PEMBROKESHIRE CRICKET STALWART TO PICK UP LIFETIME ACHEIVEMENT AWARD

After more than 40 years as a driving force of Welsh cricket, Nick Evans will receive the community lifetime achievement award at Wales Sport Awards 2016.

The 76 year-old from Narberth in Pembrokeshire has been credited as a pioneer of community coaching and for the development of the women’s game.

He will be recognised for his achievements in sport at the ceremony on Monday 5th December.

“People take the mickey that I still play and coach at my age,” he laughs. “But it keeps you young. I can still bowl, I’m still fit so why not? Being around young people rubs off on you doesn’t it? Though I do get a bit lost when they start talking about Facebook and iPads.”

Nick helped set up the Pembrokeshire Association of Cricket Coaches in 1979 and since then he has introduced thousands of young people to cricket.

They include current Glamorgan players Andrew Salter and Jack Murphy as well as Wales footballer Joe Allen and former rugby international Jonathan Thomas:

“It’s so rewarding to see players coming through, even if they don’t end up playing cricket. Joe Allen was always an amazing sportsman and he was a brilliant bowler and was good at keeping wicket. I used to pick him up and drop him off after practice and I remember the day he signed for Swansea.”

The 76-year-old still dedicates virtually all of his spare time to playing, coaching and administering cricket in Pembrokeshire. He is the Regional Manager and that means overseeing all the Managers and Coaches in the various age groups. In the 1980s and ‘90s, he was a pioneer for women’s cricket in Wales and is recognised by many for his groundbreaking work:

“I got women’s cricket going in Pembrokeshire in the 1980s and I was then invited to set up a Wales women’s side.”

Today, he is President and committee member of the Pembrokeshire Association of Cricket Coaches and coach to the Under 10 to Under 15 Pembrokeshire regional players (boys and girls).

Earlier this year, he was handed the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2016 Cricket Wales Outstanding Service to Cricket Awards.

“I never would have thought I’d be collecting awards for doing something I love,” says Nick. “I never did it for those reasons. I’ve had so much enjoyment, meeting friends for life and travelling the world along the way.”

Nick is certainly a globetrotter, having enjoyed tours with South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, the Caribbean, South America and Sri Lanka.

“I’ve put a lifetime into cricket. But I have loved every minute.”

Nick’s achievements will be recognised at the Wales Sport Awards 2016 on Monday 5 December at Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff, where he will share the stage with the night’s other big winners including Coach of the Year, Team of the Year and the prestigious BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year.

Fans can watch the Wales Sport Awards 2016 live from 7.30pm on Monday 5 December at bbc.co.uk/sportwales and also on BBC iPlayer and the Red Button. The event will also be live on BBC Radio Wales.

The Wales Sport Awards is an event, organised in partnership by BBC Wales and Sport Wales. It aims to recognise the best achievements at elite and community level in Welsh sport.

For more information visit walessportawards.org.uk

#WSA2016

 

Cwmbran coach Vicki Randall is BBC Wales Sport’s Unsung Hero 2016

A volunteer netball and football coach from Cwmbran, who has encouraged more than 200 girls to play sport every week, has today been named as BBC Wales Sport’s Unsung Hero for 2016.

PE teacher Vicki Randall, 29, set up Cwmbran Youth netball club in 2009 with just five girls. It now has 14 teams. Three players have recently been selected for Wales’ under 17 squad. She also organises a weekly ‘netball tots’ club for children aged between one and five.

Vicki also runs Risca Netball Club, managing all five of their teams in the South East Wales League.

She turned to coaching after being forced to give up playing netball and football because of injury. She has had nine operations on her knee and has continued to coach, sometimes on crutches or in a wheelchair.

Vicki also set up Cwmbran Celtic Ladies football team in 2012, guiding them to promotion to the Welsh Premier league two years later. She also started a reserve team to encourage women to take up the sport.

She typically spends four evenings a week coaching sport after work, often more than one session per evening. At weekends, she spends most Saturdays organising netball matches and tournaments, before devoting up to seven hours on a Sunday to her football teams.

Vicki was nominated by Ann Daley from Pontypool whose daughter plays netball with Cwmbran Youth.

Ann Daley says: “Vicki has given so much to so many, volunteering all her free time. She has had a massive impact in raising levels of participation in sport for girls and women in South East Wales. Vicki really is an Unsung Hero.”

