Let me set the scene for you here: October 2018, I’ve moved to Guildford a week ago, and I now live in a 6-student flat in Manor Park, a 5-minute walk away from the shiny Surrey Sports Park! It’s Sunday and Active Freshers is underway!
Hold on, let’s rewind!
What is Surrey Sports Park? It is the sports hub of Surrey Uni students and Guildford locals. It was built in 2010 and has everything you can think of, from an Olympic standard swimming pool to squash courts and Surrey Summit climbing walls, a well-equipped gym, multi-purpose arenas, and outdoor pitches. This is where most sports clubs have their training sessions (and sometimes competitions too!), but also the home of professional rugby club, The Harlequins; netball team, Surrey Storm and basketball team, Surrey Scorchers!
What is Active Freshers? Every year, as part of Freshers’ Week, the Students’ Union, under the lead of VP Activity organise a 2-day event where students have the chance to try as many sports clubs as they want! With over 40 sports to choose from, it’s hard not to find your fit!
I grew up quite outdoorsy, learned to cycle when I was about 5 years old, to ski a little bit later, went camping and hiking almost every year for a good part of my childhood and teenage years, and did horse riding, for about 5 years – but I never truly played any team sports! Being a shy fresher, still adapting and adjusting to my new uni life & UK life, I didn’t really fancy trying a completely new sport at the time (but I have done that, in the following years, taking full advantage of Active Freshers!) so I chose archery. It was still a very new sport for me, but I had the chance to hold a bow (even a suction-cup toy-bow) before and hit a target!
I fell in love with archery from the first 3 arrows I shot at the have-a-go session, and even queued up again to do it once more! I happened to be quite good, on a big target face at 10yards in front of me. Looking back now, when I’m shooting at over 70m in front of me outdoors, I wish I could go back to being that close to the target for a confidence boost!
It was a no-brainer that I will be coming back, so I signed up for the 3-week beginners’ course, and 4 years down the line, I’m still super active in the Archery Club! I love getting involved in the running & organisation of the things I like, and this led me to be on the Archery Club committee since 2019 – I’ve held the Club President role in 2019/20 and then switched to Social Media & Wellbeing Officer for 2020/21 and 2021/22, and who know what next year will bring!
After completing the beginners’ course, my first steps in archery where a bit a rocky – I wanted to compete and qualify for the competition team, but my scores were nowhere near good enough and I was directly told that. To put it a bit into perspective, I was told I need to score at least 150 out of 600 points, and it seemed impossible at the time. Looking back on it now, we laugh about it when I see that my personal best is nearly 500 points on the same round! I was lucky to get an enormous amount of help and encouragement, and not only did I hit 150 and qualified for my first competition, but I placed 3rd in my category at BUCS Outdoors at the end of my first year.
I’ve always said this, and as soppy or cliché as it may sound – being part of the club was a big part of my journey to overcome homesickness, find my place at Surrey and truly enjoy university life! Our main training session was (and still is) on Sunday evenings, and in those first weeks and months of uni, that was always the time when I would feel most lonely and wished I could just teleport back home. I pushed myself to go to every single session, sometimes even after a good crying session 10 minutes before leaving my flat and slowly, but surely, not only did I start being truly passionate about the sport, but I found friends and role models for life!
I went from being a beginner that got so confused with how to use a sight on a recurve bow that I ended up getting rid of it and switching bow styles in October 2018, to winning Surrey County Lady Barebow Champion in November 2019! For a little bit of archery knowledge, a recurve bow is the only style allowed in the Olympic Games and it needs a lot of extra kit pieces, including a sight (to improve accuracy), stabilisers (to improve aiming and dissipate vibrations), and a clicker (a draw length check tool that helps archers pull back to the same place every shot). A modern barebow – which is what I am shooting – is very similar to a recurve bow, except all of the added pieces, are not allowed and often uses a different anchoring style (how your fingers are positioned on the string and where you bring them on your face when you pull back the bow).
You might wonder what being a Surrey County Lady Barebow Champion actually means and why for me this was such a big deal! I signed up for the competition partly because me and my teammate Malin were going together to a different competition on the morning of the same day and going to both competitions made sense. Truthfully speaking, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but County Championship was a big and scary enough title in my mind, that made me show up there with zero expectations of my performance that day. I was barely used to competing against other students, being in the sport for roughly a year, but this was a competition open to everyone meaning I was competing against people with years of shooting experience.
It was hands down, the one and only time when I competed being so relaxed and almost unaware of how I was doing, and it really showed in the final score. Keeping track of your score during a competition can either motivate you and lift you up or frustrate you and put you down. Looking back on that day, the best way to describe it is that I was blissfully unaware, and because I had no set expectations, I had no reason to let my emotions or any pressure get to me. When we left, I knew I did well because I managed to hit a personal best, but I had no clue I won the title until the morning after when the full results were published, and the medals were shipped out!
If you’re curious to find out more about the Team Surrey Archery Club, give us a follow on Instagram @teamsurreyarchery, find us on Facebook or even drop us an email at email@example.com!