In any child's life growing up you develop a sporting hero, be a football player, tennis, golf, cricket or even athletics. Coming from Bath predominately the majority discover a love of rugby and find a player that they aspire to be like or regard them as a legend.
I grew up through the 80's and first attended the Rec in 1984 when I was a knee high five year old, for me there was one player who stood out a country mile. Not the fastest, most athletic or even the fittest but a man with passion, heart and an abundance of character........Mr Gareth 'Cooch' Chilcott!
1993 saw Cooch bow out of a 16year career playing in the Blue, Black and White where he enjoyed some of Bath rugby's most successful years, not to mention pulling on the red roses crested white shirt of England on 14 occasions.
"It wasn't a hard decision to retire. It was becoming a young man's sport. I don't miss the training but miss the camaraderie"
Even though he retired the game has not left him and through after dinner speaking and working on various rugbying tours the game hasn't lost him.
"After dinner speaking was great as it keeps me in with the sport and helps pay for the odd holiday or two!"
Now with Cooch going solo with VenaTour he's embarking on a new challenge and hitting the sports Travel full on.
"I have been in the sports travel business for over 20 years and it seemed like a natural thing to do. Still going on tours but as an expert and not as a player. Still doing your passion but in a different way to let other people enjoy the experiences."
The idea and premise behind VenaTour is to supply a unique experience for sporting fans and a personal touch, and what a great concept. Have a quick look over their page WWW.venatour.co.UK you never know there could be something that grabs you. Tours organised by somebody whose been there and done it will just enhance the whole trip, its a good touch!
Despite the all this tour organising Coochie still finds time to put his hand to a little charity work, bringing rugby to disadvantaged children. As the honorary president of Wooden spoon and an ambassador IRB kit aid is not too shabby on the charity front.
"I enjoy the charity work decided a few years ago to put my time into just a couple of charities I seemed did a fantastic job in getting kids playing rugby"
The refreshing point about Cooch is that even though he retired a 'few' years ago he is still Blue, Black and White through and through. Due to the professional era of the game now you very rarely get a player who does such a long stint at one club, and a faithful player to one team are few and far between. But this is the progression of the game and to know such a Bath rugby legend still supports the club must be embraced.
"I'm very much still a huge supporter and get there as much as I can. Bath is still my number one team and I'm Bath through and through."
As is now a career for players contracts and offers mean players move on, its the game now and money is part of it, who knows if Cooch had played pro-era perhaps he would of gone? Thank god he didn't!
One thing I think many all love about Cooch is just how damn west country he really is, listening to him do commentary is a delight. With the ex- player contingent of commentators now about I think a resurrection of Coochie Commentary is required!!
"I would love to do more commentating but pronouncing some of the Samoan name could be a bit of a problem."
Who would you rather listen to.....Healey, Dawson, laugh a minute Stuart Barnes or Cooch? I know where my choice, imagine a combo of Cooch and Moore now that would be entertaining.
There are not many characters such as Cooch in the game now and that's a shame, think the closet we've got is Flats and he's gone and retired as well.
In many avid Bath Fans book case they'll have Before and After the lemons and nestling next to that pair will be 'Cooch- Mr Chilcott to you' a fore runner in sportsmen's books. He inspired so many through his years of playing and I hope One day to see another player replicate him but then there is only one Gareth ' Cooch' Chilcott.