Rugby isn’t just about what happens on the pitch - for Premiership Rugby clubs, the chance to be active in their community and inspire the next generation can mean just as much as scoring tries at the weekend.
Take Gloucester Rugby, as an example. The Cherry and Whites are as active as any club when it comes to working in their local area and this includes being heavily involved in the Premiership Rugby HITZ programme.
HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s flagship education and employability programme, working with more than 2,000 14-23 year-olds across England every year and using rugby’s core values to develop the personal skills, life skills and employability skills of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).
Supported by the CVC Foundation, Land Rover, Wooden Spoon and SCL Education, HITZ is one of Premiership Rugby’s flagship community programmes, delivered by all Premiership clubs across England. Leah Cromwell’s story shows just how life changing the programme can be.
Leah is one of the inspirational young people that we will be turning the spotlight on across Round 12 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby (5-7 March) when all matches will be dedicated to our award-winning community programmes that benefit around 250,000 people annually.
She has had what can only be described as a harrowing family life from a young age, added to this bullying at school she was left feeling isolated and alone - the impact on her mental wellbeing being immense. Leah moved into supported living and despite going through a number of very serious issues with her supported housing during the course, Leah still managed to maintain a 100 per cent attendance record.
The HITZ Learning Academy offers a relaxed environment targeted at 16 to 23-year-olds to improve their functional skills in Maths and English, develop valuable life skills and gain important qualifications alongside experience from work placements and employer-led sessions.
The programme also offers essential enrichment and sporting activities which supports the development of the whole individual by improving their mental and physical wellbeing.
Despite having never really been interested in sports or physical activity beforehand, Leah threw herself into everything HITZ had to offer, and enjoyed every element of the programme during the variety of sessions put on by the club.
The biggest success though was academically, as her maths and English improved massively, while her confidence in overcoming difficult problems soared.
Helen Chu, Community and Foundation Manager said; “We see lots of young people join HITZ where, like Leah, the barriers are up. Often through no fault of their own, their self-confidence and self-esteem is rock bottom and they often display bravado to mask how they really feel inside. Relationships are hugely important to us and we work hard with every HITZ student, treating them as individuals and supporting their needs. We create security and a safe space which can help them find the strength and determination to move forward."
Thanks to the progress Leah made on the HITZ programme, she is now hoping to go to college to study health and social care with the end goal being to become a social worker, to help people who have been or are going through similar experiences to her.
Leah is one of nearly 16,000 young people who have engaged in the HITZ programme since it was created in 2008, with over 70 per cent of participants going on to achieve a positive progression into further education, training or employment. It is the hard work that Gloucester and all other Gallagher Premiership Rugby clubs do that makes this possible.
Wayne Morris, Community & Corporate Social Responsibility Director at Premiership Rugby said: “Leah has shown the power of the HITZ programme, and when you hear her story you can only have admiration for the way she has decided to turn her life around. Her determination to succeed is inspiring.
“HITZ succeeds for young people like Leah because it uses rugby’s core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship to support them to make positive changes in their life.
“Starting in a field in the London Borough of Hackney in 2008, HITZ has gone from strength-to-strength and helped participants turn their lives around through gaining qualifications and developing their personal, life and employability skills."
Places are still available for the next course. For more information email [email protected]