Bath Rugby Foundation prides itself on the quality of its coaches – who are more than just coaches, they are mentors. That’s why we are delighted that two of our team are up for awards at this year’s Bath Chronicle Sports Awards; Caryl Thomas for Sports Personality of the Year and Becks Toan for Coach of the Year
Sports Personality of the Year – Caryl Thomas
Caryl Thomas is Programme Manager at Bath Rugby Foundation and has also won 38 caps at prop. This year she lined up for her third World Cup after representing Wales in 2010 and 2014. Wales were drawn into Pool A consisting of three tough games, facing top ranked teams New Zealand (2nd in the World), Canada (3rd) and Hong Kong, an unknown team and a new country to the competition.
For Caryl as a non professional sports player, the commitment is huge. It meant completing long working days inspiring vulnerable young people to succeed with Bath Rugby Foundation followed by driving to Cardiff for training every Tuesday and Thursday, early gym sessions, missing family occasions such as weddings and birthday parties, all to be selected to put on the Welsh shirt. And all with a smile on her face!
Wales overcame Ireland and Hong Kong to gain a spot in the play offs, securing their best World Cup Position so far. Caryl, a prop, even scored a try!
Caryl gives her all to the community here in Bath, having attended the university herself. She coaches the ladies rugby team at the University, takes part in sessions with Good Gym Bath – visiting elderly people to keep them company, all the while carrying our her role as Programme Development and Impact Manager at Bath Rugby Foundation. Caryl has worked for the Foundation for the last 10 years. She has been instrumental in setting up our inclusion work which sees people with disabilities given the opportunity to play rugby. She is a brilliant coach and the children love her. Alongside this she is passionate about employability and helping young unemployed people to find the confidence and life skills to get back on their feet. Her passion for rugby is palpable – she must have gotten thousands of local young people in to the sport over her time with the Foundation and that is hugely admirable.
Caryl has been involved with Wales Rugby since she was just 16 and has carried that on during her time in Bath. She is an inspiration to her students and to our team and she deserved to be recognised.
Coach of the Year – Becks Toan
Becks Toan is a Senior Foundation Coach at Bath Rugby Foundation. Becks started her journey on one of the Foundation’s unemployment programmes. She has now worked her way up to the role of Senior Inclusion Coach and has recently launched B&NES first Mixed Ability Rugby team called Walcot Warriors. Mixed Ability Rugby sees able bodied players play alongside people with physical or learning disabilities. There are a number of teams emerging in the UK and our ambition is for the team to take part in tournaments and the world championships next year.
Becks has spent the last twelve months delivering sessions to people with disabilities across B&NES and Wiltshire. She has purposefully embedded herself in the inclusion community, reaching hundreds of people and sharing the confidence building power of sport with people who otherwise wouldn’t get to take part. Thanks to her excellent network and brilliant coaching sessions, Becks was able to set up the Walcot Warriors this Summer and already has 20 young people with disabilities regularly training with the squad. Come rain or shine, the team are always there and the feedback has been excellent.
Becks has also thought about how to engage the wider Bath community with the Mixed Ability Rugby and got in touch with the Bath Spartans, a touch rugby team made up of former participant of the Foundation’s Move Like a Pro programme, who are now volunteering at the sessions as facilitators. It’s amazing to see the impact the programme is having on everyone involved.
One of the Mixed Ability squad, Dean Cole, who is a big football fan, has seen his allegiances switch to rugby over the past few weeks. Dean’s mum, Kim Cole, said “Dean has attended mixed ability rugby for the last 3 weeks and in his own words, “It’s awesome!”. Watching him from the sidelines, I’ve never seen Deano so focused and wearing the biggest smile. Deano literally can’t wait for the sessions and playing a real team in the Bath Spartans was just the best. Deano has experienced the magic of rugby, teaching him teamwork and learning to trust his fellow players. An amazing life skill to learn in a fun and healthy way. Becks and the team are giving advice and support to Deano so he succeeds. Dean now says he wants to play rugby forever!”
Becks’ growth and development from Foundation participant, to volunteer, to coach has been inspiring to see. She has really found her feet in disability rugby coaching and she now says she can’t imagine every doing anything different. She is so proud of how far she has come, and the Foundation are too!