‘I want to coach for years but let’s make history first’
Ross Lawson meets an Irish Olympian who’s passionate about mentoring but not ready to retire
COACHING at school and university level, as well as finding the time to take to the pitch every now and then, John Jackson is keen to keep himself busy. But while the 30-year-old Olympian is keen to pass on his experience to the next generation of talent, the man himself is far from done with just yet.
Moving from Reading with wife Rachel, the Ireland international has spent the season with Team Bath Buccaneers, with promotion from Conference West the aim.
But alongside that has come a plethora of other opportunities for Jackson – also head of hockey at Prior Park College and coach of the University of Bath’s ladies first XI, after a stint as senior coach at Marlborough College.
A route into an off-the-field hockey career is no fluke, rather a venture he has considered for some time.
“Coaching is a big thing for me, that’s what I want to be doing for the next 20 to 30 years,” he said.
“Just being around Bath and close to the main coaches, I’m getting a chance to learn before I even get going.
“As a school and university coach, looking after people right from the start at seven years old is a really good grounding, working right the way through to international players.
“It’s so important and that spectrum can only help me going forward. It’s great for my lifestyle too; I can spend more time with the family which I hadn’t previously been able to do.”
But before thoughts turn to hanging up his stick, Jackson is confident he can fulfil a job with the Buccaneers.
Still a prominent part of Ireland’s plans, the defender boasts more than 200 caps on the international stage, something he is looking to tap into as Bath attempt to make history.
The club are yet to taste the Premier League but, despite losing to Cardiff & Met on the opening weekend, find themselves in a good position in Conference West, five points behind with one defeat from ten.
Despite boasting bags of experience with Loughborough University, Reading and Ireland, Jackson is adamant there is plenty he can add to his CV.
“Bath are pushing for promo- tion and for me that would be a nice feather in the cap,” he continued. “I’ve been there and done play-offs, but this is a great experience for me to try something new and see where it takes me.
“I’m no spring chicken, but I’m not at the end of my career either, so while I’m still good enough I want to be pushing.
“Bath have never been in the Premier League and I want to add myself to that challenge. That appeals to me a lot – it’s not all about winning medals, it’s also about trying to bridge new ground.
“We saw that with Ireland, the Olympics were something new and it’s something similar with Bath. The aim is to count myself as one of their first Premier League players and that’s a huge motivation.
“Senior teams in Ireland also tend to have a younger age bracket, so there are quite a lot of guys fresh out of university and that’s not too dissimilar to Bath – I’m the oldest by about five years!”
Coaching has also taken Jackson into schools, with his Olympic pedigree impressing students – even if he didn’t realise it at the time. But with an abundance of Rio memories to look back on, the Irishman is desperate to revel in last summer.
He continued: “The amount of assemblies I’ve done on the back of going to Olympics has been fantastic.
“It’s only then that you realise what sort of impact you can have on people and the more value you can put on what you’ve done.
“When you’re there, you just want to focus on it being just another tournament to not be overawed, but to have actually gone and represented your country is something truly special.
“For me to pass on any advice and share those experiences is something we take in a heartbeat.”
The aim is to count myself as one of their first Premier League players
Still got it: John Jackson, pictured holding off South Africa’s Taylor Dart during the London Cup, remains a prominent part of the Ireland set-up
Mentor: John Jackson passes on skills at Marlborough College