Archery provides a recreational pursuit, a healthy fitness routine and provides a Zen for the wellbeing of the mind and soul. Of course archery gets you outdoors as well and that is a great thing to start with. As soon as you get outdoors with a bow and arrow it gets you moving. You find strength and as you get better at it, it boost your self-esteem. It can also help many people like me battle the effects of my mental health problems.
I have aspergers syndrome, a mild form of autism which has given me a number of impairments in social skills and my ability to communicate with other people. In most cases it’s also know for giving autistics an obsession with some kind of hobby or recreational activity. Throughout my life I have never been very good at forming long term relationships or communicating with other people. That was until I starting taking social skills training sessions and they came rather late in my life. When I became interested in archery I found that I had a social life that I hadn’t had before. I may have had a few social circles in my life but this one was something that would benefit me greatly. When you join a club you will be in the company of some really wonderful people who keep you going further and higher. In the three years that I have been shooting I have seen my social network grow both online and at my club. This really brings great confidence in my abilities and my shooting skills. As an aspie who is obsessed about archery I have also got someone to talk to and share my love of archery. My disability might have impaired my ability to form friendships but it certainly does well for my intellectual abilities.
As far as my interests in archery go I have a very good knowledge of the sport and I count my aspergers as a useful mental ability for absorbing the knowledge that makes a champion. Hans Asperger, the discoverer of this condition used to say “It seems that for success in science or art a dash of autism is essential”. Archery is a sport of both science and art. It’s the artful practice of firing projectiles using science and technology to propel arrows. When I started to develop friendships in the archery community I was able to combine my knowledge of my other passions and use it in archery. As well as being an archer I am also an avid science geek. I have seen archery as a useful way to make the concept of physics and maths interesting. It has been quite a useful means of making me really good at archery and I use this information to share ideas about how to shoot more accurately and hone my technique. It has given me so much confidence and knowledge that I am pleased to be able to share that knowledge with other archers around the world through blogging for Legend Archery.
There are other people who have used archery to help with their own health problems in a lot of other ways. Some claim that archery can also help with depression. Such archers like Louise Redman, who took up archery to get out of postnatal depression. She took up archery after a lengthy absence in 2012 after the birth of her second child. Redman got out her old compound bow and arrow and from then on she was hooked. In a matter of months she became an elite champion and is now Australia’s number one female compound archer (February 2015). Redman even encourages other mums to get out there and start using a bow when considering PND. She describes it as ‘a different kind of mother’s group’. As well as a confidence boost archery is also a remedy for bad ills. Every time I feel stressed and pick up a bow and shoot I need a form of spiritual guidance like karma. You need to be calmed and composed to execute a really good shot for a steady release. It’s no good trying to shoot if you feel like a quivering wreck. I’ve seen archers with some kind of stress and fear affecting their shots. One archer who I shared a target with was feeling so low he couldn’t perform very well, it was just miss after miss. But with a good practice session you get a very therapeutic feeling. It helps you to deal with stress and clear your mind of worry.
Even though I wish I had learnt about archery when I was young I can still enjoy as an adult. I have read stories about children with autism who have Aspergers like me and with archery they have found a good therapy and a useful treatment in their condition. It really lights up their imagination and their cognitive abilities improve. It has helped them with their schooling, social skills, coordination, patience and concentration and any other health problems that they have issues with. If you think they never thrive then you haven’t got them to try. Not only is it vital to make sure that mental illnesses are treated through sport, but people with mental health issues such as myself should be recognised and accepted. I befriended a fellow volunteer who was working at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 2014. She too is aspergic and has an autistic son. I said to her ‘To ask for help (like that) gives us the means to adjust to the world around us. Believe me, no one is a second class citizen. For me all forms of life are unequal, we should tolerate and accept all classes of citizens.’ Archery is a very inclusive sport and it accepts all citizens. If you take a look at the para-champions or even the champions with mental health disabilities you’ll be amazed at how powerful and fulfilling they can be.