A group of teenagers will get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to walk in the footsteps of rugby greats as part of the Aviva Premiership Rugby’s award-winning HITZ programme.
Youngsters involved in the education and employability programme, which works with thousands of 14-18-year-olds across England every year, will walk out at Twickenham at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final on Saturday.
Delivered nationally by England’s 12 professional rugby clubs, HITZ uses the sport’s core values to get young people back into education, training, apprenticeships and employment.
And as part of this year’s programme, three youngsters from each club have been invited to London for an action-packed weekend – including a chance to walk out at the Home of England Rugby.
Kelly Dummer, HITZ national programme manager at Premiership Rugby, said the experience for those attending the Final will be bigger and better than ever before.
“This year we have invited up to three learners from each programme to come down with their two leaders, the HITZ officer and tutor, with activities starting the Friday before,” she said.
“We’ll be going to a London Youth outdoor centre, Woodrow High House in Amersham where they will take part in outdoor activities, including Jacob’s ladder, a challenge course or archery.
“This will be followed by a five-a-side football tournament and in the evening we’re going to do another activity as well, most likely some more high energy games to tire them out.
“The next day it will be down to Twickenham, starting off with a pitch-side photo and then we have the navy coming in to do a team-building activity.
“Finally we have John McAvoy coming to do an inspirational chat with the guys about his journey and how it’s possible for anyone to make a positive life change, using the power of sport, and then it will be the match.
The second rows combined beautifully at the weekend to book @Saracens place at Twickenham 🏟️
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) May 22, 2018
“It’s a lot different to previous years with more of a focus on team-building and inspiring them as well, so it’s a good mix between the two and should be a good 48 hours.”
Learners taking part in the programme, which can last from 15 to 30 weeks, improve their functional maths and English, develop valuable life skills and gain a BTEC qualification.
They also receive experience from work placements and employer-led sessions, while essential enrichment and sporting activities aim to improve their mental and physical wellbeing.
Participants on HITZ, which is funded by partners Land Rover, Comic Relief and Wooden Spoon, report an increase in resilience, self-confidence and aspiration after their involvement.
“The difference in a learner from when they start compared to when they finish is huge,” Kelly added, who explained that many of the youngsters come from difficult backgrounds.
“From the basics of self-confidence, self-worth and also being able to hold a conversation, whereas before they would be found most often on their phones and not easily engaging with others.
“You step into a classroom now and they are not all on their phones 24/7, they are engaging more, they make new friends from different circles, different backgrounds, different abilities.
“A lot of them would struggle to hold down a job beforehand, either from a commitment perspective, getting out of bed in the morning, or not having the skill set.
“Now a lot of them are employed, not necessarily full-time but part-time jobs, which is amazing to see and the reports we get back from the work experience through to those employed is great.
“So, it’s all about supporting their personal development, but we know maths and English is key to helping them get a job, along with the qualifications that will help them get into specific industries as well.”