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Happy International Women's Day (IWD)

8 Mar 2024

It’s International Women's Day (IWD)! The United Nations set the theme this year as ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’. The theme is about recognising women's social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. When we talk about women in sport, it’s important to recognise that achievement can take on many different forms and can be very personal. It can be working tirelessly to achieve a title or a medal, it can be reaching your target score and setting a personal best, or it can be finding the time, energy and confidence to go along to the local archery club for the first time.

Often simply getting through a day with the many tasks women have to consider can be a huge accomplishment, without even contemplating squeezing in a sporting activity. There is often a delicate balancing act between the considerations required for family, work, food, money and gin night. Ahem, I mean bin night. If I sometimes put my daughter’s t-shirt on back to front or forget to brush her teeth, its usually because I have a few thousand thoughts running through my head during the morning routine. Please don’t judge me.

As we look to celebrate International Women’s Day, and Women and Girls in Sport month, I thought I would share the reason why I work in sport. The reason is simple. Sport for me, and running in particular, has been a saviour over the past 20 years. It has been a companion, a listening ear, a mental crutch and on occasions an expansive empty vessel to house my silent screams. But the main reason is running gives me a chance to be free. Free from the daily commitments, the emotional pulls of life, the chores and the to do list stacked so high that it tickles the cobwebs on my undusted ceiling. When I returned to work after maternity leave 5 years ago, I wrote down a bit about how running made me feel, how it frees me. It’s these times in my life where making space and time for sport is an achievement in itself.

"My mind was still reeling that night from a million frustrations.  After almost two hours stuck on the motorway, I returned home after picking up my daughter. I made dinner, finished the bath and bedtime routine, and tidied up the mess. At 9.15pm everything was still. As the dusky cloak of darkness was being pulled over the world, I laced up my trainers. This was my time.

I stepped outside under the twilight sky that sparkled with scattered stars, and I ran. The emotions from the day peeled gently from my skin by the cool night air and fizzled into the ether with every stride that I took. My imaginary helmet that was wrapped so tightly around my head started to fade and disappear. I was free. Free from accountability and responsibility. Free from meaningless targets and tensions. Free from mum guilt and housework guilt. Free from looking in the fridge at half an onion, a Dairylea triangle, a jar of pickles and wondering what I could creatively rustle up for dinner. Free from being pulled in polar directions for seemingly insignificant things, and free from straining my vocal cords simply to have my voice heard.

Those 30 minutes of freedom mean surviving to fight another day when the going gets tough. They mean recharging, putting things into perspective, medicating without medicine. They mean focusing on nothing or solving a complicated life problem. Those 30 minutes give me a focus, a chance to prove that my body is capable of more than what my mind sometimes concludes it’s worth.  It’s being accountable to no one and nothing but the road under my feet. For those 30 minutes I can be me. That for me is what it means to be free."

I choose to work in sport because I deeply understand its power. It gives us an intense level of connection with our bodies and an understanding of how powerful and amazing we are. It’s a reminder of how far we can push ourselves, and how emotional healing can take place simply by using our bodies to learn and master a skill. It’s meditation and mindfulness. It provides us with a community, an extended family and the opportunity to make lifelong friends. Sport really does provide unparalleled opportunities for meaningful connections by creating a sense of belonging through clubs and social groups. For women especially, sport supports us through the hormonal rollercoaster thrust upon us by genetics - periods, pregnancy, miscarriage, menopause.  If I can play even a small part in supporting the journey of others in sport, then that knowledge will give me an immense sense of achievement.

We will be sharing your stories over the month of March as we celebrate Women and Girls in Archery. I’m reaching out to ask you to share your story – it could be about why you got involved in archery, how it makes you feel, or it could be a homage to someone that inspires you. It can also be about what achievement in sport means for you. Your story has the power to inspire others and we need to hear it. You can share your story here.


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