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A celebration of David Woodward's 36 years of dedication to RHC Youth Development

A celebration of David Woodward's 36 years of dedication to RHC Youth Development

James Thomas19 May - 18:47
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Sunday 19th May

On Sunday 19th May Rotherham Hockey Club held a celebration of 36 years of David Woodward's dedication as their Youth Co-Ordinator, as this season marked his retirement in this operational role.

The event was organised by members of the Management and Youth committees and kept a surprise from David until he arrived at the pitch, expecting to deliver the final Youth Coaching of the season and his illustrious career. Much to his surprise a 170 person strong guard of honour greeted him on his arrival, leading from the car park entrance to the pitch gates. Made up of ex-members, current players, their families and many friends, the group clapped David as he made his way to the pitch, alongside his partner Sue. At the pitch a Champagne reception welcomed David and his guests.

Club Chairman, James Thomas opened the proceedings:
"I’d like to start by saying thank you to you all for attending today to pay tribute to all David Woodward has done for many of you as individuals, for Rotherham Hockey Club and the wider hockey community in South Yorkshire.

I find it a huge honour to be able to be the one in-front of you today talking about David and I’ll try my utmost to hold back the emotion doing so brings. This is now my third speech having celebrated David at our Senior presentation evening a few weeks ago and the Youth Presentation last week, so apologies if you have heard what I’m going to say already.

David’s priority has always been youth development and ensuring we are a family orientated club so we thought it was absolutely essential that we mark what will be David’s final youth coaching session as Youth Co-ordinator, keeping it a surprise however has not been easy. I will say a few words, then I will pass the microphone to a few others who would also like to say a few words.

David joined the club in 1960 and as you are all aware at the end of the season will be stepping down as Youth Co-Ordinator, a role which he has held since 1987, which was two years before I was born.

It’s extremely difficult to summarise the impact David’s dedication to hockey has had on our club and the wider hockey community. I can honestly say that without his involvement the club would not be where it is today, would not have returned to Rotherham in 2017 with a new pitch and would not have what I think is a leading Youth section.

David has inspired several generations of players to play hockey and have led a player development pathway that has led to players reaching international level, we’re fortunate to have one of those, current Den Bosch, England and Great Britain player Tom Sorsby with us today, who in a moment has something to present to David. David has also, inspired several of us to coach, some of whom have made hockey their career, ex-Wales international and current Head of Hockey at Mount St Mary’s, Danny Berry is here with us today and will say a few words shortly.

In my opinion David’s greatest success is how he has instilled a family centric ethos across the club, with inclusivity for all being part of the culture which makes our club truly special and is a legacy we must all now continue.

As recognition of all the above, in 2005 David won the BBC Unsung Hero Award for South Yorkshire and in 2017 he was recognised in the Queens New Years Honours list and received a British Empire Medal.

Before I hand over to Danny, I’d like to ask you all to raise your glasses as we do three cheers for Mr Rotherham Hockey Club, our club President David Woodward".

James then passed the microphone to club Head Coach, Danny Berry who shared how David was his first coach when he joined the club at 7 years old. He went on to share how David had encouraged, perhaps even pushed him into getting involved with coaching in Schools. Danny explained how David had great patience with him when he initially lacked confidence to deliver sessions, working with him and slowly introducing him through warm ups and drills before he felt able to deliver sessions himself. This led to Danny going on to become the Club's Development Officer a role he described his peers at other clubs were envious off as they didn't have a David to do the administrative elements of the role, that allowed Danny to focus on coaching. Ultimately this led to Danny making a career in hockey coaching.

Next, current England and Great Britain player Tom Sorsby talked about how the environment David created at coaching made the sport enjoyable from a young age, allowed him to form friendships he still cherishes to this day. Tom presented David with an England shirt, signed by Tom and his peers.

Finally, James Swinscoe delivered a message from friend of the club, former England player and international coach Gavin Featherstone:
"All of us remember our first hockey coach. Thousands of youngsters from the kids next door to the likes of Barry Middleton and Tom Sorsby will have vibrant memories of Woody. His guiding presence and warm influence over the youth of Rotherham and South Yorkshire has enthused stability for many and represented the fruition of dreams for the lucky few.

This has been ever present for over half a century, as David has been applauded by all who have ever wielded a hockey stick in South Yorkshire and even his hockey fame has extended to the lush green pastures of leafy suburban Surrey's England hockey elite!!

He has always shown great humility and consideration to all he has met along the way, but I suspect as he steps upstairs to continue his role as President of the club, he will miss one big thing. It will be the pride he feels with the everyday connection he has amongst the local kids, the back chat and banter of mutual fun.

There will always be spirited humour in Rotherham. My own Ma was from Jarra on Tyne, and the Dad I grew up with was from docklands Bermondsey. Rotherham and places like these were never supposed to play a sport like hockey. All the cards were stacked against characters like Woody who as a player, youth coach and club organiser gave so much hope and pride to families through the sport he has loved.

I had that confirmed when a mild, soft spoken Rotherham lad pitched up on my Durham doorstep in 2005. A rare species you might say, but Russell Power was to play a major part as my first team captain in launching the University club into the top echelon of national league status. His values very much moulded by the solidity of fine parents and a hockey club that really cared, were also my values.

Today he flies hundreds of thousands of air miles as one of British Airways most accomplished pilots. He can still say, "This is your Captain speaking!!" Through David Woodward and Rotherham Hockey club, he had a foundation for life, one which he still boasts about today.

It was Woody who was there when the club got relegated and he was the bloke who led the celebrations on winning the trophies. He also persuaded so many parents to try out hockey, and yes he fronted up to protect their kids from wayward behaviour. Woody drove the bus, chaired the late night meetings, organised the club's hockey events and negotiated with the movers and shakers for new pitch facilities.

Ladies and Gentlemen, they don't make 'em like Woody anymore. He is the real thing! Forget Labour and the Tories, Vote David Woodward for Prime Minister!!".

David was then presented with his gifts from the club and guests. Almost £800 was given in contributions, a weekend trip to the Pro League at Lee Valley, a photo collage, a hand painted picture of David by Archie Busby and a hockey themed cake made by Beth Bradley.

The event concluded with David thanking everyone for attending and for his gifts. It was great to see so many old friends at the pitch and he assured them they couldn't leave until they picked up a hockey stick. He was very humbled and overwhelmed by the turn out but extremely grateful to everyone for attending.

There are many pictures and videos that will be shared over the coming days.

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