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John Wootton Lands Top Job

Report by: Martin Cunnane

March 1999

John Wootton WAKEFIELD Harriers stalwart John Wootton has taken up a national coaching post with the English Sports Association for People with Learning Disabilities (ESAPLD).

Mr Wootton, a Harriers member for over 40 years, will head up a coaching team that is currently preparing a squad for the world championships to be held in Seville, Spain, in September this year. The 57-year-old's field of expertise is the middle distances. He has coached both able bodied and disabled athletes at these distances and continues to compete in the veterans' competitions for the Harriers whenever his hectic schedule allows.

The newly formed post is a purely voluntary arrangement as ESAPLD is a registered charity, though if the scheme takes off in a big way a full-time staff seems to be the next logical step. Mr Wootton is no stranger to working with disabled athletes. About five years ago he got involved with the Yorkshire and Humberside organisation for athletes with learning disabilities through the Ossett-based Disport organisation who at that time were desperate for help from people within the sport.

More recently, he spotted an ad' in a magazine advertising several English Sports Association posts and got the job. He will, however, continue his association with the Yorkshire and Humberside Disport project.

"I would like to think that it might lead to a fulltime position as the ESAPLD is determined to make improvements in this particular area of the sport," said Mr Wootton.

But while millions of pounds seem to be floating around for athletics generally, at the moment this appointment is on a purely voluntary basis.

"That aside, I have to say I love working with disabled people and was thrilled to get the job. It can be so rewarding. It's certainly the biggest thing that's happened to me in my time in athletics but it's also good for local athletics, ie Wakefield Harriers, and athletics in West Yorkshire. It's the work I've done there that reflects in my appointment."

He added: "I've worked with able bodied athletes for many years and that's very rewarding, but the feeling one gets from working with really determined disabled athletes is just unbelievable."

The biggest hurdle facing the England team according to Mr Wootton is finance. As a charity, funding through governing bodies is limited and the organisation relies heavily on public donations.

Steve Loane is the Ossett-based area fundraising officer for ESAPLD and contact details are available on request by Email

Alternatively, Mr Wootton is happy to talk to anyone who can help the organisation, contact details are available on request by Email