By Michelle Jay
One of the best things about interviewing people for The Irish Field Archery Monthly is getting to chat with people who are brimming with excitement and enthusiasm for archery. Two of the most ebullient and engaging examples of this would be Gino Vaianella and James Lenihan of Valley Bowmen Archery Club in Kilmeaden, Co Waterford.
Many of you will know of, and have visited Valley Bowmen in the past. It was formed in 2013 by Elaine Foran, Andy Vagg and Matt Coxall and hosted UKIFAC in 2015. Gino joined the club in 2016, by which point Matt had already left. Gino worked alongside Andy , learning how to set courses, and when Andy moved away, Gino took over as main course setter. At this stage Valley Bowmen was a small club, with a handful of members, all friends or friends of friends.
James joined in 2017, bringing his expertise ( and equipment) from his landscape gardening business. The physical work of maintaining the club woods was obviously his forte, but before long his love for archery and his and Gino’s great relationship ( they are married to sisters) had them dreaming up plans for the club . They work together
part time, so it was perhaps inevitable that they would step forward as other members began to step back as other life commitments became pressing. Gino and James ( under Elaine Foran’s guidance and supervision) took on more responsibilities and unofficially became more involved in the decision making processes.
Fast forward to 2021 and Valley Bowmen not only has a formal committee of 5, but Gino and James are also qualified IFAA level One Instructors. They have a marvellous new course , a full 28 targets that have been placed with much care and attention, not just for safety but also somehow seeming to showcase the absolute beauty of the surroundings. I’m lucky enough to have had the opportunity to shoot here twice since the new course was unveiled and there are places deep in the woods that feel magical and make me wish I could just wander off and explore….then I catch sight of the next target and its back to business!
The changes are everywhere, and so exciting to see. The Club has a new Portacabin and seating area called “ the Hub” where tea and coffee making facilities and snacks are usually available. Not only does this make admin on shoot days easier, but it’s a great place for everyone to congregate and chat too. What is particularly notable is the lovely atmosphere here, it seems very much to be a club where everyone has a say, that equality of all really is important to the club. Gino and James are clear about this, they , and the whole committee want the club to be a welcoming place , where everyone mucks in, makes decisions and feels like they matter. They see archery as a sport for all, and their club as a family that communicates openly and absolutely transparently. All revenues are ploughed back into the club, the members all have the opportunity to discuss the direction the club takes, the spending of monies and all aspects of its governance. I’ve chatted to quite a few of the jolly Valley Bowmen, and I think this attitude really contributes to the friendly , relaxed attitude. They have recently launched gorgeous new club merchandise with a brilliant design incorporating the club name on the lower sleeve. This design feature is innovative and visually stunning in photos. They have also launched Valley Bowmen gift vouchers, which can be redeemed against beginners courses or taster sessions, giving the recipients the opportunity to pick dates, times and the option which suits them best.
Valley Bowmen have big plans for the future. They are committed to providing personal care and support to all . They envisage a bigger club, and with membership growing steadily, they are steadfast that the ethos won’t change. They would love to have a crack at hosting the National Championships. No matter what your focus is , they say they will help you to achieve your goals. If you wish to compete, they will accompany, support and encourage. If you wish to improve your form , they can provide coaching . If you want to have a relaxed shoot around in the stunning location, no problem at all. They are friendly, flexible and utterly passionate about archery. If you are living nearby and wish to try archery, or you would like to visit and shoot their course, which is available 7 days a week by prior appointment to all archers with a valid membership of ANY archery association, then contact the Valley Bowmen via Facebook , Email ( email@example.com) , Instagram @valleybowmen or through their website , valley bowmen.
Their next IFAF shoot will take place on 13th February 2022. The Jolly Valley Bowmen look forward to welcoming archers from all associations to their wonderful club.