John Wilson certainly hasn’t signed up for a quiet retirement. Since stepping down as Senior Fire Officer for Mid and West Wales, he seems to have thrown himself into a full time voluntary job as a bowls coach to the visually impaired.
He first began playing bowls in the late 1980s and was hooked on the game from that day on.
But it was seven years ago, he embarked on his coaching journey:
“I happened to be at the Swansea Indoor Bowls Club at the same time as the blind bowls club. I recognised that the players needed assistance both on and off the green. I soon discovered that I had a lot to offer in terms of safety but also technique. It just started from there.”
And just as he did when he was a fire officer, he responded to a call of duty to help others. His incredible generosity of time, effort and advice has created hundreds of opportunities. For if he’s not coaching locally in Ammanford or Swansea, he is travelling to other parts of Wales to share his wisdom to other clubs.
He is a man on a mission, helping bowls clubs right across Wales be more inclusive to visually impaired players.
“The work is definitely escalating. Word is spreading and an increasing number of clubs are getting in touch wanting to find out more and how they can be more inclusive to people with disabilities.
“If it’s something they enjoy, that’s the main thing. A gentleman told me last week that he hadn’t been out of the house for three years. Someone had persuaded him to come. He said it had changed his life. That makes it all worth it.”
John also provides one to one advice, especially to new players to help them get started. He even delivers specialist coaching to individual players in the Welsh squad.
With demand increasing, he can’t be everywhere at once so he’s enlisted and instructing others to coach:
“I’m careful who I select. They need to be able to relate well to individuals. I always tell people, “They’ve lost their sight, not their brains.” You have to be a good communicator because you are their eyes on the green. A string runs down the centre of the rink and you use that to explain which angle the bowl is at.”
Selflessly giving up any free time to coach others, it probably comes as no surprise that John is surprised by his shortlisting for the Wales Sports Awards:
“In all honesty, I’m shocked and humbled. How did I manage that? All I do is to go out and help people play bowls. It’s not rocket science.”