Vicki’s achievement will be recognised at the Wales Sport Awards 2016 on Monday 5 December at Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff, where she will share the stage with the night’s other big winners including Coach of the Year, Team of the Year and the prestigious BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year.

Fans can watch the Wales Sport Awards 2016 live from 7.30pm on Monday 5 December at bbc.co.uk/sportwales and also on BBC iPlayer and the Red Button. The event will also be live on BBC Radio Wales.

The Wales Sport Awards is an event, organised in partnership by BBC Wales and Sport Wales. It aims to recognise the best achievements at elite and community level in Welsh sport.

Young Volunteer of the Year Finalist – Megan Curling

She may only be 16 but Megan Curling is on a mission: to change the lives of girls in Bridgend for the better.

A tall order indeed but already this impressive teenager, a Gold Young Ambassador for Bridgend, is making a difference:

“In my school, girls have become more confident. We put on activities such as rollerblading, basketball and skills sessions.

“I enjoy sport so I like seeing other kids enjoy it too. It’s good to see them active and having fun. They don’t necessarily have the support and encouragement to be active at home so it’s important we do it.”

Megan not only has a mature attitude when it comes to recognising the importance of physical activity, she also brings flair and a spark to activities that perhaps only a 16-year-old could:

“We focus on the girls who don’t do much sport so we do things a bit differently to entice them in – for example, we offer them the chance of getting their hair styled after a sports session.

“We also put on rollerblading in the dark – anything to draw them in,” she chuckles.

As well as her commitments at Maesteg Comprehensive, she also goes back to her old primary school to deliver multi-skills sessions.

And on top of all that – plus her studies, of course – she manages to squeeze in the time to coach seven-year-olds at the local trampolining club.

Megan’s drive to make a difference has not gone unnoticed. Earlier this year, she was invited to London to help pitch to global business CGI in order to secure sponsorship for Bridgend’s annual Girl Power event.

Having successfully gained CGI as a sponsor, Bridgend then asked for Megan’s help once again at the Girl Power event where she impressed influential partners such as the Welsh Government, Communities First as well as CGI’s Vice President.

She certainly boasts an impressive CV and with bags of energy too, it’s safe to say we haven’t heard the last of Megan Curling.

Volunteer of the Year Finalist – Delyth Jones

It seems Delyth Jones lives and breathes to be at the pool:

“Well, yes. A lot of people do say I live at the place,” she laughs.

Her time commitment rivals that of her full-time job in the NHS. She is poolside every day apart from Saturday and when she is actually at home, she is armed with phone, laptop and paperwork:

“There’s always something going on – official documents for galas, entry forms, organising events…” The list goes on.

It all started when her children began swimming lessons and progressed into the club:

“I started helping out and one thing led to another. Now 12 years later, I’m still there. The club is really on the up, increasing in members, and I love being a part of that. We’re like a big family really,” she explains.

But all clubs have their ups and downs and 12 months ago, the Dragons’ coach left. Finding it hard to recruit a new skipper, Delyth made it her mission to keep things going:

“I decided if it was the last thing I did before the club closed, I had to do everything possible to keep it ticking over until we found a new coach.”

She was instrumental in keeping the swimmers motivated and interested until they found a new head honcho in January this year.

Delyth also takes a lead on the Denbighshire Development Team (DDT). Made up of the four swimming clubs in the county, she arranges training at Stockport several times a year as well as competition in Sheffield every October:

“I don’t think you ever realise all the things you do, not unless you were actually asked to sit down and list them. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“To see the kids grow in confidence is so special. When they first walk poolside for a competition and in front of a crowd, you can see they’re nervous. But after the first few times, they’re so self-assured.

“And they always want to do better next time. That’s why it’s so amazing – they are always striving to achieve a goal.”

And while daughter Lois, now 17, plans to retire from the club in a year or so, Delyth shows no signs of hanging up her clipboard just yet:

“No way! I absolutely love what I do. I can’t walk away from that!”

 

Coach to Disabled People of the Year Finalist – Emily Griffiths

She claims swimming is “the most unsociable sport ever” but Emily Griffiths cannot imagine a life where she isn’t coaching poolside.

She is the Head Coach of the South Wales Titans – a Paralympic swim academy straddling Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend; cultivating talent from pools in each of the three areas:

“Our aim is to help swimmers progress into a mainstream club or, depending on the level of disability, it may be more appropriate that they stay with us.

