Last shall be first in sports scheme
Non-athletic primary teachers who were always picked last for netball and baseball teams at school are training to become sports coaches.
A scheme that trains teachers of all sporting abilities to coach young athletes is helping them to confront their playground fears of physical education lessons. It is also hoped their new-found confidence and knowledge will help them to motivate and mentor pupils who show a natural ability in the sporting arena, possibly creating Olympians for London 2012.
National-lottery funded Dragon Sport has developed the coaching scheme for teachers across south Wales. Co-ordinator Yvonne Hughes and her team of helpers teach basic skills, such as cricket and athletics, to primary teachers and volunteer parents using a handy resource pack.
In Cardiff, 72 schools are now part of the scheme, which aims to link them with sports clubs at grass-roots level. The primary school where former world champion hurdler Colin Jackson ran his first race is the latest recruit to the scheme.
Springwood primary in Llanedeyrn, Cardiff, has set up an after-school athletics club. Funded by Dragon Sport, the school has bought foam javelins, mini-hurdles and shortened long-jump pits to encourage younger pupils to take part.
Rachael Smith, Springwood PE co-ordinator, said: "Four of the teaching staff have volunteered to coach at the after-school club.
"The training given to the teachers, who did not previously have athletic backgrounds, was great, very user-friendly and not at all daunting."
The school has formed close links with the Pontprennau Panthers athletics club, so that pupils can develop their abilities outside school.
Colin Jackson was unable to launch the club because he was in Singapore supporting London's Olympic bid. Jamie Baulch, former world indoor 400m champion, took his place and signed autographs for youngsters.
He said: "It's fantastic to be involved in a scheme which encourages more young people to get involved in sport. With the focus on fun, the children will see how enjoyable sport can be and are more likely to stick with it."
Dragon Sport's Yvonne Hughes said: "From the expressions on the children's faces you could tell that they think Jamie Baulch is a fantastic role model. We hope to create more out of this initiative."
Ms Hughes said the scheme was not all about pupils with a natural flair for sport. "It's all about giving teachers confidence and training to pass on basic skills to pupils of all abilities.
"Many of the teachers I have trained hated PE in school. But this does not mean they can't be good coaches and mentors to future sporting stars."
The initiative has attracted the support of other world-renowned athletes such as cyclist Nicole Cooke and Welsh rugby great Scott Gibbs.
Providing essential sporting opportunities to young people was one of the key objectives of the Assembly government's Climbing Higher strategy. In Wales last year, 994 schools and more than 14,000 children took part in Dragon Sport's athletics sessions.