Exeter’s Callum Pope Crowned HITZ Awards Young Achiever 2021

Exeter Chiefs’ Callum Pope has seen his outstanding commitment to bettering his life through the club’s HITZ programme recognised by winning the 2021 HITZ Young Achiever Award.

Supported by Wooden Spoon, the 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, employment or training.

Having previously battled with severe social anxiety before joining the Chiefs’ HITZ programme in 2019, Pope’s stellar work throughout the programme and his subsequent apprenticeship working on HITZ saw him claim the award.

During lockdown, he was assigned several students to both support and mentor. Regularly checking in with them, Callum used his own personal experiences with isolation and depression to help support them to deal with the challenges brought about by Covid-19.

“I’m delighted that Callum has won this award as it is true recognition of just how far he has come in the last few years. Despite his personal challenge’s, Callum has always been focused on trying to make a better life for himself, deep down knowing his own potential. With the right support and environment, he flourished and has become a role model to many of the young people on the programme now.

Callum is in a unique position as he really understands and can empathise with the challenges our HITZ students face. This is invaluable within our team, we’re lucky to have him on-board.”

Despite all his struggles, Pope had the strength within him to say he wanted to better both his life and those around him, which is something that resonated with Wooden Spoon CEO Sarah Webb, who was on the judging panel.

She said: “Callum’s standout quality for me was in his own reflections. He said that HITZ was a second chance to create a life for himselfI just felt he took such responsibility for this, that it was on him to do this.

“That’s why he stood out for us. Against the backdrop of a hectic life – he’d been bullied alongside his social anxiety – he had that strength within himself to say it’s my life and it’s my responsibility to make this better for myself.

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.