Bert's story

Find out how Bert not only stays active at nearly 80 but also encourages local teenagers to be active through basketball.

I’ve been active from an early age; at primary school I kept a record of mine and my friend’s best times for various local runs and athletic events. I was fortunate that several family members and other adults encouraged me to play sports, mainly cricket and football. At the age of 15 I cycled with three friends from our village in Doncaster, staying in youth hostels from Cleethorpes up to Whitby for a week. I had great respect for my grammar school PE teacher, who was a type of role model for me. I played cricket and football into my thirties, then took up road running. When I qualified as a science teacher my first job was in Lancashire and as well as teaching chemistry and physics, I ran the cricket teams and started coaching basketball, because the teacher who was doing this had just left the school. That was in 1966 and coaching basketball has been part of my life ever since. In 1971 I came to Barnsley and continued coaching basketball and cricket in schools in Wath and Goldthorpe, where I was Head of Science.

Running and cycling and keeping fit have always been part of my life but on finishing playing football and cricket I became more involved in both.

In cycling I did several long-distance events such as coast to coast and Newcastle to Edinburgh. During Beat the Street 2021 I took up the challenge and did 1272 miles, which was the second furthest distance in Barnsley. Some of this was on our tandem with my wife. In running I have completed 100 half marathons and 20 marathons, and my best achievements were an under 3-hour marathon when I was 46 and 100km in 12 hours at about the same age. So now, as I approach eighty, as well as coaching basketball for school aged children and running teams, I still keep up some running and cycling. In addition, I’m now a keen vegetable gardener with a reasonably sized plot.

Physical activity has always been part of my life, but I keep doing it for two main reasons. Keeping fit enables me to keep doing things that I have enjoyed throughout my life, including continuing as a blood donor. Also, I feel strongly that school children should have the opportunity to experience sport, and continuing coaching basketball is one way I can help with this, sadly at a time when Barnsley secondary schools are offering much less in terms of extra-curricular activities than was the case when I was a school teacher.

I’ve always been active but as I’ve got older and taken on roles with more responsibility, I found that running helped me cope with some of the associated stress. It has also helped me keep my weight at a healthy level.

There are no guarantees about your health and wellbeing, but being active can only be a positive element, which can bring you a lot of benefits both physical and mental. Also, it’s never too late, as long as you do what is appropriate for you. It is especially important not to try to do too much too soon but to take a gradual approach at building up your activity, so it never seems overwhelming or too difficult. And if you can enjoy the activity all the better.