Ieuan Coombes is a perfect example of how sport can shape any individual’s life whilst overcoming perceived barriers that may have prevented him from participating.
Although having Cerebral Palsy may be seen as a barrier to participation, Ieuan has grown up with a passion and love for sport that enabled him to enjoy it like every other young person should.
From a young age he was part of numerous non-disabled sports clubs, enjoying the environment and developing relationships that have contributed to his outgoing, sociable personality. His engagement with non-disabled clubs was predominantly positive, however as he progressed within the clubs, he found that the more complex skills became a challenge. They were often unsuitable for Ieuan and his disability, which limited his progression and restricted his participation.
However, these restrictions were soon eliminated when, at the age of 7, Ieuan joined Gwent Dragons Community Club, which provided multisport sessions for disabled young people. Here he became involved in sports that were specific or adapted for disabled people, such as boccia, shot putt and even running. Not only was this where Ieuan’s natural sporting prowess became apparent, but it was also Ieuan’s first realisation that he could challenge his disability through the power of sport.
As a result of attending Gwent Dragons sessions, Ieuan was invited to the Disability Sport Wales Academy by Coach Jane Coia. He regularly trained and competed in athletics – winning the UK School Games in 2009/10 and attending the German Open in 2010, competing in both shot put and discus. However, Ieuan believes that this was more than just the beginning of an elite sporting career, “This is where I gained my initial knowledge around sports development. I could see first-hand what career opportunities were out there in sport, and I just knew that’s what I wanted to do. It gave inroads for a career and provided me with a goal outside of elite performance”, he said.
At the age of 15, Ieuan’s school required him to complete a week of work experience. He discussed his goals with a Careers Advisor, who responded with the suggestion that perhaps a career less physically demanding than that of a Sports Development Officer may be more suitable, i.e. “a desk job”. These attitudes were very prevalent amongst different individuals Ieuan came across. He insists that they are the key challenges that needed overcoming as a sporting disabled person. He says, “It’s not necessarily my impairment that created barriers and challenges, but it’s the attitudes of others”. He knew he was capable of achieving a career in sport and so, pursued a week’s work experience with Mark Foster, Disability Sports Wales Development Officer for Monmouthshire.
Ieuan has continued to strive toward achieving his aim of reaching a career in sport, and is now completing his degree in BSC Sports Development at Cardiff Metropolitan University.
He also volunteers regularly which he believes has been crucial in developing life skills. From the age of 16 he volunteered for Monmouthshire Sports Development, but more recently has become a disabled ambassador for Inclusive Futures - a leadership and volunteering initiative for young people, with a special emphasis on inclusion. Here, Ieuan has been able to convey his knowledge gained through volunteering around leadership and inclusive activity, to young people who share the same passion for inclusive activity and participation.
Opportunities like the Inclusive Futures initiative have confirmed Ieuan’s sporting career aspirations. He says, “I have been lucky enough to see how I can make a difference to young people’s lives, and I am now even more passionate about doing so. I’ve not only gained a diverse range of skills that can be adapted to suit everyone’s needs, but I’ve also created valuable networks that will be influential in providing knowledge around future job opportunities”.
This is a clear example of how sport can be so beneficial to a young person, whether it be at community grassroots level; like Gwent Dragon’s Community Club, at elite competition level; like Disability Sport Wales Academy, within education; like gaining a sports degree, on a voluntary basis; like Inclusive Futures; or even on a career level; like Sports Development. Ieuan has shown how a drive and passion for sport has overcome challenges and provided endless opportunities, becoming a fantastic role model for other young people in the process.
“Sport and volunteering has shaped my life”, he says.
This story supports the following 2026 objectives:
Get 75% of young people and young adults hooked on sport
Positively target the participation gap within inequality
Deliver a sporting pathway to become a nation of champions