Local hockey is mourning the sudden death of Pete Atkins, one of the country’s most inspirational coaches and best loved figures.
It is understood he died several days after suffering a heart attack shortly after having been taken ill on a flight returning from a UK Lions youth hockey tournament in Sardinia.
The 66-year old, who spent his professional career as a maths and PE teacher in Portsmouth, was one of Hampshire’s best known personalities, a true hockey person, dedicated to the game as a past player, coach and umpire.
He played and coached hockey for most of his career, initially at Portsmouth & Southsea, then at City of Portsmouth, where he was a founder member and was a prime organiser of the popular annual Islanders May bank holiday tournament.
Mr Atkins coached county, divisional age groups and England U18 in his heyday and also umpired an England U21 international in the late 80's.
He umpired regularly in the South League and was very popular figure wherever he officiated.
In a moving tribute, England Hockey said: “Pete was bigger than life and a well loved character throughout the hockey world and no more than with the UK Lions.
“He touched many lives of past and present UK Lions players and their parents around the country.
“His love and passion of the game of hockey and his tireless hard work over the years with the UK Lions in growing to what they are today in producing many future international players.
“When we think of Pete, we think of his friendship and inspiration he has given over the years to hockey and UK Lions, and he will be dearly missed by everyone and all those around him.”
During his time as a teacher, he took a Portsmouth comprehensive team to three successive England Hockey national Under-16 finals between 1985 and 1987, and returning home as champions in 1986.
He coached four of the area’s Olympians, including Russell Garcia, a Gold medallist at Seoul, Callum Giles, Richard Smith (London 2012) and goalkeeper Jimi Lewis, in addition to numerous national junior age group players.
Fareham head coach Ben Barnes said: “Pete was unique. His passion and enthusiasm for the game was infectious.”
In a separate tribute, close friend Fareham’s Steve Lemon reflected: “Pete’s belief in players he coached was amazing. He was firm but fair and always willing to sacrifice his own time to get that extra per cent or two out of players.
“He was totally dedicated to the game and loved by all the kids he coached, none more so than the Under-13 lads at Fareham on Friday evenings.
“The local hockey world has been stunned by this terrible news.”
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