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Young Gloucester Rugby star shortlisted for HITZ Physical Activity Award

Three of the most inspirational young people from across the country’s HITZ programme have been nominated for the Physical Activity Award at this year’s HITZ Awards.   

Lion McDonald of Gloucester Rugby, Dawda Darboe of Bristol Bears, and Jack Gollop of Exeter Chiefs were selected in what was once again a very competitive field.    

HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s flagship education and employability programme, working with over 2,000 14-to-23-year-olds across England every year with the support of the CVC Foundation and Wooden Spoon, and delivered with official education partner SCL Education Group.

HITZ is often the first time some young people have tried a new sport or been active for a long time. HITZ Physical Activity Award recognises a young person for their progress and development in sport and physical activity, rewarding progress in both their physical fitness and in living a healthier lifestyle. It also looks at how being active has supported them to overcome a range of challenges and progress on their journey back to education, training or employment.

Nominees have not just developed personally but have also gone above and beyond to help other HITZ learners get active too. For example, they may have helped lead virtual workouts during lockdown, or set up an after HITZ running group.  

This year’s shortlist is:

Lion McDonald - Gloucester Rugby

Lion struggles with asthma and is partially blind in one eye, leading to him never partaking in any sport before joining HITZ.  At the age of 17, he decided to move in with his grandparents, a decision which his parents supported, after his grandfather was diagnosed with cancer.  

Lion’s attitude was exemplary, trying every sport offered to him on the HITZ programme. He saw dramatic changes when he went from doing no physical activity, to taking part in sport every day, including a vast improvement in his insomnia, confidence and motivation. Thanks to HITZ, he is now in a routine and is physically active, working with his grandfather as a landscaper. 

Wayne Morris, Premiership Rugby’s Community and Corporate Responsibility Director spoke highly of all three nominees and underlined just how hard it was to reduce the list to only three candidates.  

He said: “It was an incredibly strong pool of applications; it was a very lengthy debate between the judges to be able to narrow it down to a shortlist of three and our eventual winner. Through HITZ, all three found the sport that we all love. They have embraced the core values of rugby, using them to move forward positively in life. They are all an embodiment of how rugby can change lives for the better.

“What we’ve really seen over the last two years with Covid, and other challenges, is how important physical activity is in terms of improving people’s lives and life opportunities, not just through their physical health but also their mental wellbeing.”

HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s flagship employability and education programme, supporting young people to make positive changes in their life. Working with more than 2,000 14-23 year-olds across England every year, the programme uses rugby’s core values to develop the personal, life and employability skills of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).  Supported by the CVC Foundation and Wooden Spoon, and delivered with official education partner SCL Education Group, HITZ is delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby’s 13 shareholder clubs and has supported nearly 20,000 young people since it started in 2008.

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