Aaron Hinkley reflects on U20 Six Nations and experiences of personal development as a mentor on HITZ programme
20 March 2019
Aaron Hinkley has been a stand out for England U20s in the recent Six Nations campaign, picking up a pair of man of the match awards, and a try against Scotland to go with the medals
The Gloucester Rugby back rower put in an all-action man of the match performance as England U20s got their first win of their Six Nations campaign over World Champions France, scoring a memorable try against Scotland on Friday night to end the tournament, and it is not just the pitch where he has been impressing.
The back rower, born in Hereford, but schooled in the city, combined carrying, tackling and stood out for England in an impressive victory at Exeter Chiefs’ Sandy Park in Round One, being an ever-present across the tournament, playing every minute available.
Hinkley reflects on a period of personal development, and growth after moving into a full time rugby environment with the Cherry and Whites from education.
It’s not just on the pitch where the youngster has been a shining light, after spending the past two years volunteering as a student mentor on the Gloucester Rugby HITZ programme, as he describes.
“I go in every Wednesday when I’m around, at the moment, they call me a mentor, and all the students learn differently, sometimes on an individual business, so I try to help where I can, teach them a bit of rugby skills too, alongside their sessions.”
The experience of being a mentor, and leading by an example is a hugely rewarding factor for the young back rower.
“I’d like to think they look up to me, some of them do at least. I would assume that they follow rugby, and Gloucester Rugby, but I try to show an influence to them the best that I can.
“I think my experiences can testify to how I would like to be treated by tutors or peers, and I like to be on the same level as them, and try to respect the students, as much I like to think that they respect me.”
Hinkley is honest to admit that he has had to overcome some challenges in his younger years, and moved past several obstacles before finding his feet within the Gloucester Rugby Academy after attending several schools.
“I speak to the students on the same level that I would like to be spoken to. Perhaps at schools, teachers would speak to students like they were beneath them, and if you can get that level of respect in there, the students will respect you back.
“I understand what they are going through a lot of the time, everyone has different stories to tell, and different experiences, whether that be teachers not listening.
“When I was at school, I think I would have benefited from someone like a role model, someone who could be relatable and on your level.
“Somebody that I could speak to, and 100% look at respecting. Within the HITZ programme, it is all provided and worked at the same level, if a young person doesn’t have that respect or feels like they are being talked down to, then they won’t respond.
“I feel it makes it unique rather than other educational environments, and I really enjoy the challenges, the benefits and the experiences.”
And within his work as a mentor within the Gloucester Rugby HITZ programme, Hinkley explains the challenges, and lessons he is learning every day.
“Definitely the case, respect doesn’t happen on day one, that has to be earned, and I have learned that really quickly.
“There’s a handful of different times where someone may not be listening, you can’t expect them to take on board instructions the first time.
“For example, there was one student who had autism, I explained the drill a number of times, and he struggled with it. I raised my voice, and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t getting it right.
“This allowed me to evaluate quite quickly the reasons why, and you just have to take that extra time to understand the students, and everyone is different there.”
Hinkley has experienced a great spell in his career, making senior appearances in Cherry and White, and impressing in every England U20 game through the Six Nations.
“This helps me to grow as a character, I’ve experienced a lot of changes in rugby, new environments in England age group rugby, and training within the Gloucester Rugby first team environment.
“It’s made me look at things differently, everything doesn’t just happen with a click of a finger, and it’s provided me with a totally different outlook.
“I look up to Matt [Russell] and Mike [Hoult], the HITZ tutors, with the way they work and interact with the students, it’s an environment where I can learn every day.
“Within the environment, people can make mistakes, they can evaluate their mistakes, and learn from them, turning them into positives.”
Reflecting on a strong showing in the U20s Six Nations, Hinkley describes how he benefitted from a run of games.
“It was really good to get a run of games and play every minute of the Six Nations in a great squad.
“We are now building towards the World Cup and feel as a team we’ve learnt a lot since the first game.”
And his goals for the remainder of the season are to combine his experiences in training, and keep working hard.
“I’m excited to get back into the club and put my best foot forward in training, and learn as much as I can off the senior guys.
“I also want to try help out the new crop of Gloucester Rugby lads coming through into the Academy with the little experience I have, and help however way that I can.”