The last place you might expect to find a group of promising archers is in an old shed on Catterick Garrison. But every Monday, as part of the Rolling Recovery Programme at Phoenix House, a group of serving military personnel and Veterans pick up their bows and spend the afternoon shooting targets.
Chris Yates, who damaged his spinal cord while lowering a tail gate on a truck, has been shooting for about a year-and-a-half. He has even taken his archery instructor's course through Phoenix House.
A former soldier with the Royal Engineers, Chris said: “It’s a fairly easy sport to pick up. You are concentrating on something so it stops you thinking about other things going on in your life. It’s very therapeutic.”
The group recently received some instruction from Invictus Games champion David Hubber, who won two gold medals.
David, known as ‘H’, also took part in the 2015 Warrior Games, where he won a bronze medal with the UK Armed Forces Team.
Injured in 2001 while playing ice hockey for the Army in Canada, H put up with an increasingly worsening spinal condition for 10 years until he could no longer continue to carry out his regular role within the Royal Logistic Corps. He said archery has played a large part in his recovery process:
“I got involved with archery through Help for Heroes and Phoenix House. It’s almost the perfect sport for me. Being in the wheelchair enables me to shoot supported and because I'm still able to walk short distances, I can retrieve my own arrows when shooting at short distance targets. It also keeps me in motion and doesn't mean I'm using my chair all of the time.”
His bow was part-funded by Help for Heroes: “It’s an intermediate bow. It’s very light, very fast and very balanced. The only thing wrong with it is the guy behind it!”
H said it's great to see so many beginners taking up archery through Phoenix House, with the equipment used part of the Invictus Games legacy: “The main thing about archery is having fun. Safety is, of course, paramount too. It’s about repetition, accuracy and focus.”
H is currently getting ready to compete in the open National Indoor Championships in Coventry. After that, he wants to continue his training regime in preparation for next year’s Invictus Games, which he hopes to be selected for.
Anyone wounded, injured or sick military personnel or veterans in need of support from Help for Heroes can visit our Get Support pages.