Over the next few weeks, as we #ReturnToPlay, we'll be hearing from some of our team, as they explain what it's been like to get back to what we do best - which is bringing our unique life-changing support to young people most in need. 

In our first piece, Andrea, one of London Mentors, describe his return back into schools around the capital.

It was a sunny day at the end of the summer. The rugby ball couldn’t stay in the bag any longer. And although the facemask was covering our smiles, it couldn’t hide our happiness.

After more than five months we went back to school. New River Pupil Referral Unit in the London Borough of Islington has hosted our new beginning as RugbyWorks mentors. For Dan and myself it was also the first chance to deliver together again since lockdown had started.

After such a long time away from school and the young people I was curious and excited about going back to school. It felt like the beginning of a new adventure.We received a homely welcome from New River’s staff, at their first day back as well. Covid 19 procedures were perfectly in place. We washed our hands, kept both social distancing and facemasks on while we were inside, and then we went straight to the great Astro pitch in the backyard.

We didn’t really know what to expect from the young people, who had been away from school and from their classmates for months. But as soon as we set foot on the field everything became so natural.

andrea nalio alex everett bolter

We used the rugby ball as an icebreaker, and it worked perfectly. Passing the ball from hands to hands, we introduced ourselves and we asked how everyone had being coping with this unprecedented time. I wasn’t surprised at all when the young people showed how happy they were to be at school. They missed their friends and the activity they used to do together. Something we shared in common.

New River hasn’t been the exception. I felt similar feelings from both young people and members of staff in every school we delivered. In fact, the first week of the Academic Year 2020-2021 has seen the London team back at it different schools across the city.

On our second morning back we met three different cohorts at The Limes College, Sutton, and an energetic group of young people at Camden Centre For Learning.I noticed a lot of similarities between schools: positivity, willingness to play sport and eagerness to spend time together. I couldn’t be happier.

From what we’ve seen during our fist week back, I’m sure that a lot of young people will benefit from us at RugbyWorks and our mission.

I’m sure it’s going to be a busy and interesting new adventure for the RugbyWorks Mentors as well. What hasn’t changed though, is what we’re trying to achieve with the young people: supporting them to develop life-skills and to have a positive and bright future. I’m sure we’ll make it happen for them!