It is a pleasant but tough task because of time and word constraints, to provide an account of experiences gleaned over several decades. A broader canvas is needed to present a bigger picture in order to bestow further acknowledgement upon others where it is due. No doubt there will be subsequent opportunities for this in the future.
My first encounter with sport at Swansea University was way back in 1962 when I played rugby for Bangor University against Swansea at Sketty Lane. The result was a drawn game of six points each but it was enough to put Bangor on the road to win the University of Wales (UW) championship for the first time in thirty-six years! Following the match there was lively entertainment and a ‘sing song’ at the Rhyddings pub and a dance at the old (now demolished) Arts Hall on campus before the long bus journey back to Bangor.
Little did I realize then that almost a decade later after graduating, including a year at Loughborough University studying physical education and five years teaching in schools that I would be back at Sketty Lane, having been appointed to the University staff in 1971.
I was assistant to Vernon Jones the Lecturer in charge of Physical Education and Recreation, and on his retirement in 1980 was appointed Director of Sport and Physical Recreation. In that year a new sports hall came into full use and my role was to manage and develop the sports facilities, organize a sport and recreation programme for the University community and provide courses in physical education for PGCE students in the Education Department. Gwyneth Diment, John Palmer (and later Kevin Harrison) became assistant directors.
The Sports Centre was a focus for the Athletic Union (AU) clubs for training and playing and although keeping a watchful eye on all the activities and offering support to the AU and its presidents I had a particular interest in rugby football and helped out the club with their coaching and training. Through the years the rugby club had some outstanding players many of whom went on to become internationals. From 1971 the club reached nine Universities Athletic Union (UAU) or British Universities Sports Association (BUSA) finals at Twickenham with ‘back to back’ victories in 1998 and 1999.
I enjoyed all these experiences and successes of other championship winning clubs such as the cricket, soccer, squash, swimming, surfing, ladies tennis, volleyball and table tennis teams – sports which also produced outstanding players. Indeed the future achievements of some student athletes (many of whom received University sports scholarships) were also a source of pride as they developed as players, coaches, administrators and referees to be part of Olympic, Paralympic, World, European and Commonwealth games teams. Three examples of such talent are double Olympian track athlete Daniel Caines, Paralympian gold medalist swimmer Liz Johnson and Welsh international hockey player Sarah Powell who is now Chief Executive of Sport Wales.
Two further instances that gave me particular satisfaction occurred at the time when I was coach of Swansea RFC from the mid seventies to the early eighties and later in that decade when assistant coach of Wales. Mark Wyatt stepped up from the University 1st XV into the Swansea RFC team and became the club’s all time top points scorer, going on to play ten times for Wales. Also, during my involvement with the Wales team three former University players were in the side including the captain Paul Thorburn, a committed and respected leader of his country.
Much satisfaction was gained too from the efforts and careers of PGCE physical education students, some of whom took the benefits of their training into primary and secondary schools encouraging children to take part in sport and lead healthy lives. A former student, Derek Peaple became a head teacher in London and carried out a successful bid to move his school forward to Specialist Sports College status. He claimed that his “own passionate commitment to the all round value of sports education was first kindled during my PGCE studies at University”.
The interest in providing courses in professional training led to the introduction of the Sports Science degree scheme in 1997 that gave extra academic credence to sport, added to the infra-structure and proved to be an attraction for prospective students. Sport and Exercise Science has now developed into a flourishing subject of study.
I also had much satisfaction in encouraging those who were not committed to AU clubs but who wished to join recreational classes or take part in intra mural sport including staff and staff families. Staff had their own clubs and teams in squash, tennis, cricket, five a side football and many took part in their own ‘sports week’. Personally, I enjoyed the camaraderie of the cricket team and taking part in the annual two day UW staff cricket festival. Also, playing marathon squash games during early Friday evenings with Classics lecturer Dr. Eddie Owens before retiring to the pub and forgetting whose round it was when quenching our thirsts too quickly. Staff families enjoyed swimming and badminton on Saturday mornings and I took my daughters Ruth and Siân along while Carole did the shopping.
Retirement came in 2003 but I worked for another three years on a part time basis. During the same year the new Wales National Pool was opened, the result of three years planning and building following a very satisfying and successful bidding process in partnership with the City and County of Swansea. Further facility development plans were on the drawing board and delivered shortly afterwards resulting in the creation of a Sports Village.
Now, from the outside looking in, with the expansion of the University and ‘state of the art sports facilities’ it is pleasing to see the centenary arriving on an ascending note. For my part I shall be ever grateful for the students and staff who helped in making my time a productive and enjoyable experience.