Friday, April 20, 2012

#communitysport blog – Gary Lewis, Urdd Gobaith Cymru

Our latest Community Sport blog is written by Gary Lewis, Sports Director of Urdd Gobaith Cymru. The Urdd Sports Department delivers a range of clubs and sports activities on a weekly basis throughout the year to encourage children and young people across Wales to have fun, compete and perform through the medium of Welsh or as Welsh learners.

The department and it’s staff‘s main focus is to engage with communities across Wales working at all levels from grassroots, to Junior and Secondary Schools partneships and also developing community structures in order to ensure that children and young people across Wales have plenty of opportunity to participate in a varied and comprenensive package of sport related activities.

Participation is the Urdd Sports Department's main objective – getting young girls and boys active and getting them into sport and giving them interests outside of the school. A fundemental part of our work is that transition from school playground into the community. It’s vital that children and Young people have ownership of their activities in order for them to feel part of the community club which they attend and most importantly to get them actively involved week in week out.

A large number of our clubs are  now  being run by young people who  have participated in clubs over the past 10-15 years. They gain tremendous experience in running these sessions and seeing them actually delivering the sessions is fantastic. They are great role models to the younger generation.

The Process is that we initially deliver  taster sessions in schools, to create an interest for what activities  we’re offering in the community. We deliver this in partnerhip with Dragon Sport, 5x60, as well as Local Authority Sports departments and then provide an exit route into our community structure.

A good example of the work that we deliver is the work that we’re doing in Gwent at the moment.

Currenty there is only one (Welsh language) comprehensive school covering the whole of Gwent but we are working across three counties in Gwent – Newport, Blaenau Gwent and also Monmouthshire – and we’re making sure that we signpost pupils from Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw to work as volunteers to all areas of Gwent. We’re taking the boundaries away to make sure that people can  take part wherever they live. 

Community sport is where it all starts – that is the root of sport. I think if you look generally across the board any sport that is succesful have got a big, strong structure at grassroots level. The first opportunity for young people to play a sport is within the community. It’s such an important vehicle to get children active outside of the school environment.

If you’ve got a strong community sport structure it gives children and young people the opportunity to participate from a young age. Most importantly if you’ve got that pathway linked in to National Governing Bodies, and other  community clubs, then you’ve got exit routes to take children as far as they want to go.

Most of our success comes from building a strong foundation at a young age. The only way you can do this  is to start at the foundation level; giving children fundamental basic skills for sports that gives them a really good start in whatever sport  they want to particpate in as they develop and grow. For instance, we will now start  our community development at Key Stage 1, where we will give all our children the BASIC skills needed to develop and play sport. The Urdd have a clear pathway for all community sports and a competition pathway from the local level to Gemau Cymru.

It’s important to give children the opportunity to develop their language skills outside the school environment and to develop it through sport. We’ve found through sport, by the numbers that have participated, it’s been a fantastic vehicle. Not only for developing the language but for developing community sport and developing young children and keeping them active. It’s a simple model that we use; we develop coaches, we find young people to work with and then create fun, sustainable activities. It’s a simple model that works fantastically well and the language is a key element to this success product.

It’s just giving children the opportunity to access local community activites and to make sure that what is on offer is of a high quality, with high quality leaders and volunteers, who are being supported really well and are delivering it for us. I think if that foundation is right the world is our oyster for Wales and for developing future stars.

This blog was written in conjunction with the launch of a strategy for Community Sport in Wales.  If you’d like your say, get involved in the debate on twitter – using the hashtag #communitysport and you can mention us @sport_wales