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Student Takes Over Local Sports Centre with a Vision to Create a Community Hub

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A Rural Enterprise Management student from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s Carmarthen Business School has recently taken over a local sports centre in the Gwendraeth Valley with a vision to develop it for the community and to create a community hub.

This opportunity came across Kelly Lewis – Bennett from Tumble when she was offered to take over Canolfan Carwyn Sports Centre in Drefach. Kelly’s involvement with Canolfan Carwyn first began as a committee member with Baton Twirling Association Cymru (BTAC).

Kelly said,

“The reason why we took over Canolfan Carwyn, was because our members did not have a home to train in. Covid has been hard for all community sports, so this was something we focused on. This meant that our members would have a home and wouldn’t have to struggle.”

Kelly’s daughter is a keen member of the club and was granted elite athlete status from Sports Wales last year. Kelly said:

“We really struggled for a hall for her. Because she was given this elite athlete status, it didn’t necessarily mean that she could train, because we still struggled to find a hall that would allow her to train. Even during those hard times during covid, she couldn’t do anything. She was training in car parks – and we had to think about that and about our other members too, we had to find somewhere for our members to support them more, and Canolfan Carwyn came.”

As restrictions eased, the club started training in Canolfan Carwyn, and as members started to settle in their new location, Kelly and the club started to develop a few things here and there that impressed the sports centre executives.

She adds:

“They told me you don’t need to do all of this, it’s not up to you. Then we started talking, and they asked us if we’d like to take it over, and I thought to myself, I think I can do this.”

Currently, Kelly and her team is responsible for managing the centre from taking bookings to managing staff. Her vision is to develop the centre to be accessible for community sport.

“A community hub for us is to help promote community sport, but not just community sport it’s about health and wellbeing. We get to see a lot of opportunities for the older generation to get them back to a healthy lifestyle after covid. We want to support the dance schools; the possibilities are endless!”

Kelly decided to study at UWTSD as a way to develop herself and as a way to increase her skill set. “I love everything about UWTSD. I love learning, I love the relationships that we build, not just with the people that are on the same course as you, but your lecturers as well – it’s amazing! The support here is second to none. I finished school, I didn’t have any GCSE’s, I had nothing. I had children at 20, and thought I was going to be just a mum for the rest of my life. The University has changed me. I never thought I’d enjoy learning as much as I do.”

The skills that Kelly’s learned whilst studying at UWTSD have helped her achieve her dream.

“The course has given me confidence more than anything else. I never thought I’d be able to manage with the university course, let alone managing a sports centre!

“The course has helped me with the management process. It’s taught me the steps you need to take to develop somewhere and manage a place, the responsibility that’s involved, and how you manage that responsibility. It's taught me about values and community values… everything really has come from my university course.”

Lecturer Jessica Shore is proud of Kelly’s achievement and wishes her well for the future.

“We are incredibly proud of Kelly and her achievements. Kelly has been a fantastic student throughout her time with us. With her degree coming to a close and already having a career plan in place that includes giving back to the community is a testament to her dedication, character and community values.  We would like to wish you all the very best for the future and we look forward to visiting your centre soon.”

As Kelly wants to give back to her community, she hopes that Canolfan Carwyn under her management will be able to support as many community groups as possible, and after she graduates, she hopes to invest her time to pursue this.

“There’s lots of stuff to do here, it’s still early days at the moment, and even though it’s going really well, and we’re gaining loads of interest. We’ve increased usage just within three months of doing this. I’d love to bring as many opportunities as I can to here to the community, and to the wider community.”