LLANRWST FARMERS JOINTLY WIN BBC WALES GET INSPIRED SPORTS UNSUNG HERO 2015

Two farmers from Llanrwst have jointly won the BBC Wales Get Inspired Sports Unsung Hero 2015 this year for their work with Llanrwst Swimming Club.

Busy working farmers and grandmothers Jane Roberts and Nerys Ellis from Ysbyty Ifan near Betws-y-Coed have been running the Llanrwst Swimming Club for 32 years. Now in their 60s, the hours they spend at the club are all voluntary and their work doesn’t just end at the poolside. Both Jane and Nerys make the 24-mile round trip from their remote farms to the pool every week and are involved with all aspects of organising, promoting and planning swimming classes for children and young people of all abilities as well as arranging gala events at the club.

Known locally as “Aunty Jane”  and “Aunty Nerys”, the pair, who have children and grandchildren of their own, have taught generations of local children to swim and gain their swimming badges, dedicating their time to encouraging youngsters, irrespective of starting ability and including children with special needs to become competent and confident swimmers.

Jane and Nerys’ dedication means that countless children and young people have had the opportunity to learn valuable life-savings skills in a rural area which includes many lakes and rivers. They have also given young swimmers the opportunity to regularly socialise with other children living across rural Conwy.

Their reputation, enthusiasm and passion has been championed by scores of parents including Dawn Claydon, Llanrwst Swimming Club lifeguard, who nominated them:

“They not only teach children to swim but also teach awareness and warn children of the dangers of deep water – these are life-long skills. Their commitment is just outstanding and that’s why I wanted to nominate them. I’m so thrilled they have won.”

Jane and Nerys were surprised to win. Nerys said:

“We had no idea we’d won, it was a complete shock but it’s marvellous.

“It’s vital that there is a local swimming club for the youngsters and that it continues as it doesn’t matter where they are in the world, they need these skills”

Jane added:

“I never dreamt this would happen, I’m lost for words. I love teaching the children, especially my five-year olds, they are just lovely. I just want to thank the parents and Dawn for nominating us.”

Geoff Williams, Head of Sport, BBC Wales commented:

“Jane and Nerys epitomise the whole Unsung Hero ethos having given their valuable time and expertise over many years to help others. They are worthy winners of the Award.”

Jane and Nerys will be recognised at the 2015 Wales Sport Awards on Monday, December 7, at the Sport Wales National Centre in Cardiff. They will then compete against other Unsung Heroes from Northern Ireland, Scotland and English regions for the BBC Get Inspired Sports Unsung Hero at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year event in Belfast on December 20.

Last year’s overall winner was Jill Stidever from Leicestershire, who was awarded for her work helping children with special needs to swim.

photo 2The BBC Get Inspired Sports Unsung Hero Award recognises and rewards outstanding contribution by individuals at the grassroots level of local sport, who give up their time on a voluntary basis so that sport can be played and enjoyed by people throughout the UK. Over 150 Unsung Heroes have been honoured over the last decade.

VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR FINALIST – WENDY PRESSDEE

Her sport has taken her as far afield as Singapore and the Cook Islands but it isn’t the travel which keeps Wendy enthused about netball, it is the sheer delight of watching people play the game she loves.

Wendy started playing netball in school and later set up a village team which competed at county level. A new nursing career brought with it night shifts, making it difficult for her to always play, so she moved into the administrative side of the game.

She tells her story with a laugh: “I was voted in as secretary of the Swansea League whilst I was away on holiday.” Nevertheless, it was an astute decision as Wendy has stayed in post ever since, working hard to ensure netball thrives locally and nationally.

Every night of the week is given over to netball and there’s often refereeing duties at the weekend too. Wendy’s enormous commitment includes her role as Team Manager of the Afan Nedd Tawe Performance HUB and running Swansea’s Summer and Winter Senior Leagues. She also manages Swansea’s junior teams and their summer league. On top of all that, she works with the local authority and primary schools in the area to grow the game. She was Wales and Celtic Dragons Team Manager for 19 years, but retired last Christmas.

One of the high points of Wendy’s volunteering career was managing the Wales team at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow: “There is a brilliant atmosphere as you are all there for one thing and you get to see top people playing.”

Wendy has combined volunteering with her work as a carer and there have been sacrifices along the way, including a “normal” social life. She brushes off compliments about the time she puts in:”It keeps me out of mischief! I love being involved and seeing others enjoy the sport, especially the youngsters. It has also been fantastic to travel and meet others of the same mindset.”

