From serving a custodial sentence to lining up an apprenticeship, Abud Alkasbeh’s life has completely turned around thanks to the HITZ programme delivered by Sale Sharks.
HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s flagship education and employability programme, working with more than 2,000 14-23 year-olds across England every year and using rugby’s core values to develop the personal skills, life skills and employability skills of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).
Supported by the CVC Foundation, Land Rover, Wooden Spoon and SCL Education, HITZ is one of Premiership Rugby’s flagship community programmes, delivered by all Premiership clubs in their communities.
Abud, 18, is one of the inspirational young people that we will be turning the spotlight on across Round 12 of Gallagher Premiership Rugby (5-7 March) when all matches will be dedicated to our award-winning community programmes that benefit around 250,000 people annually.
Abud’s skills have certainly developed since he joined the HITZ programme at Sale Sharks in August 2020, with a career in painting and decorating now his goal.
The path which he appeared destined to go down looked very different, after moving to the UK from Jordan aged 12 unable to speak English and thrown head-first into secondary school. Abud was picked on by bullies and got into fights, eventually finding himself serving a three-month custodial sentence and referred to the Trafford Youth Offending Service.
But the HITZ programme has helped engineer a turnaround in Abud’s life and set him on a more positive path.
“Since he signed up, he’s been amazing,” Sharks HITZ Officer Jon Travena said.
“His background and his story you wouldn’t believe, looking at the lad who we work with. Every Monday he engages with a company called The Bread and Butter Thing, which is a food bank project. He’s giving back to the community. He’s a great kid to work with, I’ve got a lot of time for him.”
Having served his sentence and needing a pathway to get him back on the straight and narrow, Abud was sent HITZ’s way and he hasn’t looked back since.
Nearly 16,000 young people have engaged in the HITZ programme since it was created in 2008, with Abud one of a huge number of success stories.
Since joining, his confidence has sky-rocketed and his ability to communicate has greatly improved. But the most rewarding aspects of his involvement has seen Abud volunteer to help the community at a local foodbank while staying on track to succeed in his qualification, as he targets a level two painting and decorating course at Trafford College in the future.
“When they come on the programme and they see us in Sale tracksuits and it’s a laidback setting – although it’s still school but they don’t associate us with it. It’s much easier to build a rapport with them due to this,” Travena added.
“In school, Abud was put into his class but he didn’t speak any English or understand it. He said to me he was sat there and he didn’t know what was going on.
“If he hadn’t engaged with us in the way he did, he would have been back into trouble in some form.
“He turns up every week for work experience and engages with the group. Every break time he’s in a group which takes a rugby ball out. It’s seeing those soft skills develop.
“We can create a career pathway as successful as we want and we can give him mock interviews and so on but if he doesn’t develop those soft skills then he hasn’t got a chance. His communication skills have improved. We know English isn’t his first language but he can hold a conversation and understands people. He’s developed resilience and hopefully he develops from here and sticks with college or an apprenticeship.”
Wayne Morris, Community & Corporate Social Responsibility Director at Premiership Rugby said: “Abud has shown the power of the HITZ programme, and when you hear his story you can only admire the way he has decided to turn his life around. Abud’s determination to succeed is inspiring and we all hope he makes it into full-time employment.
“HITZ succeeds for young people like Abud because it uses rugby’s core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship to support them to make positive changes in their life.
“Starting in a field in the London Borough of Hackney in 2008, HITZ has gone from strength-to-strength and helped participants turn their lives around through gaining qualifications and developing their personal, life and employability skills.”