“We’d love to find a future Paralympian and unless we get people in the pool now, we won’t find the one.”

But it’s not just about future champions:

“We get swimmers who come to us who have often heard the word “can’t”. We have a boy who was told he couldn’t swim butterfly and he was really desperate to do it. He came to us and the other day he swam a length of the stroke. Both he and his Mum were crying. It might not look like textbook butterfly but it works for him.”

Emily grew up in Gloucester and was training and competing when she became injured:

“I was 16 and like a bear with a sore head. My Mum told me I had to get out of the house and do something because I was doing her head in.”

And so she made a beeline back to the pool where she started coaching the little ones. It wasn’t long before she heard the disability squad also needed help.

She has since moved to Bridgend and has been nurturing the talents of the Titans for just two years. Since she has been at the helm, not only have members increased, but personal bests have been achieved right across the board.

2016 has been an especially busy year. She was selected to coach Team UK at the Invictus Games and then appointed Head Coach for the Warrior Games. Her hard work has also earned her a spot as a Swim Wales coach for the Para-Swimming National Championships.

She can be found poolside four evenings every week as well as a Sunday morning. And she juggles her coaching commitments with her day job as a Sports Recovery Coordinator for Help for Heroes. But she wouldn’t have it any other way:

“Swimming has been my life. I don’t think I’ll ever not be involved. No one day is the same and no one swimmer is like any other. Working with a range of disabilities and impairments really keeps me on my toes.

“It can be tiring sometimes but there’s always something new to learn. And when the swimmers say thank you at the end of the session? Well that’s all you need isn’t it?”

Young Coach of the Year Finalist – Daniel Johnsey

Daniel Johnsey says he is alive today because of swimming. He was 11 and waiting for a school bus when he was knocked down by a car travelling at speed.

He suffered a severe head injury, a broken pelvis and arm while his left foot was almost severed. In a coma for 10 days and in a ‘locked in’ state for five months, Daniel has since undergone 32 operations:

“Swimming is the only reason I am here today,” Daniel explains. “I had always enjoyed going to the pool, I was really sporty, and it meant I had strong lungs.”

And now 11 years later, he is giving back to the sport that saved him, giving up his free time to coach at Newport Seals Disability Swimming Club:

“I’ve been a swimmer for as long I can remember. Before my accident, I was on the verge of breaking into the Welsh squad.

“After my accident, the club – and of course my Mum and Dad – helped me get back on my feet.

“I then started helping out – just handing out equipment and helping to tidy up and it went from there. I love helping the kids and I enjoy seeing them get better and better.”

As well as his work at Newport Seals, Daniel has been working with Monmouthshire County Council’s Disability Sport officers helping young people step from a small disability specific gym class into the mainstream fitness suite at Caldicot Leisure Centre.

He has also coached at Active Gwent’s insport series event in Newport and volunteered over 50 hours at the Mongames summer programme in Caldicot. It was there he coached a young girl who hadn’t been able to perform a tumble turn in swim lessons. By the end of the summer, Daniel had worked his magic.

The coaching has given him a huge surge in confidence. In recognition of his contribution to the community, he even carried the Olympic torch in 2012. He now plans to try and find a paid role in fitness or swim coaching.

For his proud Mum, Sarah, who was told he would never walk again, his progress has been mind-blowing:

“The fact that he can even walk is a miracle and he has worked so hard to get to where he is today,” she explains. “He doesn’t even realise what he has achieved; he’s just so laid back.”

 

Coach to Disabled People of the Year Finalist – Deb Bashford

“I want to use my disability to help others. It’s a key to a door to help people who are struggling.”

Debbie Bashford is 46 and lives with a rare spinal condition. Due to an infection in her leg in 2005 which left her fighting for her life, she is also an amputee.

Despite the fact she is under doctor’s orders to take regular bedrest, Debbie’s passion for helping others is unstoppable. Under her direction, the Caernarfon Celts Wheelchair Basketball Club has grown into a huge success story, providing unrivalled opportunities in the area:

“I became paralysed from the waist down when I was 11. Inclusion didn’t exist in the 1980s and when it was time for PE, I was sent to the library. I’m now able to help people take up the opportunities that weren’t there when I was growing up.”

