A North Yorkshire Veteran, who broke his back while serving in the RAF, has praised Help for Heroes for enabling him to continue playing the sport he loves, despite his injury.
Simon Coultish started playing cricket as a boy and continued into adulthood – first with local teams and then as opening bat for the Forces team, first at station level and then for RAF Germany.
Even after he was injured, he continued playing but eventually the pain became so great and his dependency on a wheelchair increased to the stage that he resigned himself to having played his last innings. He sold all his kit and became an armchair spectator.
All that changed early in 2017 when he contacted Help for Heroes for support – 19 years after leaving the Forces. Having been confined to the house following two strokes and a major heart attack, the 50-year-old grandfather could bear daytime TV no longer. Nor did he want to remain dependent on his family as he felt he was a burden. Simon appealed to the Charity for suggestions on how to occupy his time and make his life fulfilling once more.
Within weeks, he was playing adapted cricket as approved by the England Wales Cricket Board (ECB) – enabling him to have a runner and not have to field.
“I didn’t think I would ever play any type of sport again. When not in my wheelchair, I use a walking stick and even darts seemed out of the question because I have difficulty balancing,” said the former military chef.
“But staff at Help for Heroes have made me realise this needn’t be the case. They will find a way to help you have a go at virtually anything! I wear a back brace to prevent me twisting as I strike the ball and have adapted the way I stand and play, compared to how I used to - but at least I can still play.
“My involvement in Cricket for Heroes gets me out of the house and gives me something to look forward to which is exactly what I needed and has made such a massive difference to my life and to that of my family.
“My back won’t heal: the pain will never go away and, eventually, I will be in a wheelchair full time. I have come to terms with that but, in the meantime, cricket provides a distraction from that pain and, if I can get some months of enjoyment before that day comes, it’s a bonus!
So grateful is Simon for his new lease of life, that he has become a Help for Heroes ambassador, through which he is hoping to give inspirational talks in schools about the value of sport and personal resilience, as well the work of the Charity.
To date, Cricket for Heroes gatherings have been at Help for Heroes Recovery Centre in Tedworth. But a two-day introductory course on adaptive cricket, held at the Charity’s northern Recovery Centre - Phoenix House on Catterick Garrison – raised its profile in that region and there are now plans to hold fortnightly indoor net sessions nearby to help maintain that interest during the close season.
Two more introductory courses are now being held at Phoenix House – on December 12 and 13 and on January 23 & 24 – and Simon is keen to encourage other wounded and injured ex-military personnel to attend, irrespective of their cricketing experience.
“I am convinced there are many more Veterans sat at home, feeling like I did this time last year, and whose lives could improve so much just by picking up a bat and ball!” he said.
Any wounded, injured or sick Servicemen, women or Veterans interested in attending either of the courses or finding out more about Help for Heroes cricket should contact Paul Miles, H4H Cricket Development Officer via email at firstname.lastname@example.org