January 30, 2021

Become an archery coach and help others reach their potential

People decide to become coaches for many different reasons - it's a calling for some, while others just seem to find their way into it by happy accident.

Whatever the route in, the coaches out on the range (or temporarily stuck behind a computer screen under lockdown) all share the same passion and dedication.

For Mary Watson of Peacock Archery in Cambridgeshire, her archery journey falls into the latter category. She first picked up a bow in 2009 and describes her time in the sport as "all-consuming”, having transitioned from beginner to County Coach in 12 years, co-founding her successful club with her husband, Philip, an Archery GB Senior Coach, who trains Jaspreet Sagoo, winner of the 2019 National Tour.

Recalling their first experiences in the sport, Mary said: "With our daughter about to leave home for university, Philip and I thought we should find a shared hobby. He was already familiar with archery as an adventurous activity he'd taken his Scout Troop on. We joined our local club, which had only a few active members who shot, and became involved in helping to revive it, eventually qualifying as Level 1 coaches to run beginners' courses

As those beginners improved, the couple needed to keep up, so did their Level 2 coaching course in 2013. Mary said: "We started mentoring others in the club who were just starting their Level 1 coaching courses, and because several archers we'd coached were continually improving, we decided to take the County Coach course in 2015. After successfully qualifying, we both took on paid coaching work, while still doing our club coaching for free, which we've always included in the membership fee. The paid coaching we offer is mostly when someone might want a couple of hours of private instruction at a more intense level.”

Archery coaching: making it pay

It's not easy. Mary's part-time accountancy job helps cushion the lean times, and she acknowledges that her and Philip's stage of life, with decades of steady employment under their belts, has given them more financial freedom. She said: "Most of the coaches we work with have other jobs just because it is so hard to make a livelihood from coaching alone, unless you diversify somehow. You have to be realistic about the work that will bring in the money.

"To make it financially viable, we've had to work unsociable hours as many people want to do archery after school or after work and at weekends. We've got into the habit of doing our paperwork and equipment maintenance in the morning, as the majority of events we're asked to do are in the afternoon. It's definitely not a 9-5 job and you have to love it. We care about getting it right and don't cut corners, and we truly believe in our tag line: quality coaching for everyone.”

How to keep archers coming back for more

Mary firmly believes that the way to keep archers is through coaching. She said: "Coaches can see how well archers are improving, help make club sessions more enjoyable and tailor them to whatever the archer wants/needs, whether it's prep for their first competition or steps for improvement. You've got to understand your archer, and know what they want from their archery, whatever their level.

"Sometimes you have to outline what is achievable in an allotted time frame and act as a guide, as some people aren't sure what to expect from a coach. Above all, make it fun!”

Want to be a coach? Visit www.archerygb.org/coaches-judges-volunteers/about-coaching for more information.


(Photo taken pre-Covid: Mary Watson setting up a beginners' course with her daughter)

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