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How school sport helped Bethan Lewis get to the Rugby World Cup

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Bethan Lewis will throw everything into beating Australia this weekend – including all the skills she learned at sports clubs across Carmarthenshire.

The Wales rugby player is currently in New Zealand, part of the squad that will take on the Aussies on Saturday in a bid to make the World Cup quarter-finals.

The 23-year-old has become an integral part of the Wales set-up, who is set to win her 32nd cap for her country on Saturday, but she firmly believes it was the variety of sports she experienced as a girl that gave her so many valuable life lessons.

That is why she encourages girls to try as many different activities as possible and was concerned to hear that fewer children are doing sport outside of their PE lessons compared to four years ago.

“It’s really disappointing to hear that the School Sport Survey is showing activity levels have dropped,” says Bethan, who plays for Gloucester, but hails from Abergwili in Carmarthenshire.

“I was really fortunate in that my parents drove me around to different places to do different sports. But maybe that option just isn’t there for lots of young people at the moment, so it’s important sport is made more accessible now. 

“It’s all about opportunity.”

Bethan went to Nantgaredig Primary and then attended Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bro Myrddin in Carmarthen.

She played a number of different sports and although rugby is now her profession as a contracted player with the Welsh Rugby Union, in her younger days, variety was the spice of her life.

“I played a lot of different sports growing up,” says the former Carmarthen Quins player, who even represented Great Britain at the world junior surf championships.

Bethan Lewis passing the ball in training
Bethan Lewis played a number of different sports before becoming a professional rugby player.
I tried a variety of stuff which has certainly helped me to get to where I am now. If you have a broad understanding of different sports, then you have a wider set of skills and that improves you in any sport.
Bethan Lewis, Wales Back Rower

Bethan benefited from the extra-curricular sports that her school offered as part of Sport Wales’ 5x60 programme, which aimed to help children achieve 60 minutes of exercise, five times a week.

Bethan explained: “I played football at lunchtime and then took part in other sports clubs after school, including girls’ rugby and athletics. Then, outside of school, I was fortunate in that my parents were very supportive in enabling me to try different sports.

“So, I was also able to try athletics and tennis and also table tennis.

“I tried a variety of stuff which has certainly helped me to get to where I am now. If you have a broad understanding of different sports, then you have a wider set of skills and that improves you in any sport.

“I threw shot put and discuss with Carmarthen Harriers, along with playing football and rugby.

“I worked with different coaches too, so you learn different ways of taking on information. You also get a broader physical learning, so I look back and realise I was very fortunate.”

Parents, teachers, volunteers and coaches have all inspired and influenced Bethan, with support from one particular person proving decisive on her journey to professional rugby. 

When rugby became a divided activity, it meant she was no longer training with boys - something she felt had enabled her to progress her own game.

Later on in her school days, the Rugby Development Officer, Aled Griffiths got her back into some training with the boys – developing her strength and conditioning in the same gym sessions as them.

“In my last years in Bro Myrddin, Aled Griffiths really supported me with one-on-one sessions and he let me do gym with the boys. No other teacher had let me do that, so he really supported me.”

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