Her reaction to being nominated as a finalist: “Absolutely amazed! Very honoured.” And she offers some advice to those thinking of volunteering: “Be prepared for the commitment, it has to be everything, it can’t be half-hearted.”

It is this attitude which has made the game what it is today. As Kyra Jones, Wales Player, explains: “Wendy is an incredibly dedicated volunteer. She puts her heart and soul into netball and will do absolutely anything she can to make it better and easier for us as players to be the best we can.”

Wales Sport Awards 2015 Wendy Pressdee 20.11.15 ©Steve Pope - SPORTINGWALES

Wales Sport Awards 2015
Wendy Pressdee
20.11.15
©Steve Pope – SPORTINGWALES

YOUNG VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR FINALIST – ELAN MON GILFORD

“I’m always at a club somewhere!” says Elan Mon Gilford as she starts listing her volunteering commitments which take in lunchtime and after school sessions as well as weekends. Best described as a bundle of energy, it is no surprise that Elan has already given up over 400 hours of her time to coach pupils in schools and communities across Anglesey, in everything from netball and athletics to rugby.

Explaining how she caught the volunteering bug three years ago, Elan says:

“I’ve always loved sport but it was a huge step for me to start volunteering. I attended some courses and found that it was a real boost for my self-confidence. Now it never even feels like volunteering, I’m just doing something I enjoy.”

Deaf since the age of three, Elan is fully dependent on lip reading and the use of two hearing aids. Yet despite the challenges she faces in daily life, she doesn’t let anything stand in her way and delivers sessions for people of all ages and abilities:

“I can demonstrate that disability is not a problem and that there is always a way round it. It is really powerful to be able to show that to others.”

Through her ambassadorial roles for Youth Sports Trust and Sport Wales’ Young Ambassador National Steering Group, Elan is able to inspire young people across the country. She has gained numerous coaching qualifications and also works with Disability Sport Wales to help people to get fit, healthy and happy, regardless of their disability.

Fizzing with enthusiasm, Elan talks about what volunteering means to her:

“It is very rewarding to watch children’s health and skills improve on a weekly basis. And you can’t beat seeing the smiles on their faces when they achieve something new. I’ve had lots of valuable experiences over the past three years, it has been amazing! Anyone thinking about volunteering should find a local club, get on a course and grab every opportunity with both hands.”

Elan has a real zest for life and learning. In the future she hopes to take a degree in Physical Education at Cardiff Metropolitan University and sums up her what keeps her ambitions fired:

“Children in Wales need greater opportunities to get involved with sport. I want to help children enjoy positive sporting experiences.”

Elan Mon Gilford Action

YOUNG VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR FINALIST – ROBERT CUNNAH

“When I started I was just a shy Year 7 lad. Volunteering has completely changed my life, I have gained confidence and qualifications, and met some great people along the way.”

This is the way Robert Cunnah neatly describes the difference volunteering has made to him. He volunteers more than 20 hours a week, acting as a referee at the local youth service football league through to coaching six to 16-year-olds in a variety of games, from quick cricket to the lesser known boccia, a form of bowls played at the Paralympics.

All of this is a far cry from Robert’s primary school years when a lung condition meant he had to sit on the sidelines: “It was so annoying that I couldn’t do much in PE lessons, I really felt that I missed out.”

Fortunately, his health improved at the age of 11 and he was able to really start enjoying sport for the first time. His enthusiasm was soon spotted and he was selected to join Sport Wales’ Young Ambassadors programme.  Through the scheme he started coaching alongside mentors at the local authority and gained Sports Leader qualifications.

Robert’s confidence grew alongside his zeal for getting others more physically active: “So many children just go home after school and sit playing on their consoles. I want to get them involved in sport and having fun.

“Volunteering is really rewarding, it is great to watch other young people grow and develop.”

One example illustrates Robert’s absolute commitment: last year there was no 5×60 officer in his secondary school for a month so Robert single-handedly took over the lunchtime and after school sessions to ensure his peers didn’t miss out.

Denbighshire Leisure says that “Robert is more than just a volunteer, he has been a truly dedicated and reliable member of our sport development team.”

And this summer, his exceptional services to volunteering were recognised when he was awarded the Sports Leaders UK President’s Cup, meeting former Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and former NBA Basketball player John Amaechi at the ceremony.

Robert’s future ambitions are firmly rooted in sport. He has 600 hours of volunteering under his belt and is currently studying for his BTEC Level 3 Sport Diploma. His end goal is professional football coaching or management.

