• In the second year as the Official Performance Partner of England Rugby, Honda is honoured with title sponsor for the Volunteer Recognition Programme
• A remarkable group of rugby volunteers were celebrated and rewarded at the Honda Volunteer of the Year awards at Twickenham Stadium last Friday
• Volunteers are celebrated across three categories: Game for All, Unsung Hero, Challenging Spirit
The Honda Volunteer of the Year Awards 2023 took place on Friday evening, 1st September 2023, at Twickenham Stadium, the home of England rugby. The evening is dedicated to rewarding the volunteers across the country who make up an integral part of the game. The Honda Volunteer Recognition Programme is an initiative run by the RFU to recognise the volunteer network and the great contributions made to community rugby in England which enables the sport to continue to grow at a grassroots level.
As the official performance partner of Rugby Football Union, Honda is honoured with title sponsor for the Volunteer Recognition Programme.
Over 1,600 entries were received, with nominees recognised at local level, before winners from these events were put forward as national finalists. The awards recognise the inspiring achievements of the volunteers in three categories: Game for All, Unsung Hero, Challenging Spirit.
Rob Briers, RFU President commented: “Those attending the awards, all 43 nominated and the winners, represent a wider army of volunteers nationwide, the very best of our sport, who exemplify our core values of Teamwork, Respect, Enjoyment, Discipline and Sportsmanship.”
GAME FOR ALL
Sam Trevor, team manager, and Dave Copeland, head coach, travelled from Walcot RFC in Bath to pick up the Game for All award on behalf of the wider group of volunteers, including Trevor Wallace, Simon Chambers and Alex Peters.
These volunteers provide mixed ability rugby for team Walcot Warriors. Now going into their sixth season, their membership has grown to over 40 active members, thanks to this group linking up with three local SEND schools and waiving membership fees for those that cannot afford them.
“We had boys joining the team in 2017 when they were 16 or 17. Now, they’re senior members of the team who show the new boys joining where they can get to.” said team manager Sam Trevor.
The team of volunteers have involved other local schools, by offering rugby coach facilitator roles to students completing their Duke of Edinburgh awards. They have big aspirations for what is next for Walcot Warriors. As well as supporting the development of an under 16s pathway, they want to increase the reach of the club to continue to serve their local community.
“Instead of just being a rugby club, we want to become a community club for all local people, not just for people who are disabled,” said Sam.
Alex Lacey won the Unsung Hero award for his work in revamping his club, Mersea Island RFC. Alex is instrumental in the day to day running of the club; he creates all their online graphics, runs their social media and has overseen a substantial rise in the club’s sponsorship for the upcoming season.
“The club has always had a presence, but I wanted to increase the visibility of the club in the local community, especially to show new sponsors the benefits of working with us. That’s why we’ve stepped up our social media,” said Alex.
Through Alex, the club also works closely with Mersea Island primary school and Thurstable secondary school to increase young people’s access to rugby. The rugby club offers after-school rugby clubs and curriculum days at the schools, and interest from these groups has led to the club starting a girls’ section. Alex also builds links with other sports teams locally, organising community days and fun sporting fixtures to create a fun and community feel at the club.
Olivia Schepisi, Kimberley Chapman and Charlotte Knowles received the Challenging Spirit award for their work with the women’s section at Yorkshire club, Skipton RFC.
These volunteers have increased the number of players at their club through the introduction of touch rugby, fitness bootcamps and ensured an increased number of matches have been completed, using the Game-On principles. They also developed a girls’ training programme, which led to the establishment of a girls’ section.
“When the season finished, there were lots of people who didn’t want rugby training to be over. So, we introduced fitness bootcamps to keep people involved. The bootcamps are open to all, not just rugby players. We have teachers, company directors, students of all different ages, including mums and their daughters.” said Kimberley Chapman.
“We’ve created a space where everyone is welcome, and we’ve grown to having 40 active players and fielding two teams. We have been known to go up to people in the street or the park to try and persuade them to join our team!” said Charlotte Knowles.
The ceremony was presented by Alex Payne, with guests taking part in a Q & A earlier in the day with Rugby World Cup winner Katy Daley-McLean.
Rebecca Adamson, Head of Automobile at Honda UK, commented: “At Honda we strive to improve people’s lives through the Power of Dreams, and that same challenging spirit can be found in abundance at rugby clubs up and down the country. We see many parallels between our brand values and those of the individuals that are celebrated as part of the Honda Volunteer Recognition Programme who make rugby such a special sport to be a part of.”
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