USW mentor helping club to unearth the next generation of Olympics stars

member of Rhymney Valley Athletics Club (RVAC). A USW mentor has helped the club to thrive. Neil Gibson

RVAC is going from strength to strength thanks to support from Brendon Fisher.


AFTER the success of the UK’s athletes at the Rio Olympics, volunteers in South Wales are hoping their efforts will unearth the next generation of medal winners.

And thanks to support from a mentor who was trained at the University of South Wales (USW), officials at Rhymney Valley Athletics Club (RVAC) are challenging their young charges to aim for track and field success. 

Since being revived as a ‘Thriving Club’ by Sport Caerphilly in May 2014, a decade after disbanding, RVAC has gone from having two coaches to a team of 26 coaching staff, 35 young leaders, and 20 other volunteers who have specialist roles to help the club grow to its full potential.

And, under the stewardship of chairperson Ruth Powell, RVAC now has 236 children, between the ages of four and 16, currently on the books, and a waiting list of more than 50.  

The club has managed to build on its strong foundations thanks, in part, to support from mentor Brendon Fisher.

A Gwent Police officer, Brendon was commissioned by USW on behalf of Sport Caerphilly to get involved with the club. To ensure he had the right skills to give the support and advice needed, Brendon attended a mentoring training programme at USW, which involved attending 12 workshops and also supporting mentees at the club.

After submitting a portfolio of evidence about his efforts, Brendon completed the USW Mentoring Programme and became a practising mentor.

Ruth (below with Brendon) said that Brendon’s support has been invaluable, as she and RVAC officials look to further build the club.

Brendan Fisher - USW Mentor - and Ruth Powell, Rhymney Valley Athletic Club. Neil Gibson“We are still growing at a fast pace, and keeping up training and support for everyone is something Brendon and I will work on over the next few months.” Ruth explained.

“Having a strong and skilled committee is also vital, as the workload is huge.

“We created a vision:  We aim to be recognised as the leading athletics club in the region, providing a high quality of coaching experience, from grassroots to elite level.

“We are a vibrant community club committed to promoting excellence in athletics through an inclusive, fun, friendly and safe environment. 

“We support and encourage athletes to reach their full potential through investment in training and the professional development of our team and facilities.

"Our community-based identity is very important to us and we realised early on that it was at risk of being diluted during rapid growth. 

“To mitigate this, we kicked off our strategic planning process by creating a vision and mission statement to ensure that all our development and operational plans aligned with the club's philosophy."

The competitive ethic of the club has seen further development, with the under-11s coming second in a Welsh League meet, and the whole club finishing third out of nine in the competition, only beaten by Cardiff Archers and Cardiff AC.  There are plans to join the Youth Development League next year, which will mean club members travelling to England.

“There’s a lot of pressure to deliver a well-run and professionally organised club, with volunteers covering so many disciplines,” Ruth added.

“We've worked on getting a team of officials qualified and supporting them to get experience on the track. We have another two assistant coaches ready for coach qualification and we are running our own assistant coaching course in September.

“Most of us have now had first aid training too, and have started a team to deal with injuries, so coaches don't have to leave children during the session.

“Brendon has been fantastic support and is always on hand.  His independent advice is gratefully received.

“The mentoring is of great benefit as the club is so new and unique, and it’s very important to keep it going.”

Mel Tuckwell, Course Leader MSc Sports Coaching and Performance and USW Sport Mentoring Lead, said: “We are extremely proud of the USW Sport Mentors that have gone through the training programme as they are having a huge impact on sports clubs, as we are seeing an increase in people taking part in sport.

“Another aspect for the mentors is to help personally develop the volunteer and paid workforce by listening and giving them support where needed.” 

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