Today we meet Laura and discover how she hasn’t looked back since attending her first Project Rugby disability session at school, run by Bristol Bears, developing life skills and confidence along with a real love of the game.
Premiership Rugby's Project Rugby programme, delivered in conjunction with partner Gallagher, has been one of the game’s great success stories in recent years – introducing thousands of young people every year to rugby as a game for everyone, regardless of background or ability.
Delivered by Gallagher Premiership clubs at more than 200 locations across the country, Project Rugby has already changed many young lives for the better with a number of stars emerging – including Laura, and this is her story:
As a player, volunteer and coach, Laura Frost lives and breathes rugby. She is also one of Project Rugby’s greatest beneficiaries. Her love for the game is testament to the community-based work of Bristol Bears, who have not only excelled on the pitch this season – their Project Rugby participants are also going above and beyond.
Having initially attended one of Project Rugby’s disability sessions at Warmley Park School, Laura – who has Down’s Syndrome – has since attended a number of local and national events. Now at college, Laura volunteers as a coach once a week, supporting participants from her former school as well as retention hub sessions at Broad Plain RFC. And Bristol Bears also benefit from her support with Laura assisting community staff with activation at home fixtures.
“Laura really took to it. Within two or three weeks of us going there, she’d got an England top and all the gear. She loved it,” said Dec Armstrong, Inclusion Community Rugby Coach at Bristol Bears. “She played in our touch rugby mixed ability matches and then signed up for more after school. Without fail, Laura was always one of the first to put their hands up if we had festivals to go to or events.
“She then started to lead sessions for some participants who have a one-to-one carer. It’s provided her with some work experience and developed her skills as a coach and leader. This has also given Laura a great amount of confidence. “Her mum used to drive her around but now she gets the bus or train to college. When I first met Laura, it was unthinkable she would be able to deal with something like public transport, which can be scary. She was shy and quiet when I first met her but her personality has really shone through.”
Project Rugby is a joint initiative launched in 2017 by Premiership Rugby in collaboration with England Rugby, with Gallagher adding its backing in March 2019 as part of its commitment to support not only the professional game but also champion rugby at the grassroots level as a truly inclusive sport.
It is designed to increase participation in the game by people from traditionally underrepresented groups including Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic people, people from lower socio-economic backgrounds and disabled people.
Since launch, more than 45,000 young people have been introduced to rugby through the initiative who wouldn’t otherwise have had access.
Project Rugby is also one of Premiership Rugby’s Community programmes that together form the Plan to Improve a Million Lives. This ambitious community strategy is Premiership Rugby’s commitment to make a positive impact, through rugby, on the lives of one million people by the end of the 2020/21 season. And success stories like Laura help to inspire the next generation.
“Quite a few of the participants Laura has coached this year know her from school and see how great an impact Project Rugby has had on her,” added Dec. “She is working with Bristol Bears and that gives them something to aspire to. Rugby has great core values and it has always been about developing people, not just players.”
As Dec explained: “We always look at life skills rather than just catching rugby balls. We are keen to add in some learning and break sessions down. Everyone has fun but Project Rugby participants gain so much more than that.”
When play was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bears were sat third in the Gallagher Premiership table. That also meant an end to all community rugby activity, but the Bears made sure to stay engaged with their Project Rugby participants online by sharing video content. With lockdown easing, and the Gallagher Premiership targeting a safe return on 15 August, rugby is back on the agenda. For many on the Project Rugby programme, that can't come soon enough.
To find out more about Project Rugby and to find a session near you, visit www.projectrugby.co.uk.
For more information on the Plan to Improve a Million Lives, follow #improveamillionlives and visit www.premiershiprugby.com/community