Craig Butland is positive and proactive promoting sport in community

Craig Butland and children are jumping for joy

The need to promote sport among our younger generation has never been greater.

Craig Butland celebratesIn recent times educational cuts, restricted opportunities and social factors have all amounted to a decline in those prioritising with being active in their school and teenage years.

Which is where the likes of Craig Butland have come in. He’s been working as an Active Young People’s (AYP) officer on behalf of Sport Pembrokeshire and has been both positive and proactive in promoting sport in the community.

He spoke to Pembrokeshire on what his role has thus far entailed, and his hopes for school sport moving forward.

A sporting background

Butland, 25, certainly has past experiences to draw on. Having played football with Hundleton as a youngster, he then joined Pennar Robins and after playing at first team level, was player-manager of the thirds for the 2018/19 campaign. He also helped set up an under 15s side in 2018 – although his own on-field progress was curtailed last November when he ruptured his ACL during a game.

In the summer months, cricket takes priority. He’s been with Pembroke Dock CC for 12 years and has captained both the first and second XI, and was part of the Allan Brown Cup winning team in 2018 that also sealed promotion to Division 2 that season.

From eager volunteer . . .

His involvement with Sport Pembrokeshire however, derived from him doing voluntary work as part of his Foundation Degree in Pembrokeshire College.

“You had to do a certain amount of practical hours,” he explained.

“And for two years, I was given some invaluable opportunities by Rominy Colville to assist with extracurricular activities twice a week at Tasker Milward School. After this, I gained casual employment by Sport Pembrokeshire, which worked out at around two or three hours a week.

“This included working with Additional Learning Needs groups at Taskers alongside Tracy Thomas and Helen Wilcox. I learned so much from them both and will always be grateful.”

. . . To still-keen  staff member

He also worked with cricket community coach Rick Walton and after completing his degree in Physical Education, a role at Sport Pembrokeshire came up.

“I was asked to work as a sports coach two days a week at Taskers and Pembroke School with Wyndham Williams – and that was a foot in the door.

“A couple of years later I had full time work with the department as the Active Young People Officer for Milford Haven School and that’s where I’ve been until now. When I got the job I was delighted and it started to feel like my hard work was paying off.”

Active role for an active officer

Thus far the job has entailed working with targeted groups and developing their focus and skill set – both on and off the sports fields.

“It’s different from teaching PE,” he explained.

“It’s about teaching them to work with others, become socially active, build positive relationships, show respect and manners and so on.

“There is a ‘breakfast club’ run three mornings a week before school that allows children to take part in physical activity prior to school.

“That includes a breakfast bar or a carton of juice, to start their day the right way.

Craig Butland ensures cricket is for all abilities“Lots of extra-curricular work

And I oversee the extracurricular program that includes a variety of sports and activities to give the children plenty of opportunities at break, lunch and after school.

“There is at least two activities at break and three at lunch thanks to the support from the schools WRU Rugby Hub Officer Steve Martin. None of this would not be possible if it was not for the support of a great school and an excellent PE department.

“They do some fabulous work.”

Exciting tournament watched by hundreds

Indeed, Butland also set up a six-a-side Premier League tournament for Years 7, 8 and 9 at the School, that culminated in 300 pupils watching the semi-final and final stages. More recently, he organised the virtual ‘Race Around Schools’ which saw teachers, parents, and pupils alike raise £785 for five local charities.
And he’s grateful to those who have helped him make all the above possible.

“I have had a different journey to most but have learned so much from great people and highly skilled practitioners,” he said.

“I feel like I’ve gone from the bottom and worked hard to be where I am, but with the experiences I have gained my aim is to still progress and not sit back.”

Adapting to change

Like every company of course, Sport Pembrokeshire has had to adapt in recent times. But for Butland and co, while the game has temporarily changed, the workload hasn’t.

“We’ve all been working from home which is new to some of us.

“It was a strange at first. But we’ve focused on developing our social media and getting more people to follow us, and there is a learning zone portal which children and parents can access.

“We also have our own ‘YouTube’ channel now and have been putting activities on there for the children to try from home. I’ve missed working with then pupils who I see day in day out though – Milford is a great school and the amount of stuff we cover is brilliant really.”

Future vision

Butland himself will now take a break from Sport Pembrokeshire and AYP duties, as he’s due to start a PGCE in Bangor University in September.

But the subject of school sport in the county is now one close to his heart, and despite budget constraints he says he hopes authorities recognise the need to invest in it.

“It is vital that opportunities that we as an education service offer remain in place and continue to grow.
“The active status of our young people is so important for their well-being and helps prevent obesity. Some people see sport as just a game but, is more than that.

Vital thoughts for youngsters to take on board

A proud youngster receives his certificate“To any young person reading this, you may not be good at everything, nobody is. However, everyone enjoys something, and if you are still looking for that something then try an activity. Badminton? Swimming? Hockey? Netball? Football? Rugby? Cricket?

“If you are worried about starting something new, think positively. Everyone has to start somewhere and there is always an opportunity out there.”

Like many others though, he has concerns about the impact Covid-19 may have on school sport, and the social interaction it brings.

“The facilities in Pembrokeshire are improving which is great for the county but in terms of what school sport will look like due to Covid restrictions is unknown to us all.

“But I hope it can continue to grow which will enable community clubs to grow participation. However, one thing is for sure after this strange time children will need to be socially active and partaking in activities that will enlighten them in the near future.”

A positive message

As well as his rehabilitation, Butland’s immediate personal focus will centre on his impending degree in Bangor, all be it via online at home to begin with. But he still has a positive message for all sport-loving youngsters, one that he too can resonate with.

“I reflect on my journey, it would have been easy for me to quit playing cricket. To train twice a week, every week and seeing my name as a reserve was tough but 13 years later and I’ve been through the senior set up, and play week in week out in Division Two with great friends. I have a blast on a Saturday after a week of work and enjoy the game.

“That is why school sport is important, keep the opportunities there for everyone to succeed and have a lifelong enjoyment for a sport.”

You can follow Craig and the Sport Pembrokeshire team via their Facebook page, or the @SportPembs handle on Instagram or Twitter. They now also have a ‘YouTube’ channel and a ‘Learning Zone’ for pupils to access different resources and activities that they can participate in at home. To access the channel, click here.