Bath Rugby Foundation Apprentice, Jade Whale, has won the HITZ Rugby Ambassador award at this year’s HITZ Awards.

The awards, held at the BT Centre in London on Wednesday evening, were attended by HITZ participants, mentors and rugby stars past and present to celebrate the programme’s achievements over the past year.

After a successful year as a student at Bath Rugby Foundation’s HITZ Learning Academy, Jade was shortlisted for the award, supported by Land Rover in September 2018.

Jade joined HITZ back in September 2017, and although she had a sporting background, had never played rugby before. Having not enjoyed school, she had low self-confidence and admits to having a poor attitude to learning, often walking out of class.

Over the year on the HITZ programme, Jade found her calling, quickly emerging as a leader in the group and showing a positive attitude to learning. As the course finished, Jade was in the fortunate position of choosing between multiple different job offers. Luckily for Bath Rugby Foundation, she chose to accept a position as an apprentice with the charity.

A two-try debut

During her time on the HITZ programme, Jade became more involved in rugby by volunteering with the Bath Rugby Foundation. From this, she went on to volunteer at mixed ability training sessions with the Walcott Warriors team and is now a player for Bath Rugby Ladies, where she scored two tries on her debut.

Jade said: “The HITZ programme has helped me to focus my energy, gain confidence, and discover a passion for rugby. Before I joined HITZ I didn’t enjoy school, but I have since learnt that I can apply the values of rugby to everyday life which has encouraged me to re-focus my education.

“To be recognised with the HITZ Rugby Ambassador award is quite overwhelming, but I am proud of what I have achieved, and hopefully this will encourage more people to get involved in HITZ.”

Earlier on this year, Jade was also recognised by the Bath Rugby Foundation, when she was selected to appear on the Bath Rugby jersey that the players wore at The Clash against Leicester Tigers in April.

HITZ, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary, is Premiership Rugby’s award-winning education and employability programme which works with more than 2,000 14-18-year-olds across England every year.

Using rugby’s core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship, HITZ works to help disadvantaged young people back into education, training, apprenticeships and/or employment and is delivered nationally by England’s 13 professional rugby clubs.

The HITZ Rugby Ambassador award, supported by Land Rover, was one of four awards on offer on the day. The award recognises a young person for their progress and development in the sport of rugby – on and off the pitch. It rewards progress in physical fitness and skill, while it also looks at how the core values of rugby have supported them to overcome a range of challenges and progress on their journey back to education, training or employment.

Jade’s win rounds off an excellent few months, where after her hard work and dedication, she has seen a number of job offers on the table – a year after leaving school and where she faced an uncertain future. However, much to the delight of Bath Rugby Foundation staff, Jade recently became a member of the team as an Apprentice Sports Coach.

Rugby stars Maggie Alphonsi, Ellis Genge and Ed Jackson were among a star-studded line-up from sports, business and the media to acclaim the winners at the HITZ Awards, which were hosted by former Bath Rugby and England international, David Flatman.

Land Rover ambassador Alphonsi, who won the 2014 World Cup, and handed out the Rugby Ambassador Award to Jade, said: “I have seen first-hand the positive impact the HITZ programme can and has had on young people’s lives. Rugby is a powerful catalyst for good and offers these young people the skills and confidence that can put their lives back on track.”

Jade was one of four winners with Aidan Seal (Exeter Chiefs), Ross Ferguson (London Irish) and Carter Moran (asps) also picking up awards.

Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sport & Civil Society, although unable to attend, said: “Premiership Rugby’s HITZ programme is a great example of how sport can transform lives.

“Over the last ten years it has helped young people across the country develop life-skills and qualifications and I hope it goes from strength to strength over the next decade.”

What is HITZ?

Using rugby’s core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship, HITZ increases young people’s resilience, self-reliance and confidence and gives them the necessary personal, life and employability skills to get back into education, training, apprenticeships and employment.

More than 80% of participants find work or return to education after the scheme and more than 75% report improved confidence and resilience. HITZ is delivered by Premiership Rugby’s 13-member rugby clubs with the help of its funders Land Rover, Wooden Spoon and Comic Relief.

HITZ passed a major milestone when its 13,000th participant completed the project last summer, with the milestone making the scheme one of the longest running and most successful NEET focused sports project in England.

Wayne Morris, Community and CSR director at Premiership Rugby, said: “HITZ is proof of the power of rugby to improve character, resilience and achievement in the classroom and the workplace.
“It is also an example of how head teachers and school governors could use sport strategically to support pupils at risk of disengaging with education and could build partnerships with the professional sports sector and enhance their PSHE provision.

“We have an ambitious goal to use our brands, players and assets to make a major contribution to improve the lives of disadvantaged people in our communities. That vision is called “A Plan to Improve A Million Lives”. We look forward to working with Government, charities and the private sector to help make that dream come true.

"Next year’s Rugby World Cup can be a huge boost to the sport and we are ready to maximise its impact.”

Click here to learn more about the Bath Rugby Foundation HITZ Learning Academy

After the awards Jade was congratulated in person by Todd Blackadder and members of Bath Rugby's First XV.

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