WORLD CUP winner Danielle Waterman may herself be an inspirational figure, but she admits the youngsters set to grace the HITZ Awards can also call themselves role models.
Waterman, who won the World Cup with England in 2014, is just one of the stars set to be in attendance at Barclays HQ in Canary Wharf on a night of celebration for HITZ.
The multi award-winning programme uses rugby to increase young people's resilience, self-reliance and confidence and gives them the skills to get back into education, apprenticeships and employment. HITZ is run in partnership with Barclays, Comic Relief, Land Rover and Wooden Spoon.
Waterman is set to present the HITZ Young Achiever award on the night, which recognises the young person who, by overcoming a range of challenges, has worked the hardest to progress on their journey.
And Waterman knows all too well how much effort it takes for young people to flourish in life through rugby.
“It’s great, a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the success of not only the programme but the young people who are involved,” said Waterman.
“HITZ’s success is all about the skills, in and out of rugby, that can be developed to take forward in life – but the kids have also had to make a choice to stick by it. They all have to be so dedicated in order to develop and progress, it is not just as easy as turning up.
“So I’m delighted to be able to present an award and be a part of a great night.”
Waterman has first-hand experience of the programme, after she led a HITZ coaching session and Q&A with Northampton Saints last year.
With Waterman also answering questions about overcoming the challenges she has faced during her successful career, the England Sevens player, who is targeting the Rio Olympics, is hopeful it can inspire those in attendance to chase the opportunities rugby can offer.
“When I got involved it was clear to see the impact and how people’s lives had been turned around,” said Waterman.
As well as playing some basic skill games and matches, the session with Waterman aimed to show how the skills and values of rugby can be transferred into everyday life situations.
“We spoke about the skill set rugby has given me and how many opportunities it has given me off the field too in terms of my career.
“They’ve all come from different backgrounds and challenges, whether that be in education or at home, and this provides them with the opportunity to develop all the skills that rugby provides.
“That may be teamwork, discipline, or respect and it also gives them something to enjoy playing together. They have a common goal in terms of learning a new sport together.
“So the HITZ programme is a huge opportunity for them and you can see them building their confidence just in the session that I did alone.
“What’s great is that not only are they learning a new sport but how to transfer that into being successful in all the other areas of their life; into education, training, or work-based placements.
“There was an example of one person who had gone through the HITZ programme and is now part of the media team at Northampton. The stories were great to hear.”
The HITZ Awards will take place 4 February. The winners will be announced first via @premrugby
The annual HITZ Awards recognise some of the most inspiring young people in England. The HITZ programme delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby and funded by national partners Barclays, Comic Relief, Land Rover and Wooden Spoon tackles some of the greatest challenges facing young people today – unemployment, crime and disillusionment. See hitzrugby.com