As Welsh sports fans enjoy a busy summer, the governing bodies of the country's two biggest sports have joined forces in a bid to inspire more kids to get active.
With Gareth Bale lifting the Champions League trophy for Real Madrid in his home city of Cardiff and a number of Welshmen featuring prominently in the British and Irish Lions' tour of New Zealand, not to mention last weekend's World Cup qualifier with Serbia and the upcoming rugby fixtures with Tonga and Samoa, there's lots for Welsh sports fans to get excited about right now.
As thousands of children take to the streets and parks to emulate their Welsh heroes, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and the Football Association of Wales (FAW) Trust have joined forces with Newport City Council in a bid to get kids from socially-deprived areas of the city to play more sport.
They are delivering a weekly programme of free and fun sporting activity for boys and girls at the recreational grounds of Pill Millennium Centre every Wednesday at 6.30pm from May to September.
Entry to the scheme is free, with no registration or equipment required and everyone involved will get the same chance to play. In its first few weeks, the new scheme has seen more than 30 kids from diverse backgrounds take part in each session of free activities.
Former Wales international and British & Irish Lion Ryan Jones, now the WRU's head of rugby participation, has been pleased to see the project kick off. He said:
“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. 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.”
The ‘rugball’ sessions combine rugby and football to 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.
The active sessions - with begin with warm-up games like ‘stuck in the mud’ before children split into groups to play rugby and football - provide a wide range of physical health benefits to those children taking part, but they have also identified individual talent for mentoring and leadership programmes which will allow sustainable sporting projects to continue in the area, much to the delight of FAW Trust senior partnership manager Chris Foot.
“We have been really encouraged by the levels of participation and the success of our joint delivery with the WRU at Pill so far," said Foot. "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.”