Three standout individuals shortlisted for the HITZ Young Achiever Award

Young people from Exeter, Newcastle and Bristol are shortlisted for the prestigious HITZ Young Achiever Award 2021

Three standout individuals from Exeter Chiefs, Newcastle Falcons and Bristol Bears have been shortlisted for the HITZ Young Achiever Award, supported by Wooden Spoon.

HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s award-winning education and employability programme, supported by the CVC Foundation and Wooden Spoon, and delivered with official education partner SCL Education Group. HITZ works with more than 2,000 14–23-year-olds across England every year, and is delivered nationally by England’s top rugby clubs.

Using the core values of rugby, which includes teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship, HITZ aims to get young people back into work, education, training and/or employment.

The HITZ Young Achiever Award recognises and rewards a young person who, by overcoming a range of challenges, has worked hard to progress on their journey back to education, training or employment. It is someone who has persevered, despite setbacks; grown personally and socially, despite initially lacking confidence; and made new friends despite lacking personal or social skills. It is someone who has truly embraced the experience of the HITZ programme, with the support and help from both tutors and delivery staff to forge a more positive future for themselves.

The nominees shortlist was whittled down to three by the judges, with Bears’ Charlie Hartley, Chiefs’ Callum Pope and Falcons’ Michael Pentland making the final cut.


The loss of Charlie’s father had such a profound effect that he struggled in a traditional educational environment. His attendance plummeted, he disengaged, and this was detrimental to his GCSE results and his mental health. With the support of HITZ, Charlie has developed coping strategies to deal with his trauma, anger and depression. His confidence improved so much that he started to volunteer at Lockleaze Sports Centre which then led to work experience and an apprenticeship with the Molson Group where he is working towards qualifying as an engineer.


When Callum joined the HITZ programme in September 2019 his anxiety and depression was so severe that at times he faced daily struggles to leave the house. He was isolated, lonely and worried for his future. Driven to improve his situation, Callum joined HITZ and quickly found his feet, which saw his confidence and mental health improve. His enthusiasm, love of learning and personal growth gathered momentum at such a speed that he secured an apprenticeship with SCL on the very HITZ programme that helped him.


Michael’s loss of two close male family role models had such a detrimental effect that at his lowest he struggled with thoughts of suicide. Michael credits HITZ with giving him the confidence to keep going. Talking to his tutors and peers about his experiences and mental health challenges helped him find focus and direction. This and his high standards of work and polite nature earnt him an apprenticeship at Falcons as a community coach. Having got a taste for a more positive future, Michael wants to complete other qualifications available via the HITZ programme and aspires to run his own boxing gym one day.

And after judging the three nominees’ stories, Sarah Webb, CEO of Wooden Spoon, expressed her belief that they are all worthy of recognition following their impressive achievements.

“For us, it’s really important that we’re helping young people through a journey so they’re not just coming to a project and leaving it with no personal growth,” explained Webb.

“Judging the shortlist is both one of the best parts of my job and the hardest. All three of them, Michael, Charlie and Callum, are deserved winners because of how they’ve handled the adversity in their lives and how they’ve tried to better themselves.

“I think it’s really important that we recognise within the Young Achiever Award that there’s all sorts of different types of achievement we’re looking at. It might be academic, but it’s also very much to do with their own personal growth journey.”

HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s flagship employability and education programme, supporting young people to make positive changes in their life. Working with more than 2,000 14-23 year-olds across England every year, the programme uses rugby’s core values to develop the personal, life and employability skills of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).

Supported by the CVC Foundation and Wooden Spoon, and delivered with official education partner SCL Education Group, HITZ is delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby’s 13 shareholder clubs and has supported nearly 20,000 young people since it started in 2008.

To find out more about the programme and how it supports young people, visit

There are lots of ways you can help Wooden Spoon support more projects like HITZ. You can donate, join our membership scheme or fundraise.