With the British & Irish Lions tour underway in New Zealand and Wales successfully hosting the Champions League Final, sport has captured the imagination of the entire nation and everybody is benefiting.
Thousands of children are taking to the streets and parks to emulate their Welsh heroes, after Gareth Bale lifted the Champions League trophy for Real Madrid in his hometown and as Wales hooker Ken Owens captains for the Lions’ second match against the Blues in Auckland today.
In Newport, the Welsh Rugby Union and Football Association of Wales Trust have teamed up with the city council to deliver a weekly programme of free and fun sporting activity for boys and girls from socially deprived areas. Sessions are being held at the recreational grounds of Pill Millennium Centre on Wednesday evenings (6.30pm) from May to September, 2017.
The rugby and football, or ‘rugball’, sessions put the fun into fitness, inviting boys and girls of all ages and abilities to turn up and give sport a go in their local community.
In its first few weeks, the scheme has seen upward of 30 kids per session from diverse backgrounds taking part in the free activities. There is no registration or equipment required and everyone will get the same chance to play. The sessions start with warm up games like ‘atomic touch’ and ‘stuck in the mud’ before the children get split into groups for 15 minutes of rugby and football with their friends and neighbours.
As well as the wide range of physical health benefits for all children taking part in sport, the sessions have also identified individual talent for mentoring and leadership programmes which will allow sustainable sporting projects to continue in the area.
“Our mission is no different to our friends at the FAW when it comes to getting more children playing sport and we are delighted to be working with football and Newport Council to ensure children from all backgrounds get to experience the benefits of our great games,” said Ryan Jones, WRU Head of Rugby Participation, and former Wales and British and Irish Lion from Rogerstone in Newport.
“With Wales successfully hosting the Champions League Final and featuring prominently in Warren Gatland’s Lions tour of New Zealand, now is a great time to inspire kids to take part. The Pill Project takes us right into the heart of the community groups who are not already involved in rugby or football clubs in Newport. Our aim is to make our games as accessible as possible by getting out of the traditional rugby and football club environments directly to the hard to reach groups with a sporting offering that is fun and inclusive for all.”
FAW Trust Senior Partnership manager Chris Foot said: “We have been really encouraged by the levels of participation and the success of our joint delivery with the WRU at Pill so far. Our longer term aim is to upskill members of the community to deliver these sessions themselves and hopefully develop the next generation of sports stars, coaches and community leaders that can inspire not only the people of Pill, but also Newport and Wales as a whole.”
Councillor Debbie Harvey, Newport City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure said: “It is great that youngsters in Pill are having the chance to enjoy these free sessions of rugby and football, especially with the school summer holidays coming up. Newport City Council would like to thank the FAW and the WRU for organising these sessions which gives children the chance to have fun while taking up a new sport.”
Updated 07:51 - 8 Jun 2017 by Gary Williams