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Together Fund helps set Dylan on amazing journey

Seventeen-year-old Dylan is set to complete a remarkable journey from serving a sentence inside HMP & YOI Parc to returning through the gates as a trainee rugby coach. 

Dylan is one of 40 young people (so far) to have benefited from a project run by the charity Rugbyworks inside Parc in Bridgend and Oak Hill Secure Training Centre in Milton Keynes since March. 

The Rugbyworks rugby sessions in Parc contribute towards participants’ Level 1 and 2 Sports Leaders qualifications and in turn form part of achieving their Duke of Edinburgh bronze award. The project also features employability training, mental health support and one-to-one mentoring. 

Both Parc and Oak Hill programmes are part of the Levelling the Playing Field project and are funded by the Alliance of Sport successfully applying to Sport England’s Together Fund on their behalf. Rugbyworks received £6000 – and that funding has impacted on Dylan in a hugely profound way. 

Dylan loved the weekly Rugbyworks sessions and expressed an interest in getting involved in coaching. For the last few months of his sentence, he worked alongside Rugbyworks coaching staff, helping to plan and deliver sessions. 

He began leading rugby sessions on his own for his fellow residents. Parc’s Communities, Partnerships and Enrichment Manager, Jamie Williams, said: “The boys in here are not always that easy to control, but Dylan had them in the palm of his hand!” 

Jamie and Rugbyworks’ Programmes Manager for Wales, Dan Ley, floated the idea of Dylan joining Rugbyworks as a trainee after his release and arranged for him to attend a Rugbyworks conference whilst out on ROTL. There, he gave a speech and met Rugbyworks’ founder, the 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Lawrence Dallaglio. 

Back in Parc, Jamie and Dan helped prepare Dylan for his interview for the trainee role, even buying him a shirt and tie. Dylan did a video diary in the build-up to his interview and was permitted special internet access to do some preparation. 

As he read up on Rugbyworks, one day he said to Jamie, ‘Could I actually end up doing this as a job?’ When Jamie said yes, he became emotional and said, ‘Things like this don’t happen to people like me.’ 

Dylan has now finished his sentence and has started his six-month traineeship which includes working towards his UKCC Level 1 coaching qualification. It is hoped he will also attend college to do an additional sports course. 

Rugbyworks and Jamie have also arranged for him to play for Vardre Rugby Club in Swansea and trial for prestigious invitational side Crawshays RFC in January. 

By next March, Dan and Jamie hope Dylan will be ready to start leading coaching sessions in the community, before then completing his ‘full circle’ journey by returning to Parc to deliver Rugbyworks programmes in custody. 

“For us, Rugbyworks, Levelling the Playing Field and for Dylan, this is absolutely huge,” said Jamie. “We are absolutely thrilled for him. There have been a few ups and downs along the way, as with any young person, but he has thrown himself into the programme and he is not afraid of hard work. We are so proud of him.” 

Dan added: “This couldn’t have happened without the Together Fund money we received through Levelling the Playing Field. It makes such a difference because it enables us to say, ‘Right we’re definitely going to be able to deliver in this place for a set amount of time.’ 

“That security means we can allocate two coaches to that programme and cover delivery for the rest of the year. It enables us to commit to that cohort, that facility and those young people. When you see outcomes as amazing as Dylan’s, you know that money has been well spent.”