Coaching Experience: Ron Pickering O.B.E. was Welsh National Athletics Coach from 1961-1966. During those years he was to leave an indelible mark on the landscape of Welsh Athletics. Many athletes, coaches, teachers etc were lucky enough to tap into and feed off his enthusiasm, energy and sheer love of the sport. Ron’s impact at all levels is still remembered by many in Wales today.
Ron Pickering was born and bred in the East End of London. He went to Stratford Grammar School and then into the King’s Own Regiment for 2 yrs of National Service where he became an useful if not outstanding field event athlete. Later he trained to become a teacher at Carnegie College of Physical Education in Leeds and then returned to London to teach. He became a protégé of Geoff Dyson, Britain’s leading Athletics Coach. His talent as a brilliant coach and teacher with a larger than life personality and the ability to inspire and motivate people soon became evident to all. This was to be put to great use when at the age of 30 he became Wales’s National Coach.
He moved to Cardiff with his wife, Jean and daughter, Kim. Jean had been an outstanding British athlete having been European Long-Jump Champion and an Olympic Silver Medallist in the sprint relay. Their son, Shaun, born in Wales in 1961, would grow up to become Welsh record holder at shot, discus and hammer, represent G.B. at the Olympics and win bronze for Wales in the shot at the 1998 Commonwealth Games.
Ron was a big, good-looking man with a strong, forceful personality, a powerful voice bursting with enthusiasm and confidence and with a great sense of humour. As a coach he expected dedication, commitment, high moral standards of discipline and behaviour. This is because he cared about athletes as people. He also recognised the danger of his athletes becoming too dependent on him and sought to make the athletes take ownership and responsibility for their athletic careers and especially in decision -making when competing. His sheer magnetic personality drew many talented Welsh Sportsmen and Sportswomen away from other sports and into Athletics. This was certainly the case when a young precociously talented schoolboy met Ron Pickering at the Welsh Championships in Cardiff in 1961.
That day Lynn Davies and Ron Pickering formed a partnership of athlete and coach that would catapult them both into the public eye and into the highest levels of athletic achievement. Lynn would become a great athlete, a great competitor, a great role model, admired as a great ambassador for the sport and hugely popular in the world of Athletics. He is also Wales’s only Olympic Champion in Athletics. In so many ways Lynn Davies, the athlete, would come to be the embodiment of so many of Ron Pickering, the coach’s best ideals for a champion in the sport of Athletics. Lynn’s successes inspired a generation of Welsh athletes to make the journey into the G.B. team.
Ron Pickering left Wales in 1966 and amongst many other things went on to become for millions of TV viewers the “Voice of Athletics”. To both armchair viewers and competitors at trackside, whether at Olympic Games or at domestic indoor competitions, the event seemed incomplete without his informed, intelligent and white-hot enthusiasm.
Perhaps the greatest legacy of his life in Athletics and all that he stood for in the sport lives on in the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund set up soon after his untimely death in 1991. Jean Pickering together with the Trustees has insured that many thousands of athletes have benefitted from this fund which has distributed more than one million pounds over the years. It is fitting that Jean was recognised for her lifetime investment in Athletics in the 2010 New Year’s Honours list when she was awarded the M.B.E. by the Queen.
The names of Ron Pickering and Lynn Davies are synonymous with the best in partnerships of “Coach and Athlete”. Both have a very special place in the history of Welsh Athletics.
Olympic Long-Jump Champion 1964
Olympic 4x100m Relay finalist 1964
European Long-Jump Champion 1966 (Outdoors)
European Indoor Champion 1967
Commonwealth Long-Jump Champion 1966 and 1970
British and Commonwealth Record Holder 8m23.
After retiring from Athletics, Lynn went on to become Technical Director of Athletics for Canada up to the Montreal Olympics of 1976. He was one of the Team managers of the G.B. Olympic Team in 1980 and 1984. Lynn has been awarded both M.B.E. and C.B.E. by the Queen and is currently the president of UK Athletics.
Written by Gwyn Williams