Lois Hilling has been long committed to sport in Pembrokeshire

Lois Hilling This month’s Sport Pembrokeshire’s profile focusses in on Sports Development Officer Lois Hilling, who has served sport in our county so well over a number of years.

Lois details how important it is to change the culture of sport and cater for the individual needs of young people by taking steps to reduce inequalities and how Sports Development has itself developed over the years.

Lois takes up the story

“I studied English and Physical Education at The University of Warwick, a world- class university with a vast modern campus and incredible sports facilities where I pursued my interest in gymnastics, hockey and tennis.

“I enjoyed every moment of my undergraduate days, both academic and social, and leaving university was a difficult wrench.

“Whilst doing some supply teaching at Ysgol Greenhill, I was asked to do some tennis coaching for the Sports Development team in the then South Pembrokeshire District Council and so began my work in Sports Development.

“Initially myself, Robert Tweed, John Deason and Carol Howard were a small team and today that team has quadrupled in size.

Still enjoying her role even more now

“As Sports Development Officer I plan and develop quality, inclusive sporting opportunities and I enjoy my role now even more than I did back then.

“The Sports Development section in Pembrokeshire County Council is professional, motivated and fun and I feel privileged to work with such an amazing team.

“It seems inconceivable now but in the early years of being a Sports Development Officer I would visit clubs and schools and attempt to persuade staff and volunteers that children should play on small pitches, with small goals and a smaller ball.

Loved being involved in huge changes

“Children as young as eight were still playing on full size pitches with full size equipment and getting one touch of the ball each game!

“The suggestion of one child, one ball for training was often met with resistance and it has been my job to help elicit change.

“Closing the gender gap has always been important to Sport Pembrokeshire. Setting up the first women’s football league in Pembrokeshire with the likes of Deborah John, Bethan Jones and Gerry Rigby seemed ground-breaking at the time and there were so many barriers to overcome with regard to female participation.

“Progress has been made but we still need to work hard to ensure girls sport is treated equitably. Resources must be allocated on the basis of need in order to attempt to adequately level the playing field.

Aware of sponsorship opportunities

“My work with Olympic athlete Lynn Davies on the Sport Wales ‘Sportsmatch’ panel taught me the importance of commercial sponsorship in sport.

“The part Sport Pembrokeshire plays in encouraging the commercial sponsorship of sport in Pembrokeshire has been important and working with most notably, Phil Thompson, Jane James and Steven Thornton (Valero) on projects such as the Sport Pembrokeshire Awards, has shown how the public and private sectors can work together to support the voluntary sector.

Disability Sport so vital

“I have had the privilege to collaborate closely with Disability Sport Wales and the opportunity to work with three amazing Pembrokeshire Disability Sport Officers; Rebecca Evans, Sian Bowen and our current officer Angela Miles. 

“Sport for disabled people has seen a tremendous culture change: however, there are still mountains to be climbed. Disabled people want to take part in sport in a range of ways – with non-disabled participants and/or with other people with disabilities.

Individuals should be able to choose and change how they participate and to have the opportunity not only to participate as athletes but also as coaches, volunteers and leaders within schools and clubs.

Staff development a keynote feature . . .

The development of new professional Sports Development staff is important and it is a pleasure to see new staff and leaders, particularly those coming through from our own Young Ambassador Scheme.

There is a recognition now that you don’t need to be a first class athlete to be a good Sports Development professional and that those who struggled with PE as youngsters and embrace the benefits when older provide important and valuable insight.  

. . . And so is using our wonderful coastline

Living in Pembrokeshire it is part of our role to introduce young people to our incredible landscape with its beautiful coastline.

The children of Pembrokeshire are lucky to be able to do their sport and physical activity in such a remarkable county.

As a family surfing, sailing, climbing, swimming, cycling and walking are part of our everyday lives but many children in our county are not given the opportunity to participate.

Sport Pembrokeshire is acutely aware of the part they play in encouraging children to make the most of our spectacular natural environment.

Working with volunteers is a Lois favourite

A favourite part of my role is working with all the remarkable voluntary clubs in Pembrokeshire. Clubs give young people a sense of belonging, a connection to a wider community.

Children learn resilience, leadership, respect, patience and accountability. Often families take part together and people develop a lifelong enjoyment of sport. Clubs are all about the people and having excellent and valued volunteers can develop strong and inclusive clubs.

The moment a child walks into a new club is so important and a friendly welcoming environment is essential. Sport Pembrokeshire works with clubs to advance the notion that every young person has talents and is entitled to a meaningful place in a sports club.