Football

From football hooligan to Olympic coach: The Peter Hankin story

Credit: Facebook/Peter Hankin

Athletes get a lot of praise for their achievements in their profession but they likely wouldn’t be able to achieve their targets and goals if it wasn’t for someone metaphorically standing behind them.

A good portion of the time, the person or people helping push forward younger athletes are experts in their area. All of these experts were once in place of the student and they all have their own story of how they got to where they are today.

Peter Hankin, one of four taekwondo national cadet coaches for Team GB, has been involved in the martial art since the early 1980s, a time when football hooliganism was perhaps at its peak in the UK.

Mr Hankin was a self-proclaimed hooligan and he said: “Every other news item [covered] the events that unfolded at each and every football match that took place thought the country.

“I would find myself getting a buzz from the adrenalin rush the confrontation gave me and found it so addictive it was very hard to stop. Then in 1984 I was walking home from work after missing my regular bus, when I came across a church hall with what can only be described as screaming noises come from it.

“Curiosity got the better of me and so I walked over and looked in, upon doing so I saw a mixture of people from child to adult all dressed in what I thought was Karate suits kicking and punching in lines. To the back of the hall were some chairs and I found myself sitting down and watching them for a good hour before I realised the time and stood up to leave.

“The guy who was taking the class noticed me at this point and came over as they had just stopped for a 5 minute break. “Do you facing having a go?” he said to me. One hour later I found myself hooked and couldn’t wait to get home and tell my then partner all about it.”

Thus began Peter’s transition from football hooligan to taekwondo coach, in 1991 he completed his Black Belt grading and of course become a Dan Grade. Hankin continued to work on his training and after another six months he opened his first taekwondo club as an instructor.

“The club, based some seven miles away from my home, was in a little village just outside of Southport called Rufford. The club attracted a lot of students from in and around Rufford and soon began to grow to an admirable size, with some 20 to 30 students training two times a week.

“On occasion I would not have enough money to put petrol into my car to drive to the club and so I often put the pads and other equipment to be used in the class into a bag, put it onto my back and jogged the seven miles to class and back.”

In 1994 after opening numerous clubs around Liverpool and the surrounding areas he thought about trying to get a permanent venue for taekwondo where all of his students could train together but it wouldn’t be for another four years until this dream was realised. He said: “In 1998 after speaking to a very understanding bank manager I opened the first ever full time training hall dedicated to taekwondo in the North West of England, on Oakfield road in Liverpool.

“The club enjoyed a great number of old and new students alike attending the classes some seven days a week, I think due to the fact that it is the main route to the Liverpool Football Club stadium.

“We found a lot of people coming in after the football games and enquiring about classes, not bad considering that I once was a football hooligan and now had people who had watched the football match at Anfield asking about taekwondo. Funny that how things have a habit of changing for the better.”

Peter hasn’t always simply taught taekwondo, he has also set up a support team for local instructors, helped international and national fighters develop, became double British national champion in his own right and was actually still competing at the age of 47.

As mentioned earlier, Mr Hankin is one of four national cadet coaches. This role involves the development of mental, technical and tactical skills through lesson planning, evaluation and support to their young athletes.

“Running a successful taekwondo fighting club and having over 12 athletes from my club in the development program supported my case I suppose for being asked to join the national team as a development coach,” explained Hankin.

Peter will travel to Rio to provide sport for his athletes as he hopes they will see success. His daughter Holly Hankin-Wray will also be joining him on the journey as she will be competing in the 2016 Summer Games.

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