Tributes after 'true giant' Doncaster hockey coach, 31, dies in road smash tragedy

Glowing tributes have been paid following the tragic death of a top Doncaster hockey coach in a road crash.

Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 6:15 am
Glowing tributes have been paid to Doncaster hockey coach Andrew Gibson. (Photo: Doncaster Hockey Club).

Andrew Gibson, who played and coached at Doncaster Hockey Club, died when his car was involved in a collision with a lorry on Bawtry Road at Bircotes last Tuesday.

The 31-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene.

Both Doncaster and Loughborough University, where Andrew, known to many as Gibbo, also played and coached, cancelled games at the weekend as a mark of respect.

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And both clubs gave glowing tributes to Andrew who was described as having hockey ‘in his blood.’

Doncaster Hockey Club president Alan Stoves said: “Doncaster Hockey Club and the wider hockey community has lost a true giant of the sport with the death of our beloved Andy Gibson at the tender age of 31.

"The sense of disbelief and the outpouring of sadness and grief are a true mark of the man and the impact he had on so many lives in his far too short life.

"Andy could not avoid Doncaster hockey, after all it was in his blood. His father Graeme, a long time player, manager, benefactor and chairman of the club, and mother Jill, an unstinting loyal supporter saw to that.

"His brother Matt, the current men’s first team player coach also continues the family association with the club.

"So from a very young age hockey was integral in Andy’s life.

"As a youngster Andy was an enthusiastic and dedicated defender, playing as a full back at Hall Cross School and progressing through to the second team at Doncaster Hockey Club.

"Perhaps we can say that Andy’s liking for his mum’s cooking and athletic ability held back his playing career. However, from a very young age his knowledge and understanding of the game set him apart from other players of his age, and so he turned his attention to coaching.

"Starting out as part of the single system at the South Yorkshire Junior Academy, he was soon picked out as one to watch. He was also ready to take up a coaching role in a senior team. I was assigned to mentor him with Doncaster Ladies First Team with a view to him taking over, but it became apparent very quickly that Andy already had the skills required and he took over as Head Coach at the age of only 23.

"At the same time, Andy took on the Junior Development Officer role at Doncaster Hockey Club, organising and leading junior coaching for boys and girls at all ages from under 10s through to under 16s as Andy had now decided that hockey coaching was the career for him.

"After three seasons, a new opportunity to coach at Cheadle Hulme School in Manchester presented itself and this also saw Andy coaching Alderley Edge Ladies and assisting with the men’s first Team at Brooklands.

"All the time Andy was developing his own style and absorbing information from those he was working with and other opportunities as lead coach in the English Hockey Performance Centres, Wales under 21’s and English Universities came his way.

"For the last three years Andy has been working with Loughborough University Ladies and it is safe to say that Andy was one of the leading young coaches in the country and destined for bigger and brighter things.

"But that only tells part of the story of Andy’s life. Doncaster always remained his home, and wherever he was in the country it was here he would always return. In fact he had just started a new role at the club leading the under 10 and 12 juniors mentoring junior coaches.

"It was at Doncaster Hockey Club where Andy was in his element. He was never happier than sitting, chatting at the Doncaster Hockey Club bar with his friends, pint in hand. And it is here he will be missed the most.

"Andy had a huge circle of friends, it was inevitable given the type of man he was. He could talk to anyone about anything.

"His encyclopaedic knowledge of sport meant he was the lifeblood of the sports club. Whether it was talking about his beloved Leeds United or what would win the 2.30 at Newmarket, his sharp wit had everybody in his presence smiling.

"I never saw Andy argue or fall out with anyone, he had a true gift for communication whether that was with an eight year old junior who had just been hit on the finger by a hockey ball, or us more grizzled folk who he would just cheer up.

"Andy, none of us can believe we will never see your smile or hear your chuckle again. It was a pleasure knowing you and I don’t know what I am going to do without you. I do know one thing for certain though, that you packed in so much to your short life, for every person whose life you touched you may be gone but you will never be forgotten.

"Rest in peace my friend.”

Both the Men’s and Ladies first team games were postponed this weekend and all the other teams observed a minute’s silence before their games.

Loughborough also called off matches after Mr Gibson’s death.

“It is with the greatest sadness, to share the news that ‘Gibbo’ passed away on Tuesday afternoon,” Loughborough Students said in a statement on Saturday.

“He was not only our coach but a great person and friend who will be very sorely missed.”

“For the many who knew him not hearing his infectious laugh, seeing his real passion for making people better or just feeling his energy and warmth will take some time to come to terms with.”

He joined the women’s programme at the start of the 2018/19 season, supporting head coach Brett Holland, and had worked with junior international teams at both England Hockey and Hockey Wales.

There was an outpouring of tributes from fellow coaches and players after Loughborough posted the news on social media.

“Absolutely devastated,” wrote Lucy Walton. “Gibbo was a legend! A fantastic coach, a fantastic person, and he had a fantastic attitude to life.”

Nick Davey said: “The sheer number of conversations with coaches and players this week demonstrate just how much love we all have for him.”

Mr Gibson died when his car was involved in a collision with a lorry just before 6pm on September 21.

A section of Bawtry Road near to the junction of Snape Lane was closed while officers carried out their investigation at the scene.

Collision investigator Detective Constable Sarah Stables, from Nottinghamshire Police, said: “Our thoughts are with the man’s family at this very difficult time. We are working hard to investigate and understand the circumstances of this tragic incident which resulted in a man losing his life”

“We would ask for anyone with information, dash-cam footage or who witnessed the incident to get in touch with us on 101, quoting incident 577 of 21 September 2021.