Southfield’s own Robin Hood awarded for commitment to visually impaired archery coaching

From watching Robin Hood as a child to coach of the year, straight shooter Rafal Radosz is Southfields’ very own cult hero.

I met Rafal in Wimbledon to discuss his recent achievement and to get to know the man behind the bow.

Rafal, 38, was presented with an Active Wandsworth Award on February 11, where the commitment and dedication of sporting individuals from the borough is recognised and celebrated.

Originally from Wąchock, Poland, Rafal began working as a mainstream archery coach in 2010 at Aspire Centre, part of Southfields Academy.

He began coaching people with visual impairments two years ago.

Despite his impressive achievement Rafal is exceptionally humble, preferring to pass on praise to others around him.

“Visually impaired people inspire me because they are proof that if you work hard then there are no limits to what you can achieve,” said Rafal.

“When I started it was a little bit stressful, but now I have found that this is something I love to do and I’m good at it.

“People here appreciate the job I do and that’s absolutely amazing.”

Rafal’s coaching sessions at Aspire take place twice a week, on Monday and Thursday evenings for two hours, he also offers his time to host birthday parties as well as finding the time to practice himself every Sunday morning.

Monthly Aspire Centre archery sessions can cater for all forms of visual impairments and those who attend are separated into four classes in accordance to the quality of their vision, ranging from B1, B2, B3 and VI Open.

Rafal coaches across all four classes, citing the need to use different coaching techniques and approaches whilst working with students from each class.

Technology called tactile equipment is used to allow visually impaired archers to use a sense of touch to aim for the bullseye.

Despite his exceptionally busy schedule, Rafal admitted that nothing beats seeing his students succeed.

“I absolutely love it,” he said.

“There are some amazingly capable people among the visually impaired archers, who can do very well with a little bit of coaching and training, then they can start joining in sessions with the mainstream archers, the people who have no visual impairments.

“One of my students, Andrea, has won two medals in the mainstream competitions despite being visually impaired, so she is like a mega star at the moment.

“We also have another competitor named Harish, who has very severe visual impairments, but he’s practicing using the tactile equipment in preparation for the British Nationals this year.

“A year ago we were only thinking about competing at National Championships, but now we’re winning medals so it shows how much we have come on in such a short amount of time.”

Juggling work and hobbies is something that he has had to get used to over the years, but that has not stopped the ambitious Rafal from pursuing his own dream of representing the British team in the Japanese martial art of Iaido.

“Last year, I won the silver medal in the British Nationals, but since then I have been working very hard and improved a lot,” he said.

“So if I’m selected this year it would be a mind-blowing achievement for me.”

Rafal, Metro Blind SportWINNER: Rafal (left) recieving his award 

Rafal was extremely modest and pleased to have won the award.

“I didn’t expect the award at all to be honest,” said Rafal, shaking his head.

“It was amazing. It was the first time that I have been awarded Coach of the Year.

“It’s very hard to describe my feelings but I really appreciated the recognition of my hard work.

“I was very pleased that my seven-year-old son, Mikolaj, was there with me and was very proud of his dad.

“It gave me a sense of achievement and assured me that other people appreciate what I do, so you know that you must be doing something good.

“I wasn’t able to celebrate because I had an archery session to coach on Friday at 1pm that lasted until late in the evening.”

Images courtesy of Metro Blind Sport, with thanks

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