It’s a huge achievement for the club that two junior members were selected for the Welsh squad in 2015. But Debbie says it’s not just about playing for Wales:

“Not all clubs are able to cater for people with more severe disabilities or profound learning disabilities. But we wanted to be really inclusive and go the extra mile so we put on wheelchair basketball opportunities within our junior session, some of whom come along with support workers.

“Sometimes when I deliver boccia outreach sessions, people just want to talk and that’s fine. The social, psychological, emotional and mental side of things is just as important as the physical.”

Keen to ensure the club is fun for everyone, she provides members with newsletters, sports awards, fancy dress events and friendly fixtures.

She applies for sponsorship, liaises with social services and helps to fundraise. She attends all Wales trials in Worcester and travels to the Regional Performance Centre in Aberystwyth for the Wales Under 15s to coach sessions.

Debbie plays a key role on the North Wales Wheelchair Basketball Forum and organises the North Wales league and manages the Wales Under 19 squad.

And, unbelievably, it doesn’t stop there. Debbie and her committed team undertake a huge amount of outreach work.

They organized a five week playscheme during the summer holidays for 11-14-year-olds, most of whom were able-bodied. They were given the opportunity to try out the sports chairs:

“As soon as they see the chairs, they want to try them out. We’re able to give people an idea of what disability actually means.”

She upskills teachers to work with pupils who have a disability or impairment and she also finds the time to mentor and train young people to coach:

“We all work so well together. I’m so proud of the club. I tend to dodge award ceremonies. Being named a finalist in the Wales Sports Awards is for everyone at the club – the members, the parents, the support workers, all the coaches and volunteers. We’re all jigsaw pieces,” she insists.

“You can come through the doors with spots, stripes, four legs, two heads – it doesn’t matter. Everybody is welcome. As long as we have smiles and laughter, then I know we’re doing something right.”

Community Coach of the Year Finalist – Roddie Milne

“Teaching Taekwondo is how I want to be remembered,” says Roddie Milne who says he would be lost without Llangollen Taekwondo Club:

“I’ve invested so much time and effort into the club. It would be like losing my life savings.”

The 43-year-old father of four set up the club in January 2015 and it has already stormed to success, amassing 55 medals.

But, for Roddie, competition is not just about medals:

“There’s a lot more to be gained from competing in Taekwondo than simply winning medals. You can prove to yourself that you have a real courage, strength and determination.

“With a combat sport, you have to have huge confidence to stand opposite an opponent.”

It all began when eldest son Dylan was three:

“We wanted him to do an activity and we gave Taekwondo a go.  I ended up getting involved so I could help him start his gradings – that’s the process of working up the belt system.

“At the beginning, I thought I’d just get the green belt and leave it there…but I got the bug, started winning medals and by then I’d fallen for taekwondo hook, line and sinker.”

He thought about teaching when Dylan declared he wanted to be an instructor at the age of 11.

Roddie earned his black belt in 2010 and set up his own club just five years later so that he could pass it from father to son when his “knees stopped working!”

He now coaches twice a week with Dylan lending a hand. There are some members who even make a 40-minute round trip to attend:

“I absolutely love it. It’s just that sense of changing people’s lives.

“The way I see it, members aren’t investing in taekwondo necessarily, they’re investing in you as a teacher so it’s important to make the sessions fun, in order that people keep coming back, but we also get results.”

His three younger children have all fallen in love with the sport too and love competing:

“It started as a lad and Dad thing with Dylan but the younger ones saw what we were doing and wanted to give it a go. So I guess we’re a taekwondo family now!”

In his view, the number one skill required to be a good coach is patience:

“If you lose your patience, you lose their confidence. You don’t want to crush anyone, you want to encourage them.

“I get huge satisfaction when I see the progress in technique, skills and confidence. They become martial artists and that makes me very proud.”

 

 

BBC Wales Sports Personality Of The Year shortlist for 2016 announced

After one of the greatest years in Welsh sporting history, the eight contenders for the prestigious BBC Wales Sports Personality Of The Year 2016 award have been revealed today.

