Bruce Longden Memorial Challenge

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Bruce Longden (1939 – 2012) – The Man

One of Britain’s best athletic coaches, who sadly died three weeks before the 2012 Olympics, and I was fortunate to work for him over a period of 10 years. I can honestly say he was my inspiration, and I owe much of my coaching skills to him.

Bruce was born in Sheffield, England. He studied at Woodhouse Grammar School, before moving on to Loughborough College (now Loughborough University), where he graduated in 1962 in Physical Education and Geography.

He went on to teach for 2 years in Romford, Essex, before becoming Head of PE at the Boys Grammar, Kings School, Grantham for 4 years. Then the travelling passion started to be realized when he moved to Geneva, Switzerland for 4 years as Deputy Director/Recreation Director at the International School (Lycee des Nations), returning to the UK in 1973, as Recreation Director of Crawley College of Technology, until 1977.

Although he was already coaching at this time, it became his career in 1977 when he became National Athletics Coach (South of the Thames), for the British Amateur Athletic Board (now UK:Athletics). Moving to Oslo, Norway in 1984 (until 1988), as Head Coach for the Norwegian Athletic Federation. After a brief spell as a Facilities Manager at Northwood Stadium, Stoke, he returned as a National Coach (North of the Thames) in 1991 with the British Athletics Federation (now UK:Athletics), and remained there until its’ financial breakdown towards the end of the 90s.

Whilst continuing to coach his own squad of athletes, he used his expertise in other sports (tennis, football, rugby union and rugby league), and continued to travel, establishing yet further links with coaches in different countries.

Having attended far too many major championships to list here, he coached athletes to World, Olympic, European and Commonwealth gold medals (and world records), worked as a visiting overseas coach for the International Athletic Federation (IAAF), European Athletic Association (EAA) and The British Council, but his passion remained, and he continued to help as many athletes and coaches as he could, helping them to achieve their personal own goals.

He will be best known for coaching two of Britain’s best athletes that claimed Olympic Gold – Daley Thompson and Sally Gunnell, but besides these he also coached many other top British Olympic athletes that included Dalton Grant (High Jump), Debbie Marti (High Jump), Jacquie Agyepong (100mHurdles), Tom McKean (800m), Jennie Stout (200m) and many, many more.

Bruce was my inspiration for all my school development work, and a believer that this is where future talent was too be found, encouraged and developed.

The Competition

The idea of the competition came about in 1994 as a result of the schools development work being carried out by a small group of Coaches of Hertford and Ware Athletics Club and launched to compliment a similar competition established for young women four years earlier.

The idea was to bring together boy’s secondary schools from the surrounding area of where the Club was based in Ware, East Hertfordshire, which eventually saw schools from the Lee Valley, British Stortford and Central Herts School’s Associations, accepting our invite to compete.

They were asked to bring three teams of pupils in the Under 13, Under 15 and Over 15 age groups to compete in their respective age groups for trophies and medals, and for an over all trophy.

Like its sister competition, it started with a small number of schools and the inaugural competition only attracted four local schools, but gradually developed with an increase in the number of boys.

Initially the competition only had a single competition structure that grew to eight schools,, but eventually the numbers increased again, which brought about the introduction of the divisional structure. In 2019 fifteen Boy’s Schools took part in the competition. It has now passed its 25th birthday, and we hope it will continue for many more years to come.