Boycott was born in the mining village of Fitzwilliam, near Wakefield and Pontefract in Yorkshire. He was the eldest of three sons of Jane (née Speight) and Thomas Wilfred Boycott, a colliery worker from Shropshire. When Boycott was eight years old, he was impaled through his chest by the handle of a mangle after falling off an iron railing near his home. Boycott nearly died, and in the efforts to save his life, his spleen was removed. In March 1950, Boycott's father had a serious accident while working as a coalminer. His spine was severely damaged after he was hit by empty coal carts; Thomas Boycott never fully recovered, and died in 1967.
Boycott attended Fitzwilliam Primary School. There he won a Len Hutton batting award for scoring 45 runs and capturing six wickets for 10 runs in a school match. At age 10, he joined Ackworth Cricket Club, demonstrating "outstanding ability." At the age of 11 he failed the examinations that would have taken him to grammar school, and instead went to the local Kinsley Secondary Modern School. A year later, however, he passed his late-entry exams, and transferred to Hemsworth Grammar School. His cricket prowess was such that he captained the school's Cricket First XI at the age of 15. During winters he attended an indoor cricket school, where he was coached by former county professional Johnny Lawrence. While studying for his O-levels he began to have difficulties reading the blackboard and was initially devastated when told he would need glasses. At first, he played poorly at school, encumbered by the fragile spectacles, before a more robust pair was fashioned for him at the behest of his uncle, similar to those glasses worn by cricketer Roy Marshall. His uncle would go on to be a strong influence on Boycott's early game. In 1958 Boycott left school with seven O-level passes and the school's Individual Cricket Cup. That summer he played for the Leeds United under-18 football team alongside Billy Bremner and attracted the attention of Leeds United scouts. During the winter he continued to play nets of uncle Lawrence.
Boycott told the BBC in 1965 that he chose to leave school at 17 because he no longer wished to be a financial strain on his parents, and because he wanted to pursue his cricketing career. He worked as a clerk in the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance in Barnsley from 1958 to 1963, at the same time playing for a number of cricket clubs. Boycott captained the South Elmsall district team, and achieved a batting average of 70. He also played for the Yorkshire Federation's Under-18 team, and for Barnsley, where he was noticed by Clifford Hesketh, a member of Yorkshire's County Cricket team committee.
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