The contenders are:

  • Paralympic javelin gold medallist Hollie Arnold, who enjoyed an unbeaten season in 2016
  • Wales international and Real Madrid Champions League winning footballer Gareth Bale, who was part of the Euro 2016 team that reached the semi-finals
  • Olympic cycling team pursuit gold medallist Elinor Barker, who also made an immediate impact after turning to individual competition
  • Paralympic shot put gold medallist Aled Sion Davies, who also won gold in the shot put and discus in the European Championships, setting World and Paralympic records along the way
  • Owain Doull, another Olympic cycling team pursuit gold medallist, who has enjoyed his best season to date
  • Taekwondo athlete Jade Jones, who successfully retained her Olympic title and also became European Champion in 2016
  • Olympic sailor Hannah Mills, who upgraded her London 2012 silver medal to gold in the 470 class at the 2016 Games in Rio
  • The reigning IBF World Featherweight Champion Lee Selby, who defended his title this year.

The award will be decided by public vote with the winner announced at the Wales Sport Awards 2016 on Monday 5 December at Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff.

Public voting, by phone and text, opens on Monday 28 November until Saturday, December 3. Full details of how to vote will be given on Monday 28 November at bbc.co.uk/sportwales

The shortlist was chosen by an expert panel made up of Wales’ most successful Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson; former Wales footballer Nathan Blake; Welsh Gymnastics chief executive Rhian Gibson; Olympic finalist sprinter Christian Malcolm and chaired by former Wales rugby international and National Director, English Institute of Sport, Nigel Walker.

Nigel Walker says: “It wasn’t an easy task to come up with this shortlist, with so many brilliant performances from Welsh sportsmen and women in 2016. We had to make some tough choices. But in the end, we agreed to settle on eight competitors who have all won at the highest level this year and made a significant impact on the Welsh sporting public.”

Fans can watch the Wales Sport Awards 2016 live from 7.30pm on Monday 5 December at bbc.co.uk/sportwales, BBC iPlayer and the Red Button. The event will also be live on BBC Radio Wales.

The Wales Sport Awards is a partnership between BBC Wales and Sport Wales, celebrating the best sporting achievement at elite and community level. Award categories include Coach Of The Year, Team Of The Year and the BBC Wales Sports Personality Of The Year.

#WSA2016

Young Coach of the Year Finalist – Jamie Evans

Pencoed Gymnastic Tumbling Club was on the very verge of closing – until, that is, a young coach stepped into the saddle as Head Coach.

Jamie Evans was just 19 and now, five years later, he already has big ambitions for the future.

The effervescent 24-year-old says: “My coach was retiring after 20 years so the club was about to close. My reaction was ‘absolutely not’ and I stepped in. I now have plans to acquire a facility by the time I’m 30.”

He’s spent most of his life at the club. He joined when he was seven and soon knew that his passion lay in tumbling – a form of gymnastics which involves a sequence of twists and somersaults across a 25m track. At 13, he was soon coaching his peers:

“I’d compete and take my go. And then I’d coach the rest of the line-up.” He is now one of the very few tumbling coaches in Wales with high level qualifications.

“Unlike most clubs, our kids stay competing until their late teens,” explains Jamie. “And we also have loads of interest from newcomers. Since the Olympic Games in Rio, we have had so many calls about double mini trampolining. So I’ve put on a third recreational class to cope with the demand. We took on 14 new regulars in just two weeks!”

At last year’s British NDP Championships – that’s the stepping stone event for the British Championships that attracts all the best up and coming tumblers from across Britain – Pencoed returned with the most medals of any club in Wales. A huge achievement for a club with just 25 members at squad level.

So committed to his coaching, Jamie often drives an eight-hour round trip to Milton Keynes for a three hour session:

“Yes, people think I’m nuts! But there we can work with coaches who are responsible for world class athletes. Plus we get to use a full scale tumbling track so it is a priceless experience. From spending time with them, I’ve already made changes within the club and I’m already seeing improvements in the squad.”

Jamie spends most evenings at the club. And he certainly doesn’t get to enjoy a lie-in on Saturdays as he leaves his home in Cardiff at 7am to get to the gym. On top of all of this, he works a 40 hour week in the early years sector.

Yet he still strives to grow the club further, with a steely determination to offer more sessions for the local community. He is currently mentoring a teenage group of coaches to help cope with the demand.

“The main reason I do it?,” says Jamie. “It’s the impact on the children. You have to understand that Bridgend has a very traditional rugby culture. We have one boy who is 14 and he’s a super tumbler and an incredible rugby player. After his rugby matches, he’s back in the changing room and pulls on his leotard in front of the rest of the team. To be that OK with yourself at that age and to be respected for it – that’s amazing confidence.

“I really believe tumbling helps these kids be well-rounded young people with bags of confidence and that’s pretty amazing.”