Ann Hill was the most successful female coach ever to have operated in Wales. She was one of the most dedicated and committed coaches giving her life to guiding and developing athletes in a career that spanned four decades. Ann played a prominent role in the British Milers’ Club, making a significant contribution to the success of this specialist group.
During her career she produced numerous British and Welsh champions as well as a host of international athletes such as Carol Bradford, Susan and Angela Tooby, Kim Lock, Amanda Pritchard, Chris Gowell and the late Mickey Morris. Although Ann was known for her expertise in coaching endurance events, she also guided many Welsh junior sprinters and long-jumpers to Welsh titles.
Being a successful coach requires far more than having a deep knowledge of athletic events. The following words illustrate this and are from some of the many athletes that Ann guided. They paint the full picture of the coaching qualities that Ann had and are testimony to the high regard that both athletes and coaches had for her.
Both Angela and Susan Tooby were coached by Ann Hill from 1983 - 1986 and achieved the following in major championships:-
Angela Tooby (now Tooby-Smith)
World XC in New York 1984 (8th)
Commonwealth Games Edinburgh 1986 10,000m (3rd)
World XC Lisbon 1985 (6th)
Susan Tooby (now Wightman)
Commonwealth Games Edinburgh 1986 10,000m (6th)
World XC Lisbon 1985 (29th)
“Ann provided us with a great opportunity to train as a squad with like athletes. We had both trained with our university clubs but never with the quality and range of athletes we encountered in Cwmbran. It was an ideal development ground to reach new heights with Kirsty Wade and Kim Lock as training partners. We both achieved massive P.B's in 800m - 10,000m, the latter being where our strengths lay. We went from virtually unknowns to GB level during those 3 years and have a lot to thank her for. Ann had the ability to instil dedication, drive and a will to win in her athletes and we are extremely proud to have had her guidance during the early years of our career”.
Coached by Ann from July 1983 to August 1984
"Ann's contribution to my life and athletic career would not be obvious from a catalogue of the bare statistics covering the period of time that she coached me. Personally I think you lose a lot about the real contributions that good coaches make to the lives of the athletes that they have such close contact with by stripping the information down to the bare facts of times and titles. 1983 was my final year at University and at that time I intended to give up Athletics having won 800m Gold at the 1982 Commonwealth Games. I was training sporadically and without much direction. However I decided to give Athletics one last chance in the 1984 season.
Ann was able to offer us guidance, support, (even a roof over my head) training plans, a good laugh and an occasional kick up the backside. It was not a successful year athletically. I got injured, I did not make the Olympic team, and I did not run any P.B's or win anything in particular. However I genuinely feel that our year together was more of a success than the cruel statistics that measure our sport would suggest.
Ann's training, her expectation of 100% commitment to that training and her introduction to a running lifestyle had a big effect upon me. She made me realise that I could train twice a day, and that I needed to get leaner and a bit meaner and that I had to believe that I could run better and commit to that belief.
I have so many funny, painful and vivid memories of the year that Ann coached me. Ann was unique, she was often not well, but despite her own discomfort she would be thinking of her athletes. I feel very grateful that I was coached by her and was able to be a part of Ann's loyal group of Cwmbran runners." (In September 1984 Kirsty left Ann's group. In 1986 Kirsty Wade won 800m and 1500m Golds at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh)
800m, 1500m 3000m and Cross Country. Coached by Ann from 1975 to 1984
Held Welsh record for the mile and 3000m.
Won Welsh titles at 1500m, 3000m, and Cross Country.
6th in the 1982 Commonwealth Games, Brisbane.
1984 Part of the winning Cardiff A.A.C. team for National Road Relays and European Cross Country Championships, and 2nd in the National Cross Country Championships.
“Ann was a dedicated and tenacious coach, who took her athletes out of Wales in search of better competition. She organized many warm-weather training camps in Europe for her athletes, starting in 1981”.
800m, Coached by Ann 2006, 2007.
Welsh 800m Champion
U.K. Championships 3rd (PB of 2:00.55)
Crystal Palace, London Grand Prix – 5th ( P.B.-1:59.74)
Selection for the European Outdoor Championships in Gothenburg
"Ann coached me to a PB of 1:59.74 to be placed 2nd on the Welsh All Time Rankings (behind Kirsty Wade) - in my eyes, and through the results achieved, that clearly made her an excellent coach. It wasn’t necessarily down to the 2-3 times a week that I would see her at the track and where she would set the sessions and yell out times, it was the relationship that we had between sessions, away from the track that was equally important. We would speak on the phone everyday and she was always there as a source of support for me, night or day.
On race days and at times of stress she would have a very calming influence over me and when troubled by a niggling injury during 2006, she always managed to get me to think positively and helped me get the best out of myself.
Her great knowledge, patience and dedication, as well as her caring manner and determination to get the best out of her athletes, is what made Ann not just a good coach but a truly great coach and person to have known.”
800m, 1500m, Mile. Coached by Ann 2004 to 2007.
Two AAA’s senior medals over 800m/1500m (Indoors), PB of 3:41.40 over 1500m, British Team for European Cup (Indoors) in 2004
“Ann helped me (as an Englishman!) capture a number of Welsh titles over 1500m and guided me to a P.B.over 1500m. I was fortunate enough to compete in many international races in Europe and Ann would often travel with me and support me throughout the entire process.
Ann not only coached me but also gave me guidance in Athletics and life. We often spent hours talking over training methods and techniques. Ann was a very caring person giving her all to the sport and the athletes she was helping. She opened up home and was always willing to go the extra mile in support. “
800m, 1500m, Coached by Ann from 1999 to 2007.
U.K. U20 champion, U.K. U23 Champion, World Junior Championships, Welsh commonwealth Games team 2010
“Ann coached me from the age of 15 and was more than just a coach. She was a best friend to me, which is an aspect of coaching that so many neglect. Ann went the extra mile and truly, if it wasn’t for her persistency I would be in a whole different place than I am right now and that can be said of many more athletes. That is why Ann will always be remembered by so many”.
Welsh 800m record holder, Coach - Mike Rowlands.
“I was never coached by Ann but held her in high regard. Ann “did Athletics “ with a smile on her face, a massive sense of humour and a wicked laugh. She never pulled a punch and she told you what she thought- usually with brutal honesty. If you did not like it, well you did not need to listen, but you would be the poorer for it”.
Ann Hill lost her brave fight against cancer in 2007 but her legacy lives on in the lives of the athletes who knew, respected and admired her. The Inaugural Ann Hill Memorial Mile was held in August 2010. It was fitting that Chris Gowell, one of Ann’s former successful athletes won this first race run in her memory.
Compiled by Gwyn Williams.