Stan Groves had the toughest start to life when, soon after his addict parents left him aged just two, he was diagnosed with leukaemia.

The illness affected his childhood, not only in terms of his health, but also with him missing the chance to grow with other children as he was in and out of treatment.

Stan joined Bath Rugby HITZ to take part in the BTEC Sport Level 1 course in September 2018 after finishing his course at Bath College. When he was at the college he was often removed from lessons as he couldn’t be bothered or was too tired due to him being up all night playing on video games.

Despite this Stan is a very bright and capable young man and would often hold back or just be too lazy to do anything.

Stan has had issues with drugs in the past, with him often smoking cannabis before during and after college. This carried on at the start of HITZ, but after the first term he started to change his habits. This helped him complete his fitness testing for the army.

The HITZ environment helped Stan develop a new attitude to learning. This has been achieved by the fact the HITZ classroom does not look like a traditional school/college classroom and Stan (like all the HITZ participants) is treated like an adult by both the HITZ team and the wider Bath Rugby Foundation team. This attitude to learning has allowed Stan to be himself – something he has always wanted.

When Stan started at HITZ, he was extremely tired and would often come and sleep in the classroom. This was due to him staying up all night playing video games and smoking weed.

We referred him to Project 28, a young people’s drug and alcohol service in Bath and we also held multiple 1-1 sessions with Stan to see how we could support him From these meetings we created a schedule of fitness training and meal plans in order for him to work harder during the day, meaning he could go to bed at a regular time and come into HITZ feeling fresh.

At the start of the year we partnered Stan with Jonno Wood, BRF’s education officer. These two had an instant connection which meant Jonno could meet with Stan and support him during HITZ and find out what he wanted to do with his career. Again, treating Stan like an adult, rather than a college or school student had a hugely positive impact on his outlook.

Stan is among 10 current and former HITZ students working with Leadership Challenges on the Andes Challenge which will see the group take part in a two-week cycling adventure in Chile later this year. Stan has impressed the Leadership Challenges team with his attitude and his focus on improving his own and the group’s fitness standards. In a year he has gone from sleeping in class to being a leader among the 10 Andes Challenge participants. 

The Leadership Challenges team have also supported his army fitness goals and improve his work ethic and time management.

Stan passed his Level 1 Sport course and is focused on joining the army. He has returned to HITZ this year, while his application to join the army proceeds.

Stan said: “Without HITZ I would be sat at home doing nothing, with no achievements. My future would be terrible and no direction. I would still be using drugs and risking my life.

“My work ethic has changed and my mental health has improved.

“HITZ has, without doubt, helped me get places I thought I could never get to by myself such as the army and my physical shape. I have learned more at Hitz than I ever did at school.”

Stan’s progress has been rewarded with a nomination as Academic Learner of the Year at the annual HITZ awards.

Find out more about the HITZ programme here