Derek John Hayward MBE: 1936-2021

England Athletics is saddened to hear of the death of Derek Hayward, a long-time coach, technical official and administrator who died at the age of 85. Over the course of a long and distinguished career in Physical Education, first as a teacher and then in sports administration in Shropshire, where he was responsible for many developments that supported the work of teachers both in and beyond his county, he also worked tirelessly on behalf of volunteer sport, particularly with the English Schools’ Athletic Association.

Derek grew up in Woodford in East London and was a schoolboy during the war. His local school was bombed and so he had to attend one a 30-minute walk away, entailing two return journeys each day. This could have been part of the reason for his level of fitness resulting in his interest in sport, and particularly athletics.

After National Service in the RAF at High Wycombe, where, apparently, much time was spent walking around carrying a clipboard (good practice some would say to becoming a teacher!) he attended Loughborough where his vocation for organising was seen very early. While there training to be a P.E. teacher he organised various events including the inaugural Oxford-Cambridge-Loughborough match and a trip to the Olympics in Rome. On moving to Essex to teach at Ilford County High School he became a successful coach and maintained lifelong links with Woodford Green Athletics Club. He established the Kangaroo Club to bring together long and triple jump coaches, by converting the well-appointed front room of the family home in Woodford into a makeshift office strewn with piles of paper. He was also the youngest Field Referee in Britain at that time, officiating at major international events such as the European Cup in Scotland, and was closely involved with the establishment of the 5 Star Athletics Award Scheme for young people.

In 1970, Derek and his first wife, Susan, moved to Shropshire, where Derek was initially Physical Education Advisor and subsequently Chief Recreational Services Officer, with additional remit for the countryside and leisure as well as sport. Arriving in Shropshire from London and having to navigate country lanes, deer and sheep to find small schools and meeting venues from Ludlow to Market Drayton and Oswestry to Telford, which was at that stage emerging from fields near Ironbridge, must have been a huge change. It was also a challenge that Derek relished, as he worked tirelessly to enhance the quality and profile of schools’ sport, founding clubs not only for athletics, but also swimming, cross-country and more, organising and hosting 14 national championships in various sports, and working closely with the playing fields association. Alongside this, he enhanced the county’s infrastructure by fundraising and championing new sports halls, swimming pools and tracks. His interest and association with many of these organisations continued long after retirement until recent times. He was a true catalyst for change for more than 50 years, yet his response was always modest and understated, without expectation of reward.

Derek had a lifelong association with the England Schools’ Athletic Association, including as its Chairman in 1996. Although unlikely to admit it, Derek was very proud to have established the Combined Events and Race-Walking Championships, and he and Jackie attended the event in Bedford only a few weeks ago. This helped put Combined Events on the map, resulting in a subsequent blossoming at a national level and in the public eye through the successes of former schools’ participants like Denise Lewis and Jessica Ennis-Hill. Similarly, he organised the English Schools’ Track and Field Championships at Telford in 1994, which is remembered among the best for the attention to detail and precise yet welcoming arrangements, even down to the weather! On stepping down from the role as Combined Events coordinator, he continued in the role of finding new hosts for Schools’ championships, phoning and persuading counties that they could stage great events even before they realised it.

Derek was awarded the MBE in the 2015 honours list reflecting his many years of dedication to sport and young people in Shropshire. He received this honour from Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Part of Derek’s ability to connect with people was his humour and his capability to see the funny side of things. He was a keen observer of situations and quick to react with wit, a quality that endeared him to so many. He will be missed by many in our sport.

With thanks to Dr Richard Hayward who provided material for this tribute.