Top tips from Olivia, Centre Assistant, about why you should “Just do it! BE a participant, not a passenger."

By Jodi Hamilton - January 21, 2021

Olivia joined the team at Plas y Brenin recently, as a Centre Assistant, and as a lover of the outdoors, and someone in awe of the reputation the centre holds, it’s something she’s always wanted to do as part of her career aspirations.

In this informal chat, Olivia talks about what makes her tick, her favourite activity, why she likes to have a go and "just do it" - without over thinking it too much; and why her mantra is to be a participant rather than a passenger.

Tells us a funny fact about yourself.

“I turn in to a human water fountain when I roll my kayak!”

Let me explain. I open my mouth when I’m under water in a roll, and when I regain the upright position, I can’t help but squirt the water out. It makes me look like a human fountain. I was told it would stop once I started paddling in naturally cold water, but it hasn’t. It’s become what I’m known for and I get teased by my friends and colleagues. All in good fun.

Do you live locally? Where did you study?

Yes, as a child I lived locally, on the coast at a place called Abergele, North Wales. I went to high school locally and then I attended Llandrillo College and did a BTEC in outdoor activities for 2 years, before going to University at Liverpool John Moores. Liverpool’s a great location for outdoor lovers, it’s within easy distance to the Peak District, Lake District and Snowdonia.

I had four special mates on my uni course, and despite the fact that we’re in different parts of the world now; from France to New Zealand to Wales; we’ve kept in touch. At the time, it was unusual to have five females on the course, but more and more females are joining the outdoor movement and enjoying the opportunities it brings.

I speak Welsh but my pronunciation isn’t the best. I admire the Welsh government for working hard to keep the culture and language alive. It’s definitely becoming more popular and respected as a result.

If you weren’t a centre assistant, what career do you think you would have pursued?

I thought I’d be a teacher. Oh, well, I guess I am. But it struck me one day that I wanted to help people learn in the outdoors, about the outdoors, not do maths in a classroom. In fact, wouldn’t it be good if all lessons could be delivered in the outdoors!

Having had other jobs indoors, it’s made me appreciate this role much more. I know now I like doing different things each day, having variety, and being around different people all the time from colleagues to customers. I’m far more motivated now I’m doing something I love.

What’s your favourite sport?

Paddle, well actually kayaking. I’ve been through phases with all sorts of activities but getting through rapids upright is amazing. The first time I did it, I was so excited and proud of myself. Don’t get me wrong I was terrified too. But I look back on it now and think, why I was so terrified?

I've improved enormously, through lessons, watching those that are better than me, asking the instructors, and by just having a go. I guess I’ve naturally learnt new, and different techniques and I’ve practiced loads. I’ve improved because I’ve faced my fears. Plus I’m a strong swimmer, which helps and gives me the confidence to have a go.


“One tip I would share is – just do it!”

“Don’t talk yourself out of things. Don’t be a passenger. Be a participant. And by that I mean get stuck in, play and active role, get involved, engage and be positive, be a part of it.”


One thing I will say about the instructors at Plas y Brenin is that they manage safety expertly, and they’ll never push anyone to do more than they are capable of.

What does the role of a centre assistant entail?

I’ll be in training until March and aim to get loads of experience, shadowing and experiencing all sorts of activities. Then I’ll be instructing and supporting customers on the epic adventure activity days, or taster days as we sometimes call them.

My role is to provide great customer service, to make sure customers have a great time and support them with anything they may need. I’m good at customer service. During the pandemic I held a job at Tesco and learnt a lot. The Tesco way is to be as nice as possible, to listen to customers and sort out any problems they may have.

I’m also looking forward to assisting the senior and lead instructors when they deliver the courses for qualifications and assessments.

What made you apply for the scheme?

I knew, and had heard about Plas y Brenin. It’s my mecca. I was taught how to ski at Plas y Brenin at the age of 10 when I visited with my local scout group.

I’ve always followed Plas y Brenin on social media and I applied to be a centre assistant because it fitted in to my career plan. It meant I could get loads of experience and enhance what I’d learnt on my university course.

 The level and experience of instructors at Plas y Brenin is legendary. As the national centre, it’s all things outdoor and it’s the hub. I always dreamt about working here, but never thought I’d get the opportunity.


"The instructors here have done some amazing things; super cool things like working in Uganda, climbed Mega Route X, and belaying across Britain. Rob Spencer climbed in the Karakoram mountain range, close to where the Nepalese team recently made the first ever successful winter ascent of K2."


What are you most looking forward to?

I want to get started and meet some customers. I miss customers. Spring and Summer here is a hive of people. Plus I think customers will be grateful to be here after this last year of cancellations and disappointments.

In the past I've loved working with people who have disabilities in the Lake District and with the Blind Veterans. Having a disability may make it ten times harder to do some of the activities, so I’ve found they appreciate the opportunity to climb, hike, paddle or bike much more. Experiences are so important to them. 

I used to come a lot when I was younger, but it’s not as I remember it at the moment, because there’s no one around. I’m looking forward to it being busy. It has a great vibe when it’s busy.

If you could add one course to Plas y Brenin what would it be and why?

For selfish reasons I’d add surfing to the options. My lockdown present to myself was a surfboard. I haven't had any lessons, I taught myself. My friend and I watched videos over and over and so far I’ve stood up six or seven times.

It’s easy to get frustrated with things, especially when it’s new, and surfing takes a lot of patience, but my moto is – “If you fall, just get back up.”

I’m in awe of the power of water, and I know it’s to be respected. My friend and I know now how and when to pick the days and waves. It’s natural to think about safety, it’s drilled in to us here at Plas y Brenin.

I’ve been trashed on the beach a few times, it’s all part of the experience. I just take some time out, and then get back on it. It goes back to why I just do it – not talk. I’d psych myself out.

What do you think is the perception of the outdoors among the general public? 

I’d like to see more females in the industry, in prominent positions. It’s still male dominated but it’s evolving and changing. There are role models here for both men and women and it’s much more accessible now. I want women to been empowered in the outdoors.

The benefits of the outdoors in relation to wellbeing and mental health, is prominent right now. I believe in adventure therapy and understand that you can’t just go up a hill and say that’s a cure - but being outdoors definitely makes a difference.

Did you know that since 2018 in Scotland, doctors have been able to prescribe nature and the outdoors to patients? There’s mounting evidence as to the benefits of nature on mental and physical health.

"If I’m not able to be outdoors, I don’t feel myself."


Useful links and resources:

Olivia Hollins Roberts Rides Rapids


One tip I would share is  - "Just do it!"

Don’t talk yourself out of things. Don’t be a passenger. Be a participant. My advice is to play and active role and get involved, engage and be positive. Be a part of it.


We promise that we won't SPAM you.