BBC Unsung Hero 2013: Dionne Jones inspires women's rugby

Rugby coach an 'inspiration' to girls

Coach Dionne Jones, who brought women's rugby to Minehead, has been named BBC West Sport's Unsung Hero for 2013.

In four years, the 32-year-old transformed the predominantly-male Minehead Barbarians club to include successful women's and junior teams.

Jones, a mother of four, also worked to secure £100,000 worth of new facilities to accommodate the increase number of players at the west Somerset club.

"I love making a difference," she told BBC Points West.

"I love that little feeling I get that maybe, if it wasn't for me, they wouldn't be here. They might just be sat at home.

"I look around and everyone is enjoying themselves. The coaches I work with have done such a good job.

"I don't think I really had a grand vision, it was only that there weren't many children playing.

"I could see that by making it fun, the children would play quite a lot. They come away from here this big person because they've grown in confidence."

Jones now coaches tag rugby to boys and girls under eight, and there can be 300 children, plus parents, at the club on a Sunday.

She has also set up the girls' under-nines to under-15s age groups, who she takes to tournaments across the county, and has visited every primary school in the region to highlight the sport.

As well as the juniors, Jones also runs the women's team, which currently has 30 members.

She was nominated for the Unsung Hero award by England and Bristol full-back Danielle Waterman, who used to be a junior with the Barbarians.

"It's unbelievable the amount she's doing for not only the club, but for female sport in Minehead," said Waterman.

"I've got so many fond memories of the Barbarians and they were at the heart of creating my opportunity to excel in the sport.

"If some of these girls can go on and do that, it would be brilliant. But just having them involved is great, too."

And Jones herself hopes she has inspired women and girls to challenge gender stereotypes in the sport.

"When we first started the girls team, we never said to them: 'Come along and we'll teach you how to tackle and ruck'. It was always about fitness.

"But once we got the girls here they were asking to tackle and ruck and they love it. They don't mind if they get dirty.

"Hopefully it helps them with their fitness, their body image and their confidence. It means they're part of something.

"School life can be hard for a teenage girl and knowing that you've got your team who will look after you is great."

Jones will now go forward for the national award, which will be presented at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year event in Leeds on Sunday, 15 December.

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