Archery began as a lunchtime club about 10 years ago at Claremont Fan Court School, run by archery instructor, Hilly Longman. From humble beginnings, the club has now grown in popularity, so much so that the sport now features as a key event in the school’s sports day schedule. Most notably, however, Hilly Longman and archery coach, Sarah Gibb, have been working with Archery GB to initiate a brand new UK school archery league in order to broaden the sport at grass roots level and make it more accessible in schools.

Hilly explains, “I had been heard enthusing in the staff room about becoming an archery instructor for Girlguiding UK and was asked to consider setting up a lunchtime club at Claremont Fan Court School. The equipment was purchased and very quickly the idea developed into afternoon sessions available to Year 11 and sixth form students, offering a choice of barebow or recurve style shooting. Group sizes were limited to 12 and soon it became a popular option with some pupils asking to stay on the list as the club options rotated each half term, which was very encouraging.

I introduced the Archery GB award system as the pupils’ shooting accuracy progressed and upgraded my coaching qualification. At the end of each half term pupils took part in fun competitions and challenges such as shooting at balloons or pumpkins. It was fantastic to see pupils become engrossed in the sport with many buying their own equipment and/or deciding to join an archery club outside of school, and it was particularly exciting when archery was included as part of the school’s sports day, which meant for some pupils it was the first time they had represented their house in a sport.

Archery is a sport which allows boys and girls to compete alongside each other and teaches good hand eye coordination as well as patience with oneself; learning that failing is alright and part of the process, letting go of a bad shot and refocussing on the next.

The next development has been to employ a second qualified coach, Sarah Gibbs, not only to share the sessions but also to expand the sport as an option for Year 8 pupils. Years 8-13 now have an opportunity to experience archery as a lunchtime club or sports class. Sarah has introduced the 252 award system which enables all archers to progress and gain badges based on shooting ability. In addition, we have recently worked with Archery GB to set up a UK school archery league which we hope will be trialled later in the summer term. Sarah and I will manage this initiative with the aim to connect with schools around the country and make provision for archery beginners and improvers to compete via a postal competition.”