’s also real technicality around how you release the arrow that I really enjoyed. The sport is also really accessible – physically and geographically. There’s even a range that’s 5km from where I live.”
“I’ll be going to Homebush this week to shoot again.”
103… out of 300
After we’d all had some practice rounds and a lunch that was ably cooked up by Peter Fairhall – Coach come Chef for the day – it was time to put our new skills to the test.
“I wanted to beat the guy next to me,” said Joel. “He was ex-Navy and a really good shot.”
Needless to say, I wasn’t heartbroken when I saw that I wouldn’t be shooting next to Joel.
I finished up the ten rounds of friendly competition with a score of 103 out of 300. As the coaches (kindly) pointed out, that was really positive result because there was plenty of room for improvement for the next time I shot.
Exactly. As D:ream sung (ad nauseam) in the 90’s, “things can only get better”.
So, when are we shooting next?
“Our first veteran sports archery day was a wonderful success,” summed up Lynne Fairhall at the end of the day. “It was all about what we’re hoping to develop, which is veterans coming together in a social, sporting environment. We’re specifically involved in archery, but sport in general is a fantastic way for veterans to reconnect and to actually become part of the community.”
I couldn’t agree more. I met some great people, learnt some new skills and even managed to hit the target more than I thought I would.
The training was excellent and the competition at the end of the day – despite my final score! – was loads of fun.
So, when are we shooting next?
Your VSA correspondent on the ground
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