Playing Advantage two-year anniversary

Date: 21 Jan 2019


A Coventry mum has heaped praise on a rugby community programme that has changed her son’s life as it celebrates its two-year anniversary.

Emma Hammond’s 11-year-old son Jensen Hobley, who has autism and learning difficulties, is a regular at Wasps’ Playing Advantage session that is held every Sunday morning between 9am and 10.30am at King Henry VIII School Sports Centre.

The programme was set up by Wasps’ community team in January 2017 and is targeted at young people aged between six and 16-years-old with any type and level of learning disability, providing them with the chance to take part in a variety of sporting activities.

Playing Advantage marked its second birthday yesterday (Sunday 20 January) – the same date that Wasps took on reigning European champions Leinster Rugby at Ricoh Arena. The programme’s participants were presented with a giant cardboard cake from DS Smith, who help to fund the programme.

Jensen has only missed a couple of sessions since the programme’s launch, and is one of 35 young people who now attend every week.

“Jensen has gone from feeling isolated and shy to a confident and sociable young man,” said Hammond.

“Before he joined Playing Advantage there wasn’t really an environment where he could have fun with other children that had conditions similar to his – he now feels right at home, gets stuck in to the activities, and doesn’t feel the need to have me by his side all of the time.

“He’s also developed a passion for rugby. He goes to watch as many Wasps matches as he can.

“Before Playing Advantage it was difficult to get him settled for any period of time because of his anxious nature, but when a match is on he is totally transfixed on the action.

“Playing Advantage is one of the best things to happen to Jensen – it has really helped to bring him out of his shell and live life to the full.”

Jensen has also travelled further afield with his Playing Advantage counterparts, playing against similar sides in Oxford and at Saracens Rugby Club, and is also a member of Broadstreet RFC Mixed Ability team, playing fixtures against other local mixed ability teams as part of Wasps’ Project Rugby programme.

Jordan Young, who is the Community Development Officer at Wasps, was one of the key driving forces behind Playing Advantage two years ago, and has overseen the programme’s growth – including the launch of the programme at Hastings High School in Hinckley every Wednesday evening between 7pm and 8pm.

He added: “Seeing Jensen’s progression since we began shows us exactly why we put on these sessions.

“We initially set up the programme two years ago because we felt there wasn’t any sporting environment that enabled young people with learning difficulties to make new friends, develop their social skills and build resilience.

“We’ve now got to a stage where we are now making a difference to more than 40 young people’s lives week in, week out.

“It’s been a memorable two years, and we’re currently exploring what the next chapter holds, with a summer trip to Belfast currently being finalised.”

“It is particularly exciting that Jensen will be joining the inaugural Wasps Disability Tag Rugby team that is heading to an international festival in Belfast this summer.”

To find out more about the Playing Advantage programme, email jordan.young@wasps.co.uk.