Pippa Gee Archer
Pippa is 15 years old and has Down Syndrome.
She began archery with Bowmen of Danesfield in March 2018, when she was 12 years old. We visited the club so that Pippa’s brother could have a taster session and when we arrived the club kindly offered both his sisters who had come to watch, the chance to have a go as well. The girls were both keen to have a try but I wasn’t sure that the Coach realised Pippa’s limitations so I asked if he was sure and he confirmed that he was.
Pippa enjoyed it immediately, on her very first turn. She needed A LOT of support: she didn’t have the strength to hold the bow herself; didn’t have the fine motor skills to load the arrow herself; and she had to be watched at all times because her awareness of safety and rules were non-existent. I don’t mind admitting that I found the whole session quite stressful, thinking of all the things that could go wrong.
Pippa’s archery journey begins
At the end of the session, the Coach asked all three children if they would like to come back again and all three, including Pippa, were very keen so I signed up for membership and paid the fees.
We went every week and the Coach would set the others up so they could shoot independently under the watchful eyes of another adult and then he would spend the session helping Pippa.
When she started, I could never have imagined that eventually she would shoot independently. It seemed totally beyond Pippa’s physical capabilities and I must confess that in all Pippa’s life I have never underestimated her so badly!
As the weeks passed and the summer came, we moved to shooting outside which Pippa loved even more. The more times we went, the repetitive nature of the whistles, the rules, the safety began to infiltrate Pippa’s brain and she became much safer around the shooting line. She still needed (and continues to need) constant supervision because occasionally she just gets over excited and forgets herself goes to step over before the whistle, but the progress was amazing.
Her strength in her arms increased to the point that she could hold the bow up to shoot entirely unsupported and was able to hold it still to aim.
Pippa becomes more confident
The biggest surprise though was that within a year or so, she was able to load her own arrows. I cannot stress enough what an absolutely astounding thing this is. Pippa struggles so much with fine motor skills and yet she can load her own arrow, click it into place and then aim.
Pippa doesn’t use sights and cannot close one eye, so we don’t know what she sees or how she aims, but she can consistently hit the target now up to 20m and regularly shoots reds and golds. Her confidence has grown and grown and she loves going each week. During COVID she really missed her archery and asked about it frequently. We are now about to return to archery and she is very much looking forward to it.
Pippa Gee Archer
I don’t know how far Pippa can go in this sport – I am incredibly disappointed that this isn’t yet a sport in the Special Olympics because I think Pippa could actually do very well in this. The aim would be to get her shooting further distances now moving up to 30m eventually.
There is no doubt that it is the patience and perseverance of the Coaches at Bowmen of Danesfield that has allowed Pippa to come so far with her archery. They have put in hours and hours with Pippa and I am so very grateful. It has allowed Pippa, not only to participate in a mainstream sport, gaining badges along the way but to enjoy a hobby that gets her outdoors (in the summer!) and engages and improves not only her physical strength and skills but also her mind, thinking, focus and concentration.
There is no doubt in my mind that archery has been of huge benefit to her fine motor skills and dexterity and has almost acted like a form of physical therapy in this area.