This is a young man who will no doubt succeed. “The way I live my life is if I go for something, I intend to get it. I will work extra hard to get what I want.”

Wales Sport Awards 2015 Robert Cunnah 12.11.15 ©Steve Pope - SPORTINGWALES

Wales Sport Awards 2015
Robert Cunnah
12.11.15
©Steve Pope – SPORTINGWALES

COMMUNITY COACH OF THE YEAR FINALIST – NIKKI UPTON

Come rain or shine, you’ll find Nikki Upton at Risca Hockey Club coaching around 30 juniors. And when the session’s finished, it’s time for the seniors:

“Yes, sometimes the weather is horrendous,” she laughs. “Once it was hailing, so we all hid in the dugouts until it passed and then it was, Right, back to it!”

But even if it is ‘hammering down’ as it so often does in South Wales, Nikki says she could ‘never not turn up’:

“Sometimes, you get home from work and you feel exhausted – all you want to do is sit down. But once you get to training, you find the energy. Anyway, you can’t let them down can you?”

Nikki started playing for the club after her daughter was born six years ago. Having previously coached other hockey clubs it of course wasn’t long before she was nurturing the talent at Risca.

Back then the club was called Risca Ladies Senior Hockey Team. A lot’s changed since Nikki’s jumped on board. Just over 12 months ago, she created a brand new pathway from junior to senior hockey:

“To recruit junior members, we put on six week blocks of taster sessions at a local primary school. Pupils were all then given a free session voucher to come along to the club. We live in a pretty deprived area so we have kept sessions at just £1.

“That’s partly why we’ve been successful. We haven’t complicated things. There’s no commitment, it is pay as you play. We’ve offered incentives of free sessions if you bring a friend along. And we are giving players ownership of the team too, they’ve been fundraising for new kit so now they are picking which they like best.”

And her efforts are paying off:

“There’s one child in particular. He’s had a tough upbringing and he wasn’t very strong socially or academically. He was argumentative and would swear. But he has excelled on the pitch and is learning to be part of the team. He’s always the one that will be there ten minutes early and the one who helps out ten minutes after everyone has left. His concentration levels have soared and he just seems to have grown up.”

Now she has set her sights on starting a youth section so she can separate out some of the older age groups. And she is working with other local clubs of a similar standard to set up a mini league.

Rest assured that hockey in Risca, whatever the weather, will continue to prosper.

NIkki Upton Action

FA CUP THIRD ROUND DRAW TO KICK-OFF THE 2015 WALES SPORT AWARDS

BBC Cymru Wales and Sport Wales will welcome the highly anticipated Emirates FA Cup Third Round draw to the Wales Sport Awards on Monday, December 7.

In what has been an incredible year in Welsh sport, the much-anticipated football draw will add extra excitement to the event, which will take place at Sport Wales National Centre, Cardiff.

Head of Sport, BBC Cymru Wales, Geoff Williams said:

“The draw for the Third Round of the FA Cup is always one of the most anticipated and iconic occasions of the football season, and we’re absolutely delighted to welcome this prestigious event to Wales.”

CEO of Sport Wales, Sarah Powell added:

“On a night when we celebrate the very best of elite and grassroots sport in Wales it is a privilege to be able to host the FA Cup Third Round draw at the home of Welsh sport.”

The FA Third Round Cup draw, presented by Mark Chapman will be live on BBC Two and BBC Two Wales at 7pm.

The Wales Sport Awards ceremony, presented by Jason Mohammad and Dot Davies will be live on bbc.co.uk/sportwales and BBC iPlayer at 8pm on December 7 and will also be available on Red Button on December 8.

Programme Name: BBC Sport - TX: n/a - Episode: BBC Sport (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: Chappers (Mark Chapman) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Andrew Hayes-Watkins

Programme Name: BBC Sport – TX: n/a – Episode: BBC Sport (No. n/a) – Picture Shows: Chappers (Mark Chapman) – (C) BBC – Photographer: Andrew Hayes-Watkins

YOUNG COACH OF THE YEAR FINALIST – JORDAN ROSSER

Helping to deliver at least two coaching sessions a week and helping more than 200 young people to play golf is an incredible achievement for any 16 year old.

But consider this: Jordan Rosser has eight separate disabilities including autism, Tourettes, hypermobility and he uses a hearing aid which his mother, Emma, says “all impact on his daily life.”

But his saying goes like this, “Disabled just means differently abled.”

The youngster – an accomplished player who competes regularly at high profile events such as Ladies European Tour Pro Ams and the Ian Poulter Invitational, is the junior captain at Rhondda Golf Club.

