TRIBUTES have been paid to one of the most successful coaches in south coast rowing history.
Southampton-born Pete Proudley, who produced a stream of former Great Britain and England internationals, recently passsed away in the city. He was 78.
Proudley’s own rowing career took in stints at BTC, Lymington and Itchen Imperial RC, later coaching crews to numerous Hants and Dorset, South Coast and National Championships. One of his early club coaching highlights came when Lymington RC won the National Coastal Championships in Nottingham in the early 1980s.
Proudley went on to coach Southampton University from 1985 to the mid 1990s.
His crews won the Novice Pennant at both the Fours Head in 1987 and the Women’s Eights Head the following March with a group of novice girls he’d only been coaching for five months. He started the club’s coastal rowing participation and this included a gold medal in Coastal Fours at the 1990 and 1991 National Championships and South Coast Championships in 1992.
Ten of his rowers progressed to Great Britain and England teams. These include Katie Brownlow (World Champion 1991), Andy Sinton (Atlanta Olympics), Guin and Miriam Batten (Sydney Olympics Silver Medal), Naomi Ashcroft (World Champion 2002), Simon Hames (World Champs 1995), Mary Ann Millar (Scotland Commonwealth Regatta 2006, silver and bronze) and Caroline Hobson (World Champs 1997 bronze). Proudley later coached the GB Women’s team from 1991 through to 1996 at two Olympics and four World Championships. He coached Miriam Batten (from Southampton University) and Fiona Freckleton, to a bronze in the Women’s Pairs at Vienna in 1991. This was GB’s first heavyweight women’s rowing medal at a World Championships and a catalyst that marked the beginning of the ascent of British Women’s rowing internationally. Miriam Batten said: “Pete had a wonderful natural innate ability as a coach. “He had that rare coaching “eye” to see how crews needed to improve technically and could convey clearly what the rowers needed to do so that they improved almost effortlessly. “This sounds simple, but many coaches find this incredibly hard. For Pete, it came very easily. “His crews went on to achieve amazing results way beyond their initial expectations. He had a team approach to everything he did and was everyone’s ‘friend’. Consequently his athletes and fellow coaches often became very close to Pete, his wife Maureen and his family, who were a very important part of his life.”
Proudley later coached the London-based Westminster School Boat Club for over 12 years. In his younger days, Proudley, above, was a fine all-round sportsman.
He qualified to compete in the all-England Schoolboy Championships in the hurdles, despite suffering an injury that resulted in him needing four stitches in his groin.
In a cruel twist of fate, Proudley never got to compete in the Championship finals after contracting mumps Also in his teens, he qualified to box in the ABA finals at the Royal Albert Hall, but chicken pox ruled him out of that event.
Batten added: “Pete’s funeral was attended by over 150 members of his family, friends, fellow rowers, coaches and people whose lives had been touched by this great man. “It was a chance to say farewell and to celebrate the life of a person whose cup was always overflowing with laughter and happiness.”