All athletes eventually have to answer the questions: what will we do when shooting is no longer an option? Some refuse to believe it, others begrudgingly go with it, but you don’t hear of many that accept it and embrace it. Whichever category a person sits in, a similarity they almost all share is that they all wished their sporting careers never had to come to an end. Thinking ahead and contemplating the idea of stopping sport shows a willingness for change and an acceptance.
Perhaps we should start by removing the word ‘stop’ all together. To stop suggests there will never be a return to the sport. A more suitable word to use is ‘retirement’. Retirement allows for many other opportunities to arise, and is not only the beginning of a new journey but symbolises the success of a completed one.
Someone who has really embraced their retirement is one of Great Britain’s most successful recurve athletes, Alison Williamson. Most British archers and many casual fans would recall her greatest moment being her individual bronze win at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004. Any recurve archer would consider a trip to the Olympics an achievement of a lifetime, let alone coming home with a medal too. However, medals aren’t everything. “Some of my best performances ironically didn’t always end up with me finishing on the podium – a fourth place at the World Champs comes to mind.” she said.
Williamson finally retired in 2013, after six Olympic appearances and a life dedicated to archery. “I got married!” she tells us.
She now teaches in a special needs school in complex-needs classes, also teaching in PE lessons. Outside of work, sport is still part of the agenda, as Williamson has been competing in local races as a runner.
After recovering from a torn cartilage in the left knee, she has also taken up football. It’s become quite the family affair with both her husband and his three children also participating. She’s currently a member of the ’Stafford Soccer Mums’ – part of Stafford Town F.C.
She’s also keen on continuing to travel which she loved back when she competed with Team GB. Iceland and Japan are currently top of her bucket list.
A key piece of advice Williamson provided from her extensive archery career was to accept change; be prepared to try something new. “When something isn’t going right or isn’t working, don’t be afraid to make the necessary changes.”
She’s still keen to pass on all that has been learnt over her extensive career. “If you want to get better, practice, practice, practice! Get a coach or friend who can video you so you can see what you’re doing. And write down what you do – get an archery diary.”
“But ultimately,” Williamson says. “Have fun, and enjoy what you do!”