Gloucester youngster wins HITZ award

THE IMPACT one member of Gloucester Rugby’s HITZ programme has had on the club’s local community was rewarded with a top prize at a glittering award ceremony in London.

HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s award-winning education and employability programme, which works with over 2,000 disadvantaged 14-19 year-olds across England every year. On Tuesday, 21 November 2017, the hard work put in by countless individuals up and down the country was celebrated at the 2017 HITZ Awards, a glittering London ceremony at the BT Centre.

There were five winners on the night with Maddi Eager of Gloucester Rugby’s HITZ programme going home with the HITZ Community Impact award, supported by Wooden Spoon.

Maddi collected her prize from England World Cup winner Phil Vickery MBE DL and admitted the evening would live long in her memory. Maddi beat fellow shortlisted nominees Lewis Cox of London Irish and Stanna Shaylor from Wasps.

Commenting after receiving the award, Maddi said: “The HITZ programme has given me a lot of confidence already.” She continued, “People have come up to me saying I’ve done really well and to go from not being able to say a word to being on stage and making people laugh, that was really nice. It (the HITZ programme) has given me a lot to think about, it’s given me drive, it’s given me a pathway. I know what I want to do now in life and that’s because of HITZ.”

The HITZ Community Impact award, supported by Wooden Spoon, recognises an individual’s contribution through volunteering and service, looking at their impact in the community and on themselves.

Maddi experienced severe anxiety and low self-esteem due to isolation caused by Blount’s Disease, a growth disorder of the tibia, leading her to drop out of school during her A-levels. But her love of rugby led her to the HITZ programme at Gloucester Rugby where she has learned tools to help her overcome her physical, social and mental barriers.

Her new-found self-assurance has seen Maddi go on to run charity events, work in a care home and offer advice for HITZ learners struggling with school, while she is confident enough to reattempt her GCSEs and A-levels with the aim of studying at Hartpury College.

The hard task of picking the winner fell to a group of judges, with Sarah Webb (Acting CEO, Wooden Spoon) among them and acknowledging that while all the nominees were deserving of the award, that Maddi was a worthy winner. “Maddi stood out for me as she not only has the socio-economic issues to deal with in her life but she also has her physical disability to contend with,” said Sarah.

“Her determination and drive were clear against all odds. It was really impressive that she has gained so much more than she thought from the ‘game’ and is looking at the wider knock-on effects such as nutrition. Wooden Spoon is proud to have chosen her as the winner in our category.”

The HITZ programme, delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby and funded by national partners Comic Relief, Land Rover and Wooden Spoon, uses rugby’s strong core values to improve life and employability skills for disadvantaged young people, underpinning success in education, life and work.

HITZ award: community impact winner