The cut and thrust on the pitch is what we love about Gallagher Premiership Rugby but if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that rugby can do far more than simply entertain on the field.
Clubs are hubs in their communities, bringing people together and looking after their supporters, and their community work can never be underplayed.
At Northampton Saints, nobody typifies the impact that community work can have better than Dylan Birnie, who joined the HITZ programme at Saints in late 2020.
HITZ, which is supported by the CVC Foundation, Land Rover, Wooden Spoon and SCL Education, is one of Premiership Rugby’s flagship community programmes.
HITZ works with more than 2,000 14-23 year-olds across England every year and using rugby’s core values to develop the personal skills, life skills and employability skills of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET). Delivered by all of Premiership Rugby’s stakeholder clubs, nearly 16,000 young people have engaged in the HITZ programme since it was created in 2008.
Before joining HITZ, Dylan had moved out of home and was technically homeless before his next-door neighbour, and now guardian, took him in. Since then, he has shown remarkable resilience in what are obviously difficult circumstances for him.
Dylan’s approach to HITZ has been exceptional - with high attendance, he has been committed to completing work and communicated well with his tutors. Due to this, Dylan has already passed his level one functional skills English reading and writing and is due to take further exams for maths to achieve level one certificates across the board. Aside of these core subjects, Dylan is fully up to date with the level 1 BTEC Sports course, leading by example and being a role model for other learners.
Dylan is one of the inspirational young people that we will be turning the spotlight on across Round 12 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby (5-7 March) when all matches will be dedicated to our award-winning community programmes that benefit around 250,000 people annually.
Dylan’s tutor, Craig Phillips from SCL said:
“Dylan works really hard and his attitude to working is brilliant, considering the difficulty he is having to face. He has come up against many barriers and emotional times, but he defies the odds and constantly shows a positive attitude to achieving his goals.
“He does this while being a very respectful and a polite individual to all who he comes in to contact with.”
Dylan comments: “I like coming because all the staff are nice and it’s easier to do work here than at home. I get a lot of help with work here if I need it. Coming to HITZ has let me be myself and become more confident.”
Wayne Morris, the Community & Corporate Social Responsibility Director at Premiership Rugby said: “Thanks to the help of Northampton Saints and HITZ, Dylan is now on a positive path once more and it is an incredible tribute to him that he has started to turn his life around.
“As we have seen, HITZ succeeds for young people like Dylan because it uses rugby’s core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship to support them to make positive changes in their life. What he has achieved is admirable.
“Starting in a field in the London Borough of Hackney in 2008, HITZ has gone from strength-to-strength and helped participants turn their lives around through gaining qualifications and developing their personal, life and employability skills.”