Shropshire Archery Society AGM.

Tuesday 13th March 2018.

Chairman’s report.

                                                                                                                                                            

Archery is a brilliant sport – and Archery in Shropshire is alive and kicking! There are currently 824 archers in Shropshire registered with Archery GB – a 34% increase from 3 years ago. There are 11 full archery clubs and one school club affiliated to ArcheryGB in the County. While the winter indoor season is fairly quiet it is clear that there is lots of activity behind closed doors as indicated by the impressive turnout at the recent County Indoors Competition – 85 archers taking part. During the winter, several clubs take part in the nationwide monthly Frostbite challenge. The Indoor Postal league goes from Strength to strength – a re-vamping of the various divisions, completely separating the various bow types – has seen a significant increase in activity. This winter there are 8 different divisions with about 40 teams taking part. Last season a total of 194 archers took part in this league.

Last summer seemed to have archery events almost every weekend. The rejuvenated Cleobury Country archers held their first Heritage shoot for many years – well done to all who have helped with the revival at the club. This made 9 Heritage shoots for our archers to attend; they are wonderful vehicles not only to encourage new archers to take their first competitive steps but also as fun (albeit competitive!) shooting and a sociable Sunday afternoon out for all the established archers. 160 different archers completed at least one Heritage shoot in 2017. Add to the Heritage series, Long Mynd’s Blow away the cobwebs event plus the Wenlock Olympians competition and Croesoswallt’s Silver Dollar (15 dozen arrows in the day!) – it is a great and varied programme.

On top of that there are several traditional/longbow events plus regular opportunities for Clout and field archery close to home.   All of which supports my opening statement.

The outdoor season ahead heralds another busy programme. Very similar to last year and most of the dates have now been confirmed. There are some draft programmes here this evening but everything will be on the website in the next day or two. Sadly the Silver Dollar event will not be happening because of a lack of judges.

It is sad that despite lots of Archers in the county there is only one judge. Becoming a judge is not the preserve of older archers– there are many top grade judges who are only half the current pensionable age. Perhaps something for some of us to consider.

Shropshire archers did very creditably in the WMAS inter County shoot last Autumn. However, they were definitely outshone by the Juniors whose team ended up ahead of the teams from the other counties. It was noticed by onlookers from the other counties that Shropshire’s archers were a true team rather than a collection of archers. A very well done to all who took part. Thanks to all the coaches who helped the juniors get there and thanks to Ray Fisher who was once again selector and team manager. He came home positively glowing with pride.

Big congratulations too to Bowbrook Archers whose new indoor range sited next to their outdoor range was formally opened in August 2017. With an indoor range open 24/7 there has been a major increase in archery activity there through the winter. Still no mains electricity or heating but the facility is very impressive. Well done to all who helped at any stage in the development process.

It has been good to receive funding applications from a number of the county’s clubs over the last year. As many of you are aware, SAS has a reasonable financial reserve built up over many years. It is now possible to assist clubs for specific funding requests. SAS will not in general assist with funds for day to day running of a club but will give grants (usually on a 50/50 basis) for clubs seeking help for a specific item or project to help the club develop. Please send any applications to Sue Williamson, our County secretary, when you have something in mind – it will get discussed at the next County Exec Meeting. We have also been able to assist a couple of individual archers with limited funds to help them develop and compete at a Performance level.

It is great that regular coaching sessions have started up for both Juniors and Seniors who aspire to represent Shropshire at Archery. Massive thanks to Liz and Gavin for their work with our juniors and also to Simon Nelms who is just getting the senior squad going. County have been able to help these 2 initiatives with some financial support. Certainly Liz and Gavin’s hard work has gone a long way towards 12 year old Penny Healey’s recent success in an international event in France. She went along in the under16 category, “just for the experience” and ended up 15points clear of her nearest rival. Well done Penny!

Those who were at the County Coaching Group’s AGM held here about an hour ago have now been introduced to Tim Swane – the meeting confirmed his position as our new County Coaching officer. Tim brings massive experience of coaching and also coach education and ArcheryGB ways to this new role. It his great that having now reached retirement age he has returned to Shropshire. Thank you Tim for coming forward. At this juncture I must say on your behalf a massive thank you to Sue Williamson who was CCO here for as long as I can remember. Sue actually retired from this role a couple of years ago – I know that she is relieved to see a new incumbent.

And now a more general look at our Society, where we are at the moment and what might or could lie ahead.

I was talking to the secretary of one of our county’s clubs recently, encouraging members of that club to come to this AGM. They commented that there was very little enthusiasm for the SAS in their club – “we don’t think we get any benefits from it so what is the point in getting involved”.

