Today we meet Lilly who, despite displaying natural talent and an immediate love for playing rugby, faced access challenges at her school. These were hampering her ability to build skills and participate – until Project Rugby and Saracens Sport Foundation stepped in with master classes and grassroots club connections.
Premiership Rugby's Project Rugby programme, backed by 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 Lilly, and this is her story:
Fourteen-year old Lilly got her first taste of rugby through a holiday programme offered to students around Colindale, in North London, where she lives. Aimed at introducing young people to positive experiences through sport, it was clear from the programme’s outset that Lilly had exceptional talent and rugby was something which really inspired her to concentrate on being the best version of herself.
But the challenge was how to retain Lilly’s access to rugby when that holiday programme came to an end. As a pupil at Saracens High School, in Colindale, Lilly really values school, not just to develop herself academically but also to express herself through sport. However, with Saracens High currently based in a temporary location, there’s often not the opportunity to take part in sport through lack of space and opportunity.
Lilly has been vocal about her love for the game from the very beginning, saying: “I love playing rugby with my friends. When I’m older, I want to be a Saracens player.” So the only real difficulty was a logistical one. Who could help Lilly take those all-important next steps?
This is where Project Rugby made the difference. Together with Saracens Sport Foundation, Project Rugby continued the rugby programme at Saracens High, giving Lilly and her fellow students the continued great experiences of playing rugby.
Alongside other schools, Saracens High and Lilly also took part in the U14 fixture night at Allianz Park, where they were surprised with a masterclass from Saracens Women’s player Chantelle Miell.
Following that, Project Rugby and the Saracens Sport Foundation helped Lilly and her fellow students by introducing them to grassroots rugby clubs with the aim of giving young people who are disengaged or disenfranchised a chance to be a part of a sport that creates a sense of belonging and an identity they can be proud of.
Lilly’s mum says: “Lilly is really passionate about playing rugby and has a huge ambition to play for the Saracens Women’s team. This is the first step in Lilly being able to achieve her goals and dreams; she really enjoyed the session and is looking forward to coming again.”
For Lilly, her experiences with Project Rugby have been filled with positives, not only from being able to continue playing the game she loves outside of school, but meeting new friends from different backgrounds, walks of life and situations.
Project Rugby is a joint initiative launched in 2017 by Premiership Rugby in collaboration with England Rugby, and 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.
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