Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” The sentiment is a powerful one, and today's world and society could learn a lot from it. And when we see these words put into action to help people and communities at a level that's way beyond the call of duty, it should act as inspiration for us to do the same at whatever level we’re able to. Well, the story of how an entrepreneurial Rhondda success story got behind an idea to see Rhondda’s young female athletes go toe-to-toe with the best of domestic netball in Wales, is one of those inspiring moments!
I’ve been fortunate to have had a few of these moments along this journey and none stick in my mind more than my first meeting with Gerald & Emma Leeke at the end of 2016. Their heart and generosity helped turn Rhondda Netball from idea to reality. But my first meeting with Dave & Darren (pictured above) at Riskmonitor, about a vision for the RCT Rockets built off the platform of Rhondda Netball, was a little different to this, but no less monumental! The main difference was that Dave was actually involved in the Treorchy Rugby Club “Dream” years with my Dad all the way back in the 1990’s (!!) and both of Darren’s daughters have been part of Rhondda Netball since they were 8 years old!!! It was obviously a great scene-setter because straight away they knew there was substance behind the information my Dad and I had sent them ahead of time. But even so, a sponsorship request that would rank as one of the biggest in netball in Wales, still felt like a long shot! But as soon as we got talking, I knew that a potential partnership was about much more than a sponsorship/advertising deal for them. It was about making a difference in Rhondda and giving Rhondda's girls and women the same sporting opportunities that males have enjoyed for many years.
I knew Dave & Darren were generous guys, and I also knew that their journey to succeed in business over the last 20 years had equipped them with the kind of experience and perspective you only get through blood, sweat and tears. We hoped their entrepreneurial spirit would see something in our vision for the RCT Rockets that would encourage them to be the catalysts for something that’s not been seen in female sport in Rhondda since the glory days of the Rhondda Rebels. It speaks volumes that not only did they want to go beyond our expectations for the RCT Rockets, they also wanted to support the Rhondda Netball charity by becoming the official sponsor of the RCT Netball League, which this year, will be home to over 60 netball teams across six age groups! It demonstrated their heart for Rhondda and their desire to truly make a difference! I know I speak for everyone in the RCT Rockets teams and all the girls and women involved in Rhondda Netball too, when I say how grateful we are to them and to everyone at Riskmonitor for getting behind us.
Every idea needs a spark and I’m confident the RCT Rockets, thanks to Dave, Darren and Riskmonitor, now has a chance to do something remarkable over the next few years. Of course, I can’t be absolutely certain, but a lot has happened since the day I shared a plan for Rhondda Netball, and I really feel like there’s another chapter ready to be written in this story.
Pioneering something means you need pioneers, and I’m reminded of the time I spent as a young teenager in Rhondda Schools Rugby in the years after the Treorchy RFC “Dream” had morphed into the all-conquering community initiative. I hung on every word Chris Jones spoke, hungry to follow his lead as he, with the backing of the late and great Bernard Jones OBE, urged us to believe that we “ordinary” Rhondda boys could take on the likes of Cardiff, Swansea, Bridgend, Llanelli… and win! After losing an Under 13’s match to Cardiff Schools 80-5 it all seemed pretty impossible. But when we held aloft the Dewar Shield barely two years later, having beaten Cardiff in the semi-finals and Swansea in the final, I learnt that hard work, dedication and great leadership could overcome any mountain.
So… Rhondda girls… how about you? Do you believe like I do? Do you believe like Jess & Jody do? Do you believe like Darren and Dave do? Well, you better believe, because the ship has left the dock and we’re so far out at sea that there's no turning back now!
But before we set the engines to full steam ahead for 2019/20, I had the chance to catch up with Darren & Dave at Riskmonitor HQ when we took some of our girls and coaches down for a photo. And as you can imagine, I was excited to get their take on the significant part they're about to play in both Rhondda Netball and the vision for the RCT Rockets.
“With two girls who live and breathe Rhondda Netball, I’ve seen first-hand the amazing impact the programme is having on so many girls in Rhondda” said Riskmonitor Executive Director, Darren James. “So when we saw the materials you sent over and your vision for the RCT Rockets, it was a no brainer for us. We’re eager to play our part and we’re hoping that our support, expertise and experience will help push things to a new level. It’s a massive vision, but Dave and I have been encouraged by the passion and commitment that's going to be key to changing the norm for Rhondda’s
next generation of sportswomen.”
Darren's co-Director, Dave Dean, was equally optimistic, “I love big vision,” he said with a smile. “It’s why I loved being involved in the Dream alongside Phil in those heady days in the 1990’s. Not many believed Treorchy could take on the big clubs in the top division of Welsh rugby, but it only takes a few people with the right attitude, skills and character, and anything is possible. We’ve been delighted with the way Rhondda Netball has fought for change over its first few years and we’re extremely excited by the potential the RCT Rockets initiative has. Developing leaders is a passion of mine, and I’ve no doubt that the focus on the next generation of female leaders and coaches will pave the way for a successful future.”
So, strap in for a great 2019/20… it’s time to fly!!
by Lawrie Davies, Managing Director, RCT Rockets