22nd June 2022



Wrexham AC, Throws Coach

Regional Throws Development Coordinator, North Wales


What is your athletics background?

I grew up in the grounds of a school and joined in with some of the PE classes from the age of 2! The PE teacher was an ex-marine Sergeant Major.  I soon developed a passion for athletics and at age about 5 I threw a stair-rod, pretending it was a javelin. This teacher not only developed my interest in athletics but was why I chose teaching and coaching as a career over accountancy. I came first or second at cricket ball throwing at primary school.

My chemistry teacher at secondary school was Bob Birrell, the number one hurdler in the UK at the time, and he put up with my lack of interest in chemistry by encouraging further my athletics. I competed at discus and javelin at county level while at school. I then went on to St Luke’s College in Exeter where I qualified as an AAA coach in 1969.

My physiology tutor there was Dr Travers who was the GB Olympic team physio at the time, and I undertook research into high altitude level training. He also got me into training and competing in the decathlon. As I went on to coach a wide range of events it provided me with a brilliant basis. I went into teaching specifically to coach athletics and rugby as a career.

I taught in a small school on the Wirral of about 250 pupils and every child up to Year 9 got at least a 3* award on the five-star award scheme. The top pupils were competing at county level and getting five stars of course. I taught there for 18 years, and it had a very good reputation for sport in general, especially athletics. Then I moved to North Wales to another school there.


How did you get into coaching?

During my time as a decathlete, I met Geoff Ward, the leading Welsh decathlete about six years younger than me. He and I both ended up living near Wrexham, so when I retired from teaching, he asked me to come down to the club and coach throws, which were my strongest events.

This was about 2010 so I went to some coaching development programme events and the rest is history!

I then became a throws coach and have taken on a good few throwing athletes since then. I am currently throws coach at Wrexham AC although I have a couple of athletes from England as well. I am also Regional Throws Development Coordinator for North Wales.


What is your coaching philosophy?

My philosophy in teaching, and now coaching is to raise the standard from the bottom and the rest will follow. Obviously, you need to spend some individual time with the top ones.

I get a lot of satisfaction when people whom I coach improve. I do like those who will work at it without being told. I currently have a group of about a dozen athletes all throwing at Wrexham, so I have to work individually with them and then give them things to work on while I talk to the next one. At times I have had up to 30, so I have learnt to have eyes in the back of my head! As long as they work on the last things I have talked to them about then the results will come.

We train on Tuesday and Thursday evenings with some training or athletics meetings on a Saturday/Sunday. I encourage the group to be supportive of each other. I like to attend if my athletes are at a meeting and frequently help out as an official if needed.

I like to talk with other coaches. In my early career I met up with coaches and top athletes at events such as the Cheshire Schools Athletics Week and I picked up tips and hints that I added to my coaching points. Geoff Capes was one of these who left a lasting impression.

I focus always on technique which is everything in throws. Once you have a solid technique then strength and conditioning become even more important to throw further. However, for the youngsters, apart from basic core work, getting good technique is key. If you don’t have good technique, it is so easy to get injured especially in the throws. It is very easy to damage your elbow in javelin for example.


What keeps you motivated?

I love seeing people get better. The higher the standard, the more satisfying it is but just seeing my club athletes perform well is very rewarding – for example, recently I took a group to a local meeting. I had an age 9 boy compete as an under 13 in javelin and he came fourth – he is potentially going to be very, very good – and three of the U13 girls came second, third and fourth. So I didn’t have the best thrower but each one was a positive result for different reasons.

I will also help athletes from other clubs, so if I spot something they are doing wrong I will say so.


What do you consider your biggest achievement from a coach perspective?

Sabrina Fortune winning bronze at the Paralympics in 2016 and becoming World Champion in 2019 has to rank as my highest achievement. She has worked hard and is very well motivated.

One of my athletes broke the Welsh under 15 discus record, although it has subsequently been broken.

I coach an athlete who has just broken the Welsh V55 javelin record who, coincidentally, was on one of the Cheshire Schools courses, so I coached him as a schoolboy!

I have coached a number of Welsh champions or medallists at the Welsh Championships.


What are your ambitions for 2022/23?

Because the Para World Championships have been cancelled this year, Sabrina (Fortune) is concentrating on recovery from the injury that hampered her in Tokyo, getting much fitter and producing some good throws this season, as she prepares for next year’s World Champs and onwards to Paris 2024.

One to watch in the future will be Holly Pemberton who competed for Welsh U20s when she was 16. She is recovering from a damaged elbow at the moment so has been concentrating on discus, although she is an excellent javelin thrower.