Leicester Tigers community teams have been helping introduce youngsters to rugby as part of the Project Rugby initiative.
Since the grassroots project was launched in October 2017, Leicester Tigers have been reaching groups, schools, clubs and communities across the Leicestershire region bringing opportunities to those who may not have access to rugby.
From providing free training sessions to building tailored programmes for all abilities, Tigers’ Project Rugby team also have close links with local rugby clubs across the region, with a view to helping support youngsters take their first steps into competitive rugby.
Year 10 pupils Tariq Johnson from Winstanly School and Liam Betts from Fullhurst Community College recently joined Leicester Forest rugby club having been introduced to the sport through Project Rugby.
Tariq explained: "I previously took part in another Tigers rugby project and this year I really enjoyed playing the game. I would usually play football but I wanted to do something new. One of the Tigers coaches Joe Reynolds was working in our school and he invited me down to Leicester Forest a few weeks ago and since then, I've now signed for the team. Tigers even paid for my taxi for my first training session!"
"The set-up is brilliant, the team are great and I've made some new mates along the way. After playing here, I‘d like to play for a bigger squad and maybe go professional who knows!"
Tariq's teacher Kevin Higgs said: "His progress has been steep and through initiatives such as 'All School's Rugby' and Leicester Tigers Community programmes Tariq has now joined a rugby club and is continuing to develop because of his athleticism and intelligence."
Tariq's teammate Liam was invited down to a taster session at Leicester Forest rugby club organised by Tigers.
"I was never really into rugby but when I was in year 7 I took part in some tag rugby and contact sessions and really enjoyed it. After taking part in sessions with the school, Tigers invited me and some friends down to see if I'd enjoy playing for a club since then I've got more involved.
"Who knows how far I can go in the sport but at the moment it’s good fun and keeps you fit. I just want to keep working hard and keep playing."
Sam Wotherspoon, Liam's teacher at Fullhurst Community College, added: "Liam took a shining to rugby and began playing for the school’s side from year 7 to year 10. This year's rugby team has done very well this year and Joe from Tigers invited a group along to take part in a training session with Leicester Forest.
"Since this, Liam has thoroughly enjoyed playing with players of a higher standard, and is taking his rugby much more seriously, which is amazing to see."
Two more Fullhurst year 10 students Grace Laing and Bethany Bancroft have also joined the Leicester Forest set-up.
Their teacher Marie Bird explains: "Our key stage three girls and boys take part in rugby as part of the curriculum during September and December with the help of Joe from Tigers supporting lessons and extra-curricular clubs. We have found that being part of the rugby team has helped decrease some of the girls and boys behaviour points and also helped build on friendship groups."
As well as supporting local clubs and talented youngsters, Tigers’ also created a brand new rugby mini’s club – The Swifts – based in the Leicester city centre.
The U10’s team - which is based within black, Asian and minority ethnic communities around Leicester – took part in their first ever contact rugby game at Welford Road earlier this November.
Now with a U8's, U9’s, U10's and U11’s set-up, The Swifts are continuing to grow with the support of free training sessions at Goals Leicester, as well as after-school clubs at schools such as Krishna Avanti Primary School.
To find out more about Tigers community school programmes, as well as getting involved with a local rugby club near you, hit the link below.