This is an attitude that is not confined to the SAS, or our sport or even sport in general – or even wider. Just because you have a low opinion of politicians doesn’t mean that there is no point in casting your vote! If you don’t like the way something is, get in there, create waves and encourage change. Constructive criticism from within is much more effective than criticism from without. I learned the hard way.   A lot of years ago I was taken very firmly (and rightly) to task by a member of our Society for expressing a criticism of the society’s lack of effective communication. I was told very firmly that if I didn’t like what was being done or how it was done, get involved – but don’t snipe from the sidelines. I took this to heart and have tried to do this ever since.

There are 4 tiers of organisation in Archery. ArcheryGB at the top, then regions (ours being the West Midlands Archery Society), then County, then club. That is the way it is run, whether we like it or not. You can’t be a member of ArcheryGB without being affiliated to County and Region, even if you aren’t a member of a club.

My plea to archers in Shropshire is to get involved with the wider archery scene in Shropshire. It is not an arduous workload – a bimonthly meeting and a number of emails to generate or respond to. If you feel that SAS has no relevance to your club or your archery, then make an effort to make changes from within.

Our world has changed immeasurably over the last 34 years, perhaps especially in the field of communication.

We already have an award winning County Website. I have heard archers complain that they don’t visit it because it doesn’t have all the information it should have. I share Dave Baron’s frustration that while the comment is often accurate, a website can only be kept up to date if the webmaster is kept supplied with information. The new “calendar” function allows all club secretaries to submit information about their own forthcoming events – please use it. Dave has always said that it is his aim for others to do most of the work for him – he will just be there to offer advice, monitor what is being added and tweak where necessary. Understandably, Dave says that he would prefer to spend his “allocation” of archery time actually shooting his bow and arrows rather than sitting in front of a computer screen. An attitude I am sure that all of us share. My experience is that when I do submit something either to Dave or direct to the website, it is posted very soon afterwards – he is very efficient in that respect.

Shropshire is a large County and communication is vital – electronic communication is far more efficient than time-consuming face to face meetings although personal contact has a lot of value too. While we have a website that works (when it is supplied with information) the dissemination of information via a website is being overtaken by use of other media. Personally, I have made the decision not to be involved with social media but I do accept that it is incredible widely used, perhaps especially among the younger members of our society. I recently heard a teenager express surprise when I asked them to send me an email – “oh, I haven’t used email in ages; I do everything on Facebook”. There is no doubt that Facebook and other such shop-fronts can be used and abused – could someone within the ranks of SAS who knows about these things come forward and make some firm proposals to design a Facebook (or other media) page that will serve our society effectively?

I have been in the role of County chair for just 12 months, having been rather bounced into it after last year’s AGM when there were no nominations for the position. As existing vice-chair I came forward to fill the slot but made it very clear at the time that it would be only for 12 months. SAS has a constitution that was last amended in 1983 – perhaps the time is right to update it into one appropriate for the 21st century. The old constitution is not “wrong” – it is just “dated”.

Although the SAS constitution clearly says that Treasurer, Secretary and chair are elected/re-elected at every AGM, the County has long adopted a sensible practice of a 3 year term of office for all the Society’s officers. The chair’s term ends at this AGM, irrespective of my decision to stand down; the treasurer’s term is scheduled to end in 2019 and the secretary’s in 2020. Sue and Tom have made it clear that they would like to retire and indeed they have more than earned that right. So please, could some of the newer, maybe younger, maybe not, members of our society consider how they could contribute to Archery in Shropshire by taking on one of these roles. Of course we are all busy and of course each role demands some time spent on it – but the work load is not over-the-top. There are regular bi-monthly committee meetings – almost all other duties can be completed from home sitting in front of a computer screen or on the end of a telephone. All archers benefit from an active County Archery society – don’t complain about it from outside, get in there and encourage changes, if any are needed, from within.

I finish as I started. Archery is a brilliant sport.   I get pleasure from so many aspects of the sport. I admire greatly those who practice hard and achieve at a high competitive level, in whatever sort of archery they prefer and shooting whatever sort of bow they enjoy. I also get great pleasure from watching whole families enter the sport and seeing their enjoyment and skill levels increase. I get massive pleasure from looking along a shooting line at say a Heritage shoot and seeing archers from 8 to 80 years of age all shooting at the same time and sharing the experience. I don’t think I know of any other sport where this happens. (except perhaps Park Run!) I enjoy being able to pass on some of my experience and coaching training to new archers and sharing their satisfaction as their results improve (hopefully!). Perhaps I get the most satisfaction from seeing the pleasure that Archery can give to kids who don’t normally do sports – I know from personal experience what it is like to be last standing on the line as the football teams are being picked – but watching a supposedly non-sporty person (of any age!) hit their first gold and the smile that ensues will always be very special. I am not going to be disappearing off the scene. My wife retires in 6 weeks, we have bought an old camper van so I really don’t know how much time I will be at home – travel while we still enjoy good health. The SAS deserves a younger chair who will be “at home” for most of the year. I look forward to seeing Shropshire Archery Society flourish in the years ahead, confirming my opening sentence – that “Archery in Shropshire is alive and kicking”.