If you were looking for the perfect example of how the HITZ programme can help young people in need, you would not have to look much further than Ryan Cummings.
HITZ - which is supported by the CVC Foundation, Land Rover, Wooden Spoon and SCL Education - is one of Premiership Rugby’s flagship community programmes. It is delivered by all Premiership Rugby clubs and Ryan epitomises the way it can have a hugely positive effect on the lives of young people.
The programme works with more than 2,000 14-23-year-olds across England every year, using rugby’s core values to develop the personal skills, life skills and employability skills of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).
So, with Round 12 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby this weekend dedicated to the work done in the community, it is the perfect time to shine a light on Ryan’s story at Leicester Tigers as one of the league’s community champions.
Ryan initially found it difficult to attend the HITZ programme because of travel costs but when the Leicester Tigers Foundation provided him with transport and a daily hot meal, his experience was transformed and his confidence and enthusiasm for work skyrocketed.
Ryan’s ambition is a career in sport. His hard work and commitment led to him being made an ambassador for HITZ, supporting the Tigers’ HITZ Officer in delivering the sport element. He also coached a college outreach group and volunteered to be part of the Leicestershire Youth Commission, leading workshops based on crime prevention and local policing.
His commitment didn’t end there. He also delivered issue-based sessions to his peers on the programme and organised events like a HITZ touch rugby tournament as well as fundraising for a Tigers skydive to raise money for the Matt Hampson Foundation.
Sam Swift, Leicester Tigers Foundation manager, said: “Ryan’s circumstances when he joined HITZ impacted on his confidence significantly. But, once we overcame those problems together, the change was remarkable.
“Ryan completely immersed himself in HITZ and became of one of our most proactive, engaged students. He threw himself into the programme and really understood what we are trying to achieve, becoming a role model and coach to many on the programme."
Nearly 16,000 young people have engaged in the HITZ programme since it started in 2008, and Ryan is just one of the many success stories.
He worked part-time with the Tigers community team while studying for a BTEC Level Three in Sport at Brooksby Melton College and has since gone on to study for a foundation degree at De Montfort University. As part of his university work placement, Ryan initiated his return to HITZ to support the community team.
Wayne Morris, Community & Corporate Social Responsibility Director at Premiership Rugby, said: “Ryan has been on a remarkable journey for someone who initially did not even have the means to attend to becoming one of the programmes strongest advocates.
“But as we have seen, HITZ succeeds for young people like Ryan because it uses rugby’s core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship to support them to make positive changes in their life. I can only admire him for what he has achieved.
“Starting in a field in the London Borough of Hackney in 2008, HITZ has gone from strength-to-strength and helped participants turn their lives around through gaining qualifications and developing their personal, life and employability skills.”
To find out more about the HITZ programme at Leicester Tigers click here.