Youngsters come together for first-ever Premiership Rugby HITZ Party
The first-ever Premiership Rugby HITZ party has taken place in London, with five clubs and more than 50 young people attending for a day full of fun.
London Irish HITZ hosted the event at Hazelwood Centre in Sunbury-on-Thames, where a range of activities were put on with the aim of creating lasting memories for the participants.
Delivered nationally by England’s 13 professional member rugby clubs, the award-winning HITZ programme, funded by partners Land Rover, Comic Relief and Wooden Spoon, uses rugby’s core values to support disadvantaged and disillusioned teenagers back into education, training, apprenticeships and employment.
Morning activities included rugby and football, with afternoon sessions including a mental health workshop and a variety of tests organised by the Royal Navy, aiming to build teamwork, communication and various other skills.
Clubs to send players included Harlequins, Bath Rugby, Exeter Chiefs, and Wasps, with the idea originally being thought up by London Irish HITZ officer Ainsley Campbell.
“Everyone got involved and it was great to see kids from different clubs playing together,” said Campbell.
“There were lots of smiles on the faces and even those who didn’t get involved in the rugby were on the sidelines chatting and having a good time.
“It got people from different backgrounds out and socialising together.
“It’s so beneficial as they are from different locations and gives them a chance to make friends in different places – it broadens their friendships groups.
“I’m already planning a similar kind of day, with athletics and netball, for the summer. This was hopefully the first of many and hopefully we can see where we can go from there. The youngsters thoroughly enjoyed the day and all the activities on offer.”
Bath Rugby HITZ programme participant Liam Lintern, 17, from Colerne, made the most of the event by using it to meet new people from other courses.
“We played quite a few sports on the day,” he said. “It’s good to mix with the people from the other groups and get to know them.
“We had a good time with everyone else and it gave us chance to get out of the classroom. It’s great for everyone to get out and about and meet new people.
“The programme is great and especially as someone who didn’t enjoy school. It has helped me a lot with learning.”
Alistair Kerigan, 19, attended as a member of the Harlequins HITZ programme.
He said: “The day was really good – I definitely enjoyed it. The best bits were meeting new people, representing my team and just having fun.
“It’s a good way to make new friends. The work we do in the gym as part of programme has helped my confidence.
“The programme helps teenagers who are in a bit of muddle to get an education and make friends.”
One of the guest speakers for the group was Reece Riley, who was enrolled on the original HITZ course ten years ago.
He now works as a community rugby coach for the RFU, based in Middlesex.
Reece, 19, commented: “Having been on the HITZ programme myself in Hackney, I gave them a message to express where they come from, it does not define who they are – they can achieve anything.
“They have support networks around them now with the HITZ officers, who did the amazing job which changed my life and provided an escape for me.
“I genuinely believe anyone here could achieve what I have achieved, and more.
“It’s weird to come back and see so many people from so many different clubs, because when I started there were only programmes with Sarries, Quins and Irish.
“There’s a lot more people getting the opportunities now, which is cool to see, and everyone seems really engaged with it.”