Bill Carne this week chats to Ollie Wheeler, who is a multi-talented young hockey player, as well as being involved in lots more sports . . .
OLLIE Wheeler is a talented young all-round sportsman, especially in football and hockey, where he scores more than his fair share of goals in both games.
13 year old Ollie is also something of an inspiration to others because after having two eye operations as a three-year old he has to play in specially-made goggles but more than copes as he also plays cricket for Narberth and Pembrokeshire, rugby for Tenby Swifts and school, loves using his scooter at skate parks, as well as being so involved in football and hockey. Ollie says that the only problem with his goggles, which are specially made, is the fact that his dog Rio has eaten a couple of pairs!
His involvement is perhaps only natural because of the way his parents have played the game for so long. His mother Jane played for five great years in the Welsh Veterans' team, is also a qualified umpire and coach, and is involved in all that Carew Rooks do for Wales’ veterans.
Ollie's father Bernie is also a senior coach with the West Wales Ladies’ under 18s and under 21s teams and still plays for the Welsh Vets as a 63 year old, and captained the over 60s in the recent Celtic Cup in Glasgow. Both parents were recently involved with that team at The Hague in Holland; plus Ollie as a supporter. All three then returned home one day early - to make sure that Wheeler junior was back home to get to Nottingham in time to play there!
Ollie played his first game for Carew Rooks at under 11s and by the time he was 12 was the youngest player who played senior hockey before moving to Swansea to widen his experience at under 13 and 15 levels.
With several Wales Under 16's players in the Swansea team it was a real achievement for Ollie, as one of the younger members in the squad, to get the ‘nod’ from his coach and being in the starting line up. When Swansea beat Abergavenny in a South Wales League match Ollie was the youngest player on the field and chosen at centre half to stiffen the defence. The ploy certainly worked because Swansea won 11-1 and Ollie still managed to score the final goal!
Swansea went on to win the South Wales Cup and then to the National Hockey Centre in Cardiff to play in the Welsh Cup. Further good news came Ollie's way after the cup presentation when he was given an invite to play for the South Wales U13's Dragons in the UK Divisional Hockey Tournament in Nottingham.
He was also chosen for the regional squad at centre forward and caught the eye in an inter-regional tournament where the West played the South East (based in Gwent) - and he scored all eight goals in a stunning 8-1 victory!
But it is not only hockey in which Ollie excels because he plays football for the Tenby under 13s coached by Adam Brown and the county under 13s looked after by Angie Nicholls and Colin Wherrett , as well as helping Angie out on her half-term Football Weekends. He also played for Cardiff City junior development team at left back (as a natural left footer) but was released and told to come back when he could wear contact lenses instead of his goggles!
He also had an offer to train with Swansea City but decided he would prefer to play alongside his pals at Tenby for the moment so that there was less travel and an emphasis on having fun out of the game. Ollie has also played centre forward but is so busy training for both hockey and football that the time will come when he has to make a decision about which sport he wants to focus his attention on.
It is a similar story with regard to rugby because Ollie really enjoys playing scrum half or on the wing for Greenhill School and Tenby Swifts but just can't squeeze in the training sessions. He played for the school in the junior section of the renowned Rosslyn Park Sevens and although Ollie and Co didn't make the final stages it was a wonderful experience and his long-range try was voted at the 'best score' by his colleagues!
Not content with that little lot, Ollie also plays cricket for Narberth at under 13 level and has been in the county set-up coached by Simon Williams and Huw Scriven at under 11, 12 and 13 levels and has a few half centuries to his name as a useful batsman. He also travels to Neath with the regional development squad, which has been a great help in adapting his batting stance to help counter his goggles.
Throw in his love of using his scooter at skate parks and it is hard to imagine a busier young sporting feller. He has been the proud owner of his scooter, which like all the youngsters, he has customised - and dad says that doing that has cost Ollie more than dad buying his first car! Ollie is regularly ferried into Tenby so that he can practise, whilst mum and dad either sit in the car and read the papers or pop in to their favourite local cafe for fish and chips!
But it is hockey which keeps Ollie the most busy because as well as his playing with Swansea and the development squad, he also turns out and plays in the South Wales Men's League for Carew Hockey Club and scored in the final league game of the season recently in a 2-2 draw against Cardiff-based Whitchurch
That is the kind of determination needed and Ollie is quick to sing his parents' total support for his sporting activity but it is worth recording the fact that he is also ever-ready to work at building up his skills base across the sporting range and we wait with interest to see which sport Ollie Wheeler eventually chooses from his long list - because we are convinced that he is destined to do well in which ever one it is!
Ollie played for Swansea Under 15's and Swansea Under 18's in the Welsh Cup Finals on Monday. Swansea beat a combined Northope Hall and Dysynni North Wales Club in the Under 15's by 6 - 2. Ollie played centre back for most of the game but moved up for a spell at centre forward, which saw him close to putting his name on the score sheet.
With just a two-hour break Ollie was in the Swansea U18's squad that beat Colwyn Bay 4 – 0 to round off a memorable day for the Greenhill School pupil.