A loyal servant to golf, he coaches at Valleys Golf Enterprise and First Swing Academy at Bryn Meadows Golf Club. And Golf Development Wales regularly calls on his support at major events.

His Mum explains:

“I’m so proud of him. He always puts everyone and everything first. His health has dipped this past month which means he hasn’t been able to do as much coaching as he would like. But he always forces himself out of bed to go and see the youngsters tee off.”

“I love seeing others excel and it’s good to feel that you’ve played some part in that,” says Jordan. “I like to try and build the children’s confidence. They often start off timid and shy but after a couple of sessions, they are much chattier.”

Coaching doesn’t just benefit the five to 12 year olds he helps tutor twice a week. It seems to have a positive impact on Jordan too:

“I suffer from anxiety but coaching always makes me feel happy and relaxed. It definitely helps.”

“I want to be a PGA professional coach just like my coach, Craig Thomas. I want to be able to deliver golf coaching to disabled and non-disabled people. I’ve already got my junior leader course and I’m about to take my level one.”

“But my main goal is to make golf clubs in Wales more inclusive for people with disabilities.”

And he has already made an impressive start. He actively helps shape the future of Welsh golf in a determined bid to make it more inclusive, as a member of the Golf Development Wales Youth Panel. He has also written to every single golf club in Wales setting out his plea to make the game more accessible.

Overcoming adversity every single day, he is indeed a young man with a big ambition and steely determination.

Wales Sport Awards 2015 Jordan Rosser 09.11.15 ©Steve Pope - SPORTINGWALES

Wales Sport Awards 2015
Jordan Rosser
09.11.15
©Steve Pope – SPORTINGWALES

YOUNG COACH OF THE YEAR FINALIST – LOWRI HAF BARKER

When she discovered her coach had cancer, Lowri Haf Barker didn’t think twice about helping out with training sessions at Mold Netball Club. She was just 16.

Two years later and her coach, Chris Elson, was too unwell to carry on coaching. So it was Lowri who stepped in:

“I took over in the September. But after every session, I would talk it through with her. She coached me to be a coach. I owe so much to her.”

Bear in mind, Lowri was just 16 and coaching girls between the ages of 9 and 15. At the same time, she was studying for her GCSEs. And, of course, Chris’ her close friend and ‘absolute idol’ was losing her battle against cancer:

“She died six months later; she was only in her mid fifties. Just a week after she passed away, I achieved my level one coaching course, which I think means I was always meant to coach.”

And the biggest thing she has learned from her mentor is respect:

“When you’re young and you turn up at training, you natter with your friends. But when I started helping with sessions, I realised that when people chat, it makes the job of a coach so much harder. You need to have respect for coaches. Chris didn’t have to turn up week in, week out. It was her choice to be there to help us.”

At the young age of 21, Lowri is enjoying great success on court. In the last 12 months, she has coached two Under 15 teams to play in the Wales club finals in Cardiff. She has coached the most successful Under 13 club in the Deeside league. She has had league winners in younger age groups and a number of girls have been selected to play for county and inter-county level. She is bilingual and has helped coach the local Welsh primary and secondary students to success in Urdd competitions.

In just four years, she has increased the number of teams from six to 11 and this summer introduced under 7s into the club.

She spends 13 hours a week coaching and there’s all the paperwork and planning on top of that:

“I need to be very organised. I work at Grosvenor Street Physiotherapy and I am studying Complementary Medicine at Glyndwr University so I need to make sure I’m not falling behind.

The biggest reward, according to the young coach, is knowing the girls are enjoying netball, as much as I did with Chris. And if Lowri collects a gong at the Wales Sports Awards, it will be dedicated to her coach:

“Any award would definitely be in tribute to Chris. I owe it to her to keep the club going strong. She was an incredible lady.”

Wales Sport Awards 2015 Lowri Haf Barker 02.11.15 ©Steve Pope - SPORTINGWALES

Wales Sport Awards 2015
Lowri Haf Barker
02.11.15
©Steve Pope – SPORTINGWALES

YOUNG COACH OF THE YEAR FINALIST – GREG PRICE

Greg Price may be quiet and unassuming but don’t be fooled. Because behind this disguise, there hides a 25-year-old sporting crusader, determined to get as many young people as active as possible.

Indeed, when his local table tennis club looked set to close, it was Greg who stepped forward to rescue the situation:

“I had been a member of North Gwent Table Tennis Club since I was 13. The person who ran it was the longest serving member. He had been massively dedicated but when he retired, the club looked as if it might finish.”

