It's official: UK School Games scouts for refs too
Talent scouts watching the nation's finest young athletes were on the hunt for future coaches and referees as well as pure sporting prowess when Wales played host to the UK School Games last week.
Pupils as young as 12 travelled across the country hoping to defeat their peers in one of 10 sports, including judo, fencing and swimming.
The events were held in Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, where participants lived, trained and performed alongside their competitors.
Sarah Powell, head of performance and excellence at the Sports Council for Wales, said the Olympic-style experience was a first for many young people.
"It's a multi-sport event at a very professional standard, with an opening and closing ceremony," she said. "You're mixed with athletes in a village who have different ways of training and developing and they can be very good role models."
She said the event would broaden the horizons of young athletes.
"We're hoping to develop young people as coaches and sporting officials such as referees and umpires of school age. Fencing and hockey have been particularly good at this, but it's a challenge to make sure that we give young people a rounded experience of organising and managing, as well as playing."
Anne Hamilton, head of people and programme development at the sports council, said it was vital that young people learn about the many different facets of sport.
"At an event like this, they learn about the people side of things like team management - how to motivate people and pick them up when they're not performing as well as they could. Talent scouts will be watching and events like these give us a huge groundswell from which we can pick up the most talented ones."
Ms Hamilton said schools were good at identifying sporting potential and encouraging youngsters to make the most of their skills.
Talent scouts visited Y Pant Comprehensive in Rhondda Cynon Taf several years ago and encouraged some children to take up volleyball. They have since competed at the UK School Games and other national competitions.
Dai Mortimer, head of PE, said the role of teachers in extra-curricular activities was becoming more of an "overseer" as pupils learnt to coach and challenge each other.
"With the new PE curriculum at A-level, there's more of an emphasis on coaching and officiating and it's being introduced at GCSE as well," he said. "It's now becoming more standard for kids to have a go at coaching and refereeing in schools.
"It lets teachers see pupils who are not academic in a different light. When they see them after class-coaching a team, they are a role model for younger pupils and they have a responsibility that they wouldn't have had otherwise."