Sport is for everybody.

Irrespective of age, gender, size, ability, or any other factors, the opportunities for both youngsters and adults to participate in individual or team activities should always be available. And getting fit with a physical disability should not be daunting either.

In Pembrokeshire, this ethos is now actively applied and the figure central to that is Angela Miles, our county’s Disability Sport Development Officer.

Since taking up the role in 2006, she has been pivotal in raising the profile and increasing the range of activities in disability sport, and as a result participation numbers have rocketed. Even this year, throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, work has been ongoing - albeit virtually at times.

And Angela, herself a talented hockey player before going into coaching, spoke to Telegraph Sport about her mission to ensure disabled people can have lifelong enjoyment of physical activity.

Dishing out stick:

Like many of her colleagues, Angela’s association with sport in Pembrokeshire goes beyond the workplace.

And as mentioned, it’s the astroturf at Fishguard which continues to consume much of her spare time, even after her own playing days were curtailed by injury.

“I played at school and was part of the group that set up Fishguard Ladies Hockey Club almost 36 years ago,” she recalled.

“In 2004 I snapped my Achilles Tendon playing and had to have surgery and three months of work. I did go back to play for a couple of seasons but my other Achilles started to weaken and I decided to hang up my stick and retire.”

Retire from playing that is.

“I am still very involved at the club, I train the juniors and umpire for the ladies on a Saturday.

“The club is now called Fishguard and Goodwick Hockey as we have a men’s team too.  They were looking forward to starting their first competitive season in the South West Wales League but this is now on hold due to Covid-19.

“But I will also help to umpire the men’s home games when they can get going.”

Learning the ropes:

Angela’s journey to becoming Disability Sport Officer began whilst working at Ysgol Wdig as a learning support assistant. For eight years she supported Sian Jones, who is now an international boccia player.

It was a sign of things to come.

“I then went to Fishguard Secondary School to continue supporting Sian and when she left to go to Pembrokeshire College, I remained in school and became a co-ordinator for a group of sixth form pupils with additional learning needs (ALN).

“With my passion for sport I set up lunch time multi sports club for the pupils with ALN. While at Fishguard I also coached the girl’s hockey teams and went to all matches with them as a volunteer.”

In the meantime, Angela continued to enhance her qualifications, completing a pilot foundation degree in Education and Social Inclusion at Trinity St David’s In Carmarthen.

And then came an opportunity she knew she would relish.

“With my experiences as an LSA and my hockey, together with a passion that sport is for everyone, I was successful in obtaining my current role as Disability Sport Officer for Pembrokeshire in 2006. 

“John Deason was the Manager at Sport Pembrokeshire then and he supported me to continue my studies and I gained my BA in Education and Social Inclusion a year later.”

Setting golden standards:

Angela’s post is mainly funded by Disability Sport Wales (DSW), who have an officer in every local authority in the country.

And in her 14 years in the role she’s seen plenty of change, mainly for the better. She also has special memories of one Paralympic athlete in particular.

“I am fortunate to be part of a sector leading organisation and a dynamic work force,” she said.

“When I came into post my work programme involved gymnastics, football, swimming and boccia. 

“At the time, the late Jacob Thomas was 10-years-old and was already part of the DSW regional set up.

“I was tasked with setting up a boccia club which became Crymych Panthers.  It was a priority for me and I was asked to go to Liverpool to the British Championships to learn more about the elite side of the sport.

“Mike (Jacob’s dad), heard I was going and invited me to travel with the family, and this experience had a huge impact on my development with the sport and understanding of athletes with complex needs.”

Jacob, who was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy at birth but went on to compete in the London 2012 Paralympics, sadly died this year aged 25. But his family have always expressed their gratitude for the influence Angela had on his career.

Another turning point came in 2011, when the DSW Insport programme was launched, a scheme to help local authorities, national governing bodies, and sports clubs become more inclusive.

“The growth in Insport has been immense,” said Angela.