With no other members stepping forward, it was Greg who saved the club:

“I just wasn’t willing for it to close. It is a great club and had huge potential to grow further.”

With a brand new committee and masterplan to take the club forward, the junior section now boasts more than 30 members, ten of whom have competed at national level. And it’s all because the self-confessed sports fanatic works tirelessly to improve and grow the club.

But his crusade doesn’t stop with the sport of table tennis. He is also responsible for the Ebbw Vale Badminton club whose success has simply sky rocketed in the last 12 months:

“There was no badminton club in the area. I worked with the local sports development team to set up a pay as you play session. We’ve now got 20 young players coming regularly so we’ve decided to set up a proper club. We’ve sourced a grant and now have additional coaches and leaders.

He delivers taster sessions at local schools and of course two clubs are flourishing under the watchful eye of Greg. Add to that ten hours a week as a regional table tennis officer with the odd bit of paid badminton coaching, and you’d think he was more than doing his bit for sport in the area.

But no. There’s more. When Abertillery Comprehensive were left without a 5 x 60 coach this year, it was of course Greg who took action. Delivering table tennis, badminton, racquetball and squash, he has ensured the schoolchildren don’t miss out.

“I get lots of satisfaction from seeing the kids learning, improving and enjoying sport. If they want to keep coming back then you know you’ve done a good job. We live in a pretty deprived area so it’s even more important that we provide opportunities.

“I live and breathe sport and I understand the positive influences it can have on young people.”

His multi-talented sporting ability has seen demand for his services stretch right across Blaenau Gwent. He might not wear a cape, but he is certainly a Sporting Superhero.

Wales Sport Awards 2015 Greg Price 30.10.15 ©Steve Pope - SPORTINGWALES

Wales Sport Awards 2015
Greg Price
30.10.15
©Steve Pope – SPORTINGWALES

YOUNG VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR FINALIST – JONATHAN WILLIAMS

In 2014 Jonathan Williams attended the Wales Sport Awards as a volunteer, welcoming guests to the ceremony. Fast-forward 12 months and Jonathan is now himself a finalist!

His nomination comes in response to his huge contribution to the disability sport programme in Merthyr as well as the Young Ambassador role he plays across Wales. Currently studying for an ICT degree, Jon gives up two days a week to help young people with disabilities get hooked on sport.

As a powerchair user himself, he has first-hand experience of the difficulties that can be faced:

“I was the first wheelchair user in my school, so I was the guinea pig. It is too easy for disabled people to be pushed into to the corner and asked to read a book. I would rather be doing sport and socialising.”

It took several years to diagnose Jon’s condition, Friedreich’s Ataxia, during which time he found it progressively more difficult to take part in sport. A meeting with Dan Bufton, the local development officer for Disability Sport Wales, helped to turn things around:

“At fourteen I ended up in a wheelchair and couldn’t play football or rugby any more. Dan suggested wheelchair sport to me but I didn’t take to it, I preferred the gym. However, a friendship started and he suggested I helped him and thought about becoming a Young Ambassador.”

His valuable input has helped shape the disability sport programme in his area. As well as attending consultations with service users and partners, he is a vital sounding board, as Dan Bufton explains:

“Jon and I were talking about the fact that disabled children often can’t participate in PE lessons. I suggested ringing up local schools to discuss how we could help them be inclusive. Jonathan’s comment was that we needed to actually show them what could be done.

“As a result, we developed the Paralympics Road Show. To date, we have helped over 500 pupils experience disability sport and Jonathan has inspired everyone with his journey into sport.”

In addition, Jonathan has been a key part of the Wales National Young Ambassador Steering Group, which means delivering workshops, opening conferences, and attending meetings.

Recently taking on meeting all new participants on Merthyr’s Disability Sports programme, Jon continues to be motivated by the personal satisfaction of inspiring people to get out there and do something. With his fantastic “Get it done!” attitude, Jonathan couldn’t fail to encourage others to enjoy the benefits of sport.

Wales Sport Awards 2015 Jonathan Williams 28.10.15 ©Steve Pope - SPORTINGWALES

Wales Sport Awards 2015
Jonathan Williams
28.10.15
©Steve Pope – SPORTINGWALES

Wales Sport Awards 2015 Jonathan Williams 28.10.15 ©Steve Pope - SPORTINGWALES

Wales Sport Awards 2015
Jonathan Williams
28.10.15
©Steve Pope – SPORTINGWALES