Over the past two weeks, we have been lucky enough to have Grace from Unlocked Graduates join us on a work experience placement. She has been working closely with the London team to support our sessions and even got involved in an exciting Career Taster Day. Now that her placement is coming to an end, Grace has reflected on her experience and has written the Team Talk below.

I am currently a participant on the Unlocked Graduates Scheme, working as a prison officer whilst partaking in a masters degree. Our mission is to drive change and encourage rehabilitation from the frontline in a multitude of establishments. As part of the scheme, Unlocked Graduates provide the participants an opportunity to do a work placement for 2 weeks, which I was lucky enough to be partnered with Dallaglio RugbyWorks.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I got told I would be working for DRW for two weeks, I had obviously looked into the company and what their purpose was, but I was not too sure what it really entailed. I then witnessed my first interaction between a DRW coach and a young person, and I quickly realised that this was so much more than just a sports programme. These basic interactions such as a fist bump, or even just shouting “yo” immediately showed me the core, positive relationships that have been built.

Seeing how the young people's manners would automatically change from being around their teachers or even peers, to talking to the coaches is something I will never forget. From working in a prison with some of the most vulnerable young people in society, I understand the importance of building these relationships, however in this setting, I think building these relationships from a younger age plays such a vital role in empowering the young people into developing key transferrable life skills.

It has only taken me a week to witness the incredible work that DRW deliver and I don’t think anyone can truly appreciate how much the young people come alive when a ball is at their feet until you witness it first hand. There is this one memory that will I will take back with me to the prison, this young person came out to the session in a foul mood. They did not want to get involved in any activity and after speaking to one of the DRW coaches, in five minutes he was sparring and playing football for nearly an hour. He left that court with a smile on his face shouting that he would see them next week. That smile, told me everything I needed to know about this charity. That smile was so much more than a smile, it was a feeling that he was included and witnessing this felt wholesome.

You never truly know what each session is going to entail, however you know by the end of it, you are leaving with a smile on your face and that's because of the coaches create such a relaxed and flexible environment for the young people, which helps them to be active and have fun.