“Here in Pembrokeshire we have gone from six clubs on the programme to 44. Only Cardiff has more and given the difference in population, I think we are doing well.

“As a local authority we are now working towards the gold standard of Insport.”

As part of this plan, Angela recently oversaw some consultation to identify the gaps in inclusive physical activity in Pembrokeshire. As a result, pledges have been made to focus on a leadership programme for pupils and students with a learning disability; a new Insport club directory; 0-6 years provision; the transition from primary to secondary school; the transition from secondary school to college; further development of the Learn to Swim Programme.

Supporting the schools and community:

Angela’s role involves working with both children and adults, and unsurprisingly she says investment in both school and community sport is paramount.

“Not everyone is born with a disability, some people acquire them,” she said.


“This can be at any age and sport can be a great tool to help recovery.


“DSW have developed a product called Admiral Play Together, which is a disability inclusion programme aimed at year five in primary school. This interactive course helps to find out what knowledge pupils already have on inclusive sport and provides ideas on adapting physical activity to include pupils with an impairment. “


Every secondary school in Pembrokeshire currently has four sports wheelchairs to use in inclusive physical education. In Sport Pembrokeshire, the Active Young People team arrange community sport events and thus far, with real success.


“It was at such an event that Libi Phillips first tried a sports wheelchair and now she is captain of the Wales Under 15 Wheelchair Basketball team and has also represented her country in Wheelchair Rugby and Wheelchair Racing.


“Pembrokeshire Leisure also provide the facility for our annual Insport series event, which started at Haverfordwest and due to the growth of inclusive sport opportunities moved to a bigger facility at Pembroke to allow the use of outdoor space.


“The series is sponsored by Snowdrop Independent Living and allows Pembrokeshire clubs to showcase their inclusivity and allow both children and adults a chance to try a sport and join a local club.  The volunteer workforce at these clubs are amazing and all work extremely hard to deliver and promote these opportunities.”


Getting back up and running:


Of course, Angela and co had little option but to adapt this March when Covid-19 began to wreak havoc. And they did so via a number of online initiatives.


“We developed an online platform called Sport Pembrokeshire Learning Zone for schools through Hwb - with videos and resources on how to keep active at home.

“Through DSW, the Insport Series went online and offered 72 activities over four events across Wales.


“The Pembrokeshire Schools’ Cross Country event is one of our biggest events of the year, and we will still be having it next month, with schools’ recording times and filming at their school and sharing this virtually.


“Sport is slowly restarting, but there has been a huge impact on individuals with a disability - and the return to sport for them has been much slower.  For many of these with a learning disability or autism, especially adults, their routine has just stopped and they seem to be given the least priority.”


Continuing to improve:

As far as Pembrokeshire has come with disability sport, Angela readily acknowledges there is more work to be done.

“We are in a good place here with the range of inclusive physical opportunities available to people, and by addressing certain points this can only improve.

“We are now in a position where a pupil with an impairment is identified to us at Sport Pembrokeshire at a very young age.

“We also have the mechanism through a system where health professionals can signpost us individuals, when recovering from an acquired disability. Children are growing up accepting differences in individuals and schools are more confident in including pupils with an impairment in physical education.”

And lessons have been learnt from her own experiences.

“When I look back to supporting Sian in school, during her PE lessons she used to catch up on work she had missed whilst having physiotherapy.

“If I had the knowledge and understanding I have now, I would not have allowed that to happen. 

“We have come a very long way but we aren’t quite there yet - inclusion is a journey and I am convinced that we ae going in the right direction here in Pembrokeshire, concentrating on what an individual ‘can’ do.

“Our mission in DSW is to ensure that disabled people are as likely to have a lifelong enjoyment of physical activity (including sport) as non-disabled people.”

It’s a mission that Angela continues to give everything towards, and also enhance by broadening the range of sporting activities available to disabled people.

In Pembrokeshire these days, sport really is for everybody.