Howard Jones: An interview with the 2021 Coach of the Year

10th November, 2022

Tommy Docherty and Dave Sexton are best known as a pair of high-profile football figures from the 1970’s and 80’s.

But in addition to their well-documented exploits with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Scotland and England this pair of charismatic former managers provided the initial spark behind 2021 Bowls England award winner Howard Jones’ coaching journey.

“I’ve not been a lifetime participator in bowls as I was for a long time a professional football coach,” Howard explains.

“I was a youth player as an apprentice at Chelsea when I left school but once I got a bad knee injury my playing aspirations came to an abrupt end. Dave and Tommy were in charge there and they convinced me aged 18 to go and take an FA coaching badge.

“I was the sort of player that read the game then organised other people on the pitch so they obviously saw qualities in me that you need as a coach. Since then coaching has been part of my DNA and I get huge joy from being able to affect and improve performance.

“I decided in 2010 that I needed to get involved in a different sport and had played bowls socially in South Africa where I lived for a number of years. Once my long background in coaching became known I was persuaded to get my badges and qualify to get involved with a junior bowls project.”

2021 Coach of the Year Howard Jones with Director of Coaching Mal Evans

According to his Coach of the Year nomination: ‘Howard is an innovator who constantly looks for ways to improve things for the benefit of others.’

Typical of this was his recognition in 2018 that 13 bowls clubs in his North Buckinghamshire local area typically each had a small number of younger bowlers and that these youngsters would benefit from being brought together for coaching and to spend enjoyable time with their peers.

Howard therefore persuaded his home club Newport Pagnell BC to open its academy to junior members from other clubs with the objectives of improving their bowling and in time increasing the quality of players available at county and eventually national level.

“Bowls is in an unusual situation compared to most sports since it has relatively few youngsters playing and I noticed in the Milton Keynes area they were often children or grand-children of bowlers and scattered around the clubs,” he says.

“My feeling was that they couldn’t keep playing with 70-year-olds in occasional weekend friendlies, so I managed to get my club to agree that we would throw the club open. This allowed us to invite younger players from 12 local clubs to join the five or so we already had at Newport Pagnell for coaching sessions and we have now been running for four years allowing lots of kids to enjoy themselves playing bowls.”

Howard Jones coaching Ewan Thick a Buckinghamshire U25 White Rose winner in 2021

Howard’s coaching has helped young bowlers to the Buckinghamshire U14 and U18 titles for the past two years while several Academy members have successfully progressed to the county Men’s U25 and Ladies’ U31 squads and two of Howard’s proteges were in the Buckinghamshire squad that won the 2021 White Rose Trophy at Leamington.

He was therefore an extremely deserved recipient of the 2021 Coach of the Year award on an occasion which he describes as “first-class.”

“There was around six of us nominated and I had no inkling whatsoever that I had won it. It was a huge surprise and a big honour,” he says.

“For me to receive this reward for all the effort I put into understanding the technical side of how to coach bowls – an environment unlike football which I grew up with – was a fantastic honour.

“I also take the view that the award is not just for me but also for everyone that has helped along the way since most of what I have done has been a huge team effort involving lots of people.”

If your club has someone you would like to nominate for a 2022 Award please follow the link here. Nominations close on November 25th.

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