Shropshire Star

Shrewsbury born coach James Wodja now living life ‘not just surviving it’

James Wodja will not let his lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis deny him the opportunity to be the best cricket coach he can be.


Wodja, born in Shrewsbury and raised in Whitchurch, has suffered with the illness all his life, but as assistant coach of the England Learning Disability team, he will not let that stand in the way of his coaching dreams.

The 32-year-old was part of the coaching staff that travelled to South Africa at the end of last year to compete in a tri-series with the hosts and Australia.

Wodja looked after the side's batting group during the tour underneath head coach Lauren Rowles – a side that went on to win the series after beating Australia by eight wickets at The Wanderers in Johannesburg.

But his journey to this point has not been straightforward as he nearly died in 2018 after suffering two collapsed lungs.

"In 2018 I was verging on end-of-life care where I had two collapsed lungs and I was on permanent oxygen," Wodja explained.

"My lung function was down from 18 per cent, and this was down to my cystic fibrosis.

"It is more common than you think. When I was younger the life expectancy was 16. And as I have got older the life expectancy has got older and older too.

"When I was in hospital in 2018 I was put on a new treatment which saved and changed my whole life.

"Now I am able to work full-time and see how far my coaching journey can go which I had only ever dreamt about years ago.

"For however long my health is good for I want to go out there and achieve the things I want to and my mindset is I have to go out and get things."

As a youngster, Wodja was a player himself, until his late teen years when he found it difficult to keep up with his team-mate because of his illness.

And he described just how difficult it was to adjust.

"It was very difficult, my identity has always been through cricket," he added. "Not being able to play was difficult at the time. I have always been a very positive person.

"I am always a believer that things happen for a reason and I have a positive mindset.

"It was difficult but once I had time to process things I was thinking about how I could get over that hurdle."

"I played a lot of cricket myself for Shropshire as a youngster.

"Then my cystic fibrosis took over which meant, putting ability to one side, my fitness meant I could not keep up with my peers.

"I decided when I was about 17 or 18 and to look at other routes and my very first coach spell came about. I was head coach at Whitchurch for two years and then it has gone on from there."

His coaching journey so far has seen him be the head coach of Whitchurch and Shrewsbury men's teams as well as being involved in the Shropshire pathways.

Wodja said he will remain ever grateful to the doctors for the support and treatment he has received.

He said: "I am grateful for the doctors over the years as well as the medicine and medication and now I am getting to the stage where I can live my life rather than just surviving it."