Steel City Sofa: Sheffield Wildcat’s ‘pseudo grandad’
A hockey ‘pseudo grandad’ has shared his joy at bringing a long-lost Sheffield team back to life.
Keith Whitton, aged 69, has taken the Sheffield Wildcats Rink Hockey and Roller Skating Club from nothing in 2016 to more than 100 players during his time as chairman.
He said: “We’re not just teaching children how to roller skate, we’re also teaching them soft skills such as being part of a family and a team too.
“I jokingly talk about being a pseudo-grandad and having 300-odd grandchildren, but it’s quite true.”
Keith joined the newly reformed Sheffield Wildcats in 1982 and led them to league victory the following year.
He became reacquainted with the Wildcats in 2016 and relaunched the club to introduce the sport to Shiregreen’s younger generation.
The Wildcats is now made up of various young teams alongside a senior squad.
Keith said: "We’re not just trying to produce a club with a hockey team, we’re trying to produce a family style roller skating club.
“We’re setting up a ladies team this year with one previous England player, two or three seniors and the rest 11,12 and 13-year-old girls.
“We also have a team for under 15s, under 11s and under 9s. This all started from nothing in 2016 so we’re very lucky.”
Not only does Keith play with the seniors and train the younger teams, but he is also a black belt in Taekwondo, taught by Andy Crittenden at ACMAC Martial Arts School, in Balby, Doncaster.
Keith said: “I love sport, I’ve been a sportsman all of my life. My black belt goes back to 1996 or 1997 when my daughter decided to take on Taekwondo.
“Like a dutiful parent I’d pick her up and I thought, I could do with some of this, everybody happy and smiling.”
The black belt, roller hockey sportsman has big dreams for the future of the Wildcats, too.
He said: “We wrote a vision statement in 2016 where we wanted to have around 80 roller skaters. We’re just about there.
“What we’re now thinking is the beginners are ready to play hockey, and we’re running out of time and space so we may have to put on another night.
“Who knows what the future holds, but as long as we continue to do what we’re doing, it’s going to be successful. We have that faith.”
To achieve the team’s aspirations, Keith is looking for help from the public and local businesses.
He said: “We are always looking for new team members for seniors.
“We’re also trying to get some grant money together for a team strip and goalkeeper pads, which cost around £500 each.
We keep plugging away because it has to be funded somehow.”
However this hands-on chairman doesn’t take all the glory.
He added: “We have to rely on our hard working parents to organise and take part in fundraisers, to run the tuck shop at the club and support us with everything else we do.
“They are absolutely brilliant.
“People like me cant do everything - to be able to rely on parents to look after some things is absolutely fantastic.”