National award for rugby work

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KILHAM’S Jennifer Johnson has just received her RBS Daily Mail Real Rugby Heroes Award for her hard work and dedication in developing women’s rugby – one of only 10 in the country.

The former secondary schoolteacher, who now works for Activfirst Training, was nominated for her commitment in developing girls rugby union at Roundhay Technology and Language College by a member of the Yorkshire RFU, based in Leeds.

Her hard work contributed to the sport being put on the National Curriculum at the school.

She organised after school clubs so that interested players had an opportunity to develop their skills and even gave up her own time to provide a taxi service to take a group of girls to a local club in order for them to progress and develop further.

All of this work contributed to the school representing the North East and Yorkshire at Twickenham, while the school now enters all tag and contact festivals thanks to the enthusiasm and hard work that Johnson put in.

Not surprisingly, Johnson comes from a rugby-mad family. Her dad and brothers played for Bridlington but helping her mum with the teas was not enough and she launched her playing career as a wing and full back for Bridlington’s girls team before later playing for her university team.

“Our army of volunteers are crucial to the sport,” said RFU Head of Education Development Mark Saltmarsh.

“Within schools there are numerous unsung heroes who are passionate about giving young people a fantastic rugby experience.

“The response to the call for nominations for this season’s award has been phenomenal and shows how many people value school rugby volunteers and want to thank them.”

Johnson was heavily involved in the development of girls’ rugby in schools for over three years.

She supported the work of the RFU Community Rugby Coaches, creating valuable club links while encouraging other female PE teachers to undertake their Level One coaching. She further embedded girls’ rugby within the schools by adding it to the curriculum.

As a result, the number of girls playing rugby has increased dramatically.

Johnson said: “There was a little bit of “we don’t want to get muddy, miss” but once the girls became more familiar with the game, they got stuck in and grew to love it as much as I do.

“Rugby gives the girls so much more than just learning a new game.

“Playing as part of a team and the work ethic spills over into other areas of education.”

But she had one golden rule – if they neglected their academic work, they could not play in the team.

Her full prize included two tickets for an RBS 6 Nations England game and two certificates.