Tackling exclusion through HITZ

HITZ is a high profile programme that is based in the heart of inner city estates, targeting young people at risk of exclusion and anti social behaviour. It introduces them to tag, touch and contact rugby and encourages them to take their game further.

HITZ session

HITZ session

I have seen for myself the huge impact that HITZ has on young people’s lives.

For example, John* first picked up a rugby ball when he was sixteen, a year and a half ago. He had never played the game before, and was uncertain in himself and in his skills. Now John is going into schools to coach younger children, gaining leadership and coaching experience as well as developing his own rugby skills.

In another case, Chantelle* previously didn’t think that girls could play rugby. When she first joined HITZ earlier this year, she was quiet, shy and withdrawn. Six months on, she bounds into each session, grin on her face. Her mother and teachers alike can’t believe how much confidence she has changed – “she’s like a totally different person now”.

These are just a couple of examples of the ways in which HITZ impacts positively lives of those young people that take part in the sessions, which are run at key times after school.

It is not just the participants who make the sessions special though – the dedicated rugby players who run them have developed a deep understanding of the young people they are working with.

They develop working relationships with the teachers in the local schools, get to know the participant’s peers and take a genuine interest in their lives – from their GSCE results to advising them when they are in trouble.

And some of them are in trouble – it is thought around a third of those participating in the sessions were known to the police. The sessions tackle social exclusion as well as delivering health outputs. Running sessions with the Met police encourage stronger relationships between the police and young people, helping bridge the gaps that seemed evident in the recent riots across the UK.

This, combined with teaching participants how to develop their emotions (a huge 73 per cent say that the sessions has helped them control their anger), means that the young people taking part are able to feel part of their communities, and reduces their likelihood of offending.

It is telling that HITZ is getting bigger – more young people are taking part and going on to coach themselves, more teachers are coming to us thrilled with the effect that HITZ is having on individuals in their classes, and more sessions being run throughout London boroughs – and I am looking forward to it becoming bigger still.

*names have been changed to protect identities