TOP COACH: John Crotty has helped to bring success to City of Stoke Athletics Club.
HAPPY 60th, City of Stoke Athletics Club. The Potteries institution celebrated its diamond anniversary in 2015, marking six decades of blood, sweat and tears from athletes and quiet heroics from volunteers.
Breaking the tape is the glory part, but the unsung heroes have been making it all possible since 1955.
Training a champion pole vaulter is one thing, getting him to the venue is another, as the club discovered when they took 1960s champion Trevor Burton to London.
Team manager Ann Johnson recalled: “We would get in the taxi, wind the windows down, and the front passenger and the one at the back used to hold the pole to the side. How else could we do it? We couldn’t get it on the underground.”
I like to think that spirit of ingenuity lives on. It certainly does with triple jump coach John Crotty, the nationally acclaimed expert who trains hopefuls at Northwood Stadium with wooden jumping platforms built by one of his former athletes and a battered training jacket packed with rusty weights.
The expertise, however, is superb, or at least it was good enough to coach Olympic champion and world record holder Jonathan Edwards.
Athletes don’t have to suffer the bone crunching tackles of footballers, but that doesn’t mean they’re not tough.
City of Stoke graduates such as Commonwealth pole vault champion Steven Lewis, European champion sprinter Ashleigh Nelson and Commonwealth long jump silver medallist Jazmin Sawyers have had to work incredibly hard to reach the top of a sport in which even qualifying for funding to be able to train full time is a big ask.
Mind you, the City of Stoke Club was formed for athletes who weren’t exactly pampered at their then Cobridge Stadium home.
As Ann Johnson, herself a national champion sprinter recalled: “The pole vault bed was packed with foam and bed mattresses. I suppose it was a death trap really.
“But the throwing area was spectacular. It overlooked the old Shelton Bar. The dust was awful, but the sky would be lit up like the aurora borealis.”
Athletes can train in safety at the club’s home of the last 30 years, Northwood Stadium.