By now I was in the Third Form (Year 9), studying Latin, French and English as well as Maths and Science and so on. Homework seemed to be taking longer and longer. Time for sport was getting very limited. In fact I was mentally drifting away from it. Then somebody passed me a crisp in a Latin lesson. Salt was already on it from the little blue bag. I don’t know how he managed to get the salt on the crisp! This person was clearly not bothered that our friendly Latin teacher, who was in full flow, had his hearing-aid turned up. The Latin Master had his hearing damaged in the Second World War. Then I had a Eureka moment. I should relax and take a look at what I was doing in terms of time-management. I needed to keep things in proportion and prioritise what I wanted to do. It was important to keep on with weight-training but my time at home needed to be for schoolwork only. The latter, to me, was the more important!
The game against Wakefield Grammar in that year resulted in a very narrow defeat, so we had certainly closed the performance gap and I felt much happier with the way I had played. The physical edge was there. Job done? Not quite.
My upper body musculature had definitely improved over the 12 months since the previous Under 13 XV photo was taken (above photo: front row, extreme right). Apart from the results of weight-training, there were also natural growth and development to consider. I thought my thighs were not in proportion to my upper body and needed more development. Not only was this so in terms of muscle size, but also in terms of the related muscle strength which was needed for “explosive” body-propulsion during the rugby matches. Physical results tend to indicate the quality and effectiveness of the applied training methods. Therefore, on some days I changed my session approach and used heavier weights and fewer repetitions per set e.g. in the squat exercise – sometimes as few as 5 (down from 10 or more). As I was really using weights for general training, the need for an overall balanced approach had always to be met.
My brother was by now using very heavy weights in his power-lifting. One drop and he would be through to the lounge. He decided, therefore, to move his weights to the Youth Club basement where there was already a thriving weight-training club and a solid floor! Everyone there helped each other. Safety was paramount. This suited me because I could train there and do school work at home. On the top floor of the Youth Club the dances were usually underway and we could train to the new Rock and Roll music which drifted down. Some of the weight-training club members took food supplements. I decided to take a protein supplement to help with muscle development. Time passed and things settled down into a pleasant, quiet routine.
The Youth Club backed on to a waste area of the colliery which was partially screened by poplar trees. It was not located in our part of the village and it was quite a distance to get there. We went past many typical mining village features. Examples of these were: the War Memorial, the pit railway bridge, the pit-housing direct works, a pub, a garage, the village football field – used by the Colliery team and the village annual “Gala and Sports” – the recreation ground, the pit itself, the pit baths and Welfare (bingo), an elevated Working Mens’ Club called the Crow’s Nest, and the pit ponies’ field. There were lots of lamp posts spaced equally along the road, so to make the journey more useful and enjoyable I decided to “walk a lamp and then run a lamp”. I did this both to and from the Youth Club. There was usually little road traffic and very few people on the pavement. It was ideal compared to modern day busy street/road running. It was a simple form of interval training that helped to keep me reasonably fit and it cost nothing.
By the summer of 1958, Rugby was over and there were “only” the Annual Examinations in front of me. Fail those and I might have to repeat the year or even have to leave the school. Cricket was the sport most played at school during the summer. Geoff Boycott was a pupil in the school at that time. He was a versatile sportsman. Not only was he excellent at Cricket, but he had also played for the School Rugby First XV (unbeaten that year) and the School Basketball First Team.
My aim was to become a member of the School Athletics Team. This meant that I would then be involved in some form of competitive activity for the whole of the school year. I did play Cricket, but my skill level was relatively low and for me wet days sat in a pavilion looking at the rain were not easy to cope with. Apart from winter season activities such as rugby training and cross-country runs, my running was simply for general fitness. This meant that any possible athletics running events were going to have to be based mainly on my natural talent, which was rather limited. With me, when running anything like a distance, boredom kicks in fairly quickly and I want to stop. My weight-training, however, meant that power events were a possibility. So jumping, throwing and possibly the short sprints were for me.
In 1958, through performances in P.E. lessons, I was selected for the School Athletics team (photo above – back row, far left). My events were mainly the Shot Putt, the Discus and sometimes the High Jump. I began by competing in Triangular Athletics matches against other schools and also in multi-school Regional Competitions such as the Huddersfield Area Sports. This would, hopefully, lead to more competition at schoolboy Intermediate and Senior age-group levels over the next four years. However, as I was only of average height, I would possibly have to look in detail at my training routine for the power events.
Participating in school sport also meant that I would meet athletes and rugby players from other schools, not just in terms of the competition, but also on more friendly terms. After the competitions we would all meet in the Dining Room for pop/tea and sandwiches and, in the Summer, the Athletics Match results before going home. The camaraderie of sport!