A Sale Sharks community coach has won a prestigious national award after going ‘above and beyond the call of duty’ to help disadvantaged young people get back into education, vocational training, apprenticeships and employment.
Aaron Phelps Naqvi, who has worked with the award-winning Sale Sharks Community Trust since 2015, picked up the HITZ Champion title at the national HITZ Awards on Tuesday in London.
The HITZ Champion award, which is supported by Comic Relief, recognises an individual who has helped a participant overcome their personal barriers.
Aaron, originally from London, was shortlisted along with nominees from Bath Rugby and Worcester Warriors after he helped 46 learners from the HITZ Salford programme complete qualifications and a work placement in the last 12 months.
“I’m incredibly honoured to be given this award,” said Aaron. “It recognises the fantastic work that the whole Trust does right across the North West.
“We’re lucky to work with some truly inspiring young people and it’s really rewarding to see them go on to achieve what we know they are capable of.”
Delivered across Greater Manchester the Sale Sharks Community Trust in partnership with Premiership Rugby, HITZ uses rugby to increase young peoples’ resilience, self-reliance and confidence.
The programme, which has been running for 6 years, is focused on giving participants the skills they need to get back into education, vocational training, apprenticeships and employment.
Jonny Acheson, Executive Director at the Sale Sharks Community Trust, said: “This award is fantastic recognition for Aaron and the work that he has been doing since 2015.
“He consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty for our learners and the proof is in the amazing results that he – and they – have been able to achieve.”
Speaking ahead of the glittering ceremony, held at London’s BT Centre, one of the judges, Lisa Bedding, Sport for Change Grants Manager at Comic Relief, said: “Aaron has clearly gone above and beyond the remit of his job requirements.
“The results he’s achieved for the participants is really impressive, and credit to the hard work he’s put in.”
HITZ learner Odin Quinn, from Rochdale, was also shortlisted for the HITZ Young Ambassador award, the prize awarded to an individual who has grown and changed for the better, and whose positive attitude has made an impact on those involved in and the programme.
Odin was 20 years old when he joined the HITZ programme at Sale Sharks in September 2016 with learning difficulties and a severe lack of confidence.
He was rejected by a local college and felt as though he had no viable options. But since joining the HITZ programme he has gone on to complete a work placement at Moorgate Catering and gained both confidence and new skills.
“Odin is a fantastic example of how, with a little of the right support, young people can turn their lives around,” Jonny added. “We’re really proud of both Odin and Aaron.”