Today we say goodbye to a singular brilliant analytical mind – my coach.
Dick coached me from the age of 16 till I departed for the US, and after that he remained a constant source of information, ideas; always challenging the way I thought, my plans and the assumptions I made. Your relationship with Dick could not be passive!
“Inquiring minds” has now gone way beyond a cliché, but Dick epitomised the term, and I never came across a “thinking” person who was not captivated by his inquiring mind, even though it was incredibly difficult to “keep up with him” at times
The impact of his thinking continued in the thinking of athletes he coached, when they in turn became coaches
Some of the athletes I worked with, who now coach, knew Dick and his importance to my development (such as Club members Mick and Peter Wishart); some did not (like Harry King and Troy Douglas), but either way, Dick is “present” in whatever they feel they may have got from me, and its impact on their coaching
Something about Dick I think led many of us to become coaches, and former Cambridge Harrier Club members such as Chris Colman (working with exceptional students at Mill Hill School) and John Hillier (arguably the most accomplished British throws coach), are a couple of examples.
Dick was a “fixture” at Crystal Palace in the ‘70 s working with such talented young horizontal jumpers as Graham Byham, Chris Colman, Trevor Wade and Steve White; and at the same time sending countless Tulse Hill school boys to the English Schools Championships.
There is going to be a number of young throwers in South Wales “lost” for a while, and with absolutely no disrespect to whoever coaches them in the future, they will only begin to really appreciate what they had in Dick as time passes – I never met anyone who thought the way he did
I last saw him a couple of years when we were both staying with Chris and Marion Colman – the conversations were diverse and stimulating (and exhausting!) and us younger ones tired long before he did, and he was not beyond demonstrating his ideas. The video attached here, from a couple of years ago (when close to the age of 80!), shows him trying to get across lower leg action in sprinting.
Not all his original thinking centred on track and field athletics – Dick lived with us for a while when he was teaching locally, and no matter what he had put me through in training on Sunday morning, the afternoon would find us back in the park with a cricket or rugby ball working on some new idea, or trying to analyse something he had seen in a recent game.
As all Welshmen, Dick was passionate about his rugby, and when he first moved to London he naturally joined London Welsh rugby club; and he continued playing to an age when most of us were considering retiring from work! He “suffered” mightily in the Welsh lean years, but in the early ‘70s couldn’t have been prouder of the Welsh influence on the successful Lions tours of that time
Back in the pre – email days, one of my big joys was to receive a beautifully hand written letter summarizing the past rugby season.
He had a deep interest in holistic medicine, and swore by the power of crystals, and the effect on his health. A great joy for him was to go to Glastonbury, when visiting the Colmans – I got to experience it one time, and I was “hooked”!
Alongside his sporting passions and other diverse interests, Dick was an accomplished “amateur” historian for which he had a website – his particular passion was King Arthur, and the period of the mid to late first Millennium.
Though by no means a young man, he had the energy, vigour and passion of a man half his age, which makes the shock of his accident even more painful. Like a parent, one never considers what life would be without them until faced with that challenge, and at the moment it is just too hard to say. I do know his memory and impact will remain with those of us he met, and will continue with those that we have touched.
Next to my father he was the most important and influential man in my life.
His most recent e-mail (which arrived a week before his accident) was typical: “the weakness of the glide is that the kick of the glide gets slower the further it extends”; “convinced that most important thing in discus technique is how fast the thrower can rotate”; the similarity of the sprint action of Elaine Thompson and Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and how it compared to Dafne Schippers; and had I looked into Native American tribal natural healers for my condition.
I understand that the weather today will be quite “Welsh”, and by coincidence as I finish writing this it is pouring with rain in the Arizona desert.
If there is a Coaches Corner in the after-life, then they are in for a heck of a time, and I envy them!
Thank you Dick. R.I.P.