Giving something back All of us who have ever played sport, and particularly rugby, are aware of its power to foster teamwork, of handling difficult situations and of the rewards for persistence against the many challenges thrown your way. A learning ground for life. Some of us are fortunate to be granted this life benefit through our background. And some are not so fortunate. The School of Hard Knocks tries to address that imbalance, but needs our help. What is School of Hard Knocks? A social inclusion charity using sport to tackle the issues surrounding unemployment, antisocial behaviour, crime and health. SOHK deploys an expert team of coaches and mentors, supported by a wide range of high profile individuals from within and outside sport. Using challenging activities and values-based lessons, they teach responsibility, motivation, teamwork, respect and discipline. We can take many of these for granted. Others are not so fortunate. Demonstrating to people the context of their actions - and the impact of taking responsibility for them - makes a difference. Developing a sense of self-belief equips people for the challenges of contributing positively to society. The programmes are delivered to young children, teenagers and adults. Haven't I heard of this before? Possibly – over the last few years the Charity have lent their format to Sky Sports for a once-a-year, 4-part programme fronted by Will Greenwood and Scott Quinnell. 8 weeks of regular training building towards a final match and a jobs fair. Watching a 6 ft 8” former rugby international forward put his arm around a 30 year-old man who has never had a role model and tell him “We are relying on you tomorrow on the pitch, and we know you are good enough” makes for powerful viewing. You can almost feel the immediate impact. With the pre-match team talk there is rarely a dry eye in the house. And the smiles on faces, the firm handshakes and the eye contact being held by the end of the course tell the story. It evokes powerful emotions. It was watching this programme - and contrasting it to what I saw every Sunday morning at my son’s rugby festivals - many hundreds of well-equipped, fully-kitted, confident, well-educated kids being supported by their parents every week - that motivated me to get involved in the Charity and try to share our good fortune. So what are they trying to do? The team at School of Hard Knocks are striving to create something that is much broader, and permanent, than the current reach of the organisation. They have developed a powerful format, have involved some inspirational leaders and coaches and seek to tap the potential for a very lasting and sustainable legacy. The need for programmes like SOHK to exist is significant. Permanently excluded children have very poor chances of gaining qualifications and becoming employed, with over 50% going on to offend and less than 30% achieving even one GCSE. Each child that is excluded from school is estimated to cost society £371,000 over the course of their lifetime through crime, unemployment and poor health. It costs just £600 pounds to put one child through a year of SOHK for Schools, quite aside from the future positive contributions that person will make. 94% of SOHK for School participants have avoided permanent exclusion, post course. SOHK currently works with over 500 children every week but the need is so much greater. Since 2012 SOHK have helped over 700 adults via their employability programmes, predominantly in London but also in Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff. The adult courses are focused on tackling unemployment, anti-social behaviour, crime and poor health. The programme involves a mixture of sporting activity and a specific employability and life skills curriculum, for 2 days per week over 8 weeks. Sounds interesting. What can I do? As much as you are inspired to do, really. SOHK is 5 years into a start-up venture with a great “product”, in a market with huge and permanent demand, that needs infrastructure and resources to expand its delivery and its impact. At a minimum we are asking for a donation of £3 per month. One morning coffee or one evening pint – so your waistline benefits as well! You may feel inspired, or able, to stretch a little further. If you are inspired to act please go to the red DONATE button on this page! Perhaps become an Ambassador for the SOHK, come along to the next event and meet the team, listen to the inspiring stories, meet people who have benefitted from the programme, broaden the charity support base, think about how you or your organisation can help to develop the infrastructure, profile and resources that the students of the courses will benefit from. Maybe as I did you will find a story that resonates with you. Maybe you will find the inspiration and a way for you or your organisation to help. Or maybe you will simply be able to help to raise awareness of SOHK and all that it embodies.