Ian’s very busy at Merlins Bridge ABC

For much of his sporting career Ian Smith played football in a variety of positions with Johnston, mainly in the second team, but in the last year has developed a real interest in amateur boxing that has seen him qualify as an assistant coach with the Welsh ABA and start to help Graham Brockway at Merlins Bridge Amateur Boxing Club.
Ian SmithThat he is totally immersed there is entirely down to the fact that his daughter Nia wanted to try boxing and so Ian began to take her there – and sat and watched her and other young would-be boxers being put through their paces.
Nia showed such potential that before long she had extended her twice-weekly sessions to attending most weeknights, was enjoying sparring sessions and eventually made her debut in the ring, which meant that dad was spending a lot of time at the club. Her commitment has certainly paid off because she has recently claimed her first Welsh vest as she stopped her opponent in the second round in the Welsh Championships in Llantrisant.

Started out by chance – and soon involved on a WABA course in Cardiff

In a chance conversation with Graham the possibility of helping out was discussed and Ian did basic jobs like timing exercises or encouraging work on the heavy bags, plus the overall efforts of some of the youngsters - and before he knew it Ian was registered on an Assistant Coach course at the National Sports Centre at Sophia Gardens.
“I went with Wayne O’Sullivan, who is not only regarded as one of the best footballers in Pembrokeshire over the last decade but has been a Welsh boxing champion and is held in high regard over South Wales.
“In comparison I was a raw novice on the course,” admitted Ian, “alongside a lady from up the line, but I was treated with total respect by all the coaches and 29 others seeking the Assistant Coaches’ qualification as we travelled up for a whole Saturday and worked hard from 8am to 4.30pm.”

Taught by top coaches

Ian and Wayne were taught by some of the most experienced coaches in Wales and in their follow-up work they had to write programmes for fitness, work with dieticians to look at what youngsters needed to do regarding proper eating, and make sure they understood child protection issues.
“We also had to discuss our own general fitness, show we could understand the technique of punching heavy bags, so important for novices, and had to try one of their own training circuits and ‘enjoy’ a run of our own!
“I was nicely tired by the time we set off for home, armed with a file for our homework, which was to devise our own whole session of training across the age and experience ranges.

Second sessions even tougher . . .

“The whole of the following weekend was taken up with two days of putting into practice what we learned with regular assessment in small groups of four or five, and then there was a final Saturday after that to complete our four full days – and to say I felt drained is a bit of an understatement”
The following weekend saw Ian and Wayne stay overnight in Pencoed in readiness for another early start where each candidate had to demonstrate their programme in their small groups, and Ian’s included showing how a ‘ton-up’ board worked, at Merlins Bridge.

“I was nervous but pleased with the way it went but afterwards I think the adrenalin kicked in; I didn’t sleep well and although I had a fine breakfast I was suffering with a stiff neck!”
The next day covered items like working on different punches, the correct stance and counter punches and again after a full day it was a tired Mr Smith who trekked home, again with his homework that included looking at over fitness (ie physical and mental).

The final day dawned and good news followed

That left the final day, where they knew that a decision would be made about their suitability for the qualification and they dealt with writing of individual plans for young boxers and completed a booklet with a ‘tick-off’ list of things they had learned – and had to write a more detailed account of all that they had learned.
“It was nerve-wracking waiting with a coffee to find out if we had passed, and I must say I was thrilled when I was given the green light – but equally pleased that Wayne had also been granted his qualification.”
Ask Ian about boxing training as compared to his days as a footballer at Johnston and he would say there is no comparison because in football it is usually once a week whereas aspiring boxers like his daughter Nia train at least four or five times a week.

Family matters – and Kate isn’t impressed by his football skills!

“We are lucky that my wife Kate and son Kenny (5) are very supportive, and he already wants to go to watch at the gym.
“Kate has always been brilliant although I have to admit that she was lee than impressed as a Hakin girl when I asked her to come and watch me play in goal for Johnston against The Vikings and arrived just in time to see Paul Turner smash a goal past me – and we eventually lost 10-0!”

Loved his football – and coaching too

“I also used to play as a hooker for the STP School team coached by Gelly and Ronnie James but when a scrum collapsed I badly damaged my knee and spent a few days in hospital – so after that I played football for Johnston Seconds, coached by a real character in Charlie Edwards.
“I began as a striker and scored a few goals but then was switched to midfield, then to right back – and ended up as a goalkeeper, which meant there was no way back from there!
“I did join my brother Dazzy for two seasons at Haverfordwest County but then returned to Glebelands, where I played for about 20 years.
“But by then I was really feeling the aches and pains so I retired from playing and coached a good junior team right through from under 10 (where we had girls of the calibre of Naomi James, Emma Summons and Naomi Jones playing) to under 16s, which included Luke Hayward, Scott Murray, Lee Summons and Andrew Arnold as we played against the likes of Joe Allen and a strong Hakin team coached by Jimmy Harding.”

And finally . . .

Now Ian’s focus is on boxing, however, and is the gym also every evening of the week. Indeed, as a key holder he opened the gym on a regular basis when Graham had a recent holiday in the USA.
“With Graham’s terrific help I am now gaining in experience and he lets me take quite large groups for specific skills and also the whole classes for fitness routines.
“It certainly hasn’t done me any harm because I enjoy a run and have lost a lot of weight in the process of being involved.”
It seems the respect is mutual because Graham told us,
“Ian is a great asset for Merlins Bridge ABC because he is a good assistant coach and is as enthusiastic as anyone I know at the club, which rubs off on our youngsters.”
Pop in to the club, as we did, and Ian Smith’s contribution is evident – and we wish him many more years of doing what he does so well there!