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Home > News > Pied Piper Jason Robinson cuts a great line for HSBC youngsters
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Your News Pied Piper Jason Robinson cuts a great line for HSBC youngsters
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12
OCT

Jason Robinsons nimble footwork and blistering pace may not make him an ideal candidate for the role of Pied Piper, but as he underlined at this weeks launch of the HSBC Rugby Festivals programme in Manchester, the development of his career from humble origins and his empathy with young people make him ideally cast in the role of ambassador for a project that will extend over 300 venues during the season.

The competition, the biggest of its kind in the world, is set to embrace around 60,000 schoolchildren across the four nations involved in the HSBC sponsored British & Irish Lions, as well as schools in South Africa, where the Lions are visiting next year.

A development of the successful RFU Emerging Schools tournament that has been running for the past decade, the competition focuses on grass-roots level rugby and involves boys and girls in the Under 12/14 age-group, with the final at Twickenham and Robinson on board to help sprinkle a touch of stardust on the road to the showpiece.

While the World Cup winner oozes celebrity status, it is his relatively humble origins in inner-city Leeds which give him genuine street cred when working with the youngsters involved in the HSBC programme.

Billy Whiz to thousands of rugby enthusiasts from both codes, he is the embodiment of how sport in general, and rugby in particular, can be a life-changing influence. His status as one of the brightest stars in the sporting firmament has been achieved from a very ordinary background. Silver boots perhaps, but no sign of a silver spoon.

Not that he allows false modesty to obscure the reality of his situation. His own memories underline what he brings to the HSBC table.

There was nothing like this when I was this age this is the daddy of all rugby programmes. he says. I remember being a 10-year-old and if ever there was a professional rugby player that I looked up to being involved in something, I wanted to be there. And if I was there, it was such a privilege.

Ive got pictures now of people presenting trophies to me and I still remember that day as if it were yesterday.

Gary Schofield was one of my heroes when I was a ball-boy at Leeds; I played against Ellery Hanley and was coached by him; and I played with Shaun Edwards and all these other fantastic players. Ive still got pictures of them somewhere.

But who would have thought when I was at Crossflatts Park Middle School in a deprived area of inner-city Leeds I would manage to achieve what Ive achieved. This is why for me its great to come and be involved. Because if it worked for me, if I could do it, why not one of these guys in the HSBC programme?

Youve got to have goals, but the children can look at me and say Look, he didnt start off with anything; he didnt have some privileged background where he was able to get from A to B to C; he just turned up with a dream and a lot of enthusiasm and worked hard. Thankfully I got to the top in both codes and hopefully that will give the kids a lot of encouragement.

Even if they dont get to be a professional player, rugby is all about enjoying it and if you do that, you get a lot from it.

A handsome lifestyle will not be available to everyone who follows the HSBC rugby path, but a healthy one is another desirable goal worth striving for.

Obesity figures in young people seem to be on the increase and I know sport will help in that area. he says. Dont get me wrong there is a time to sit in front of a computer. There are lots of things you can learn.

But if all you are doing is playing games and wasting time, then its better to be outside in the fresh air running about getting exercise. Sport has a massive impact on lifestyle and not just at home.

It kept me out of a lot of trouble. It kept me off the streets and stopped me from becoming bored. Hanging around bus stops and tormenting people. I was training two nights a week and I had a goal, a purpose. Its important that we encourage children to do it and give them the opportunity. The HSBC festivals will do that.

When I was this age I was playing anything rugby, cricket, tennis, all sports. Sport gets you out, away from computers and into an environment where you can learn so much. Discipline is one of the key things, working as a team and relying on other people to complete their part of the jigsaw. And young people have so much energy that needs channelling in the right direction. Through these festivals and the programmes we are running, the children will get the chance to get out there and let off some steam and enjoy it.

Its just great that sport, especially rugby, gives you a chance. It doesnt matter who you are; what colour you are; what size you are big, small, short, tall theres a place for you in rugby. Rugby teams are a bag of all sorts. Its just a great way to go.

The HSBC Rugby Festivals programme is therefore a perfect vehicle for Robinson to add a rugby dimension to his retirement he insists he does not get itchy feet watching the game and at the same time help to give youngsters the belief that they can share his dream and maybe emulate his success.

Before I finished playing, my thoughts were on what I would like to do after. he said. Professional coaching didnt really appeal to me, but one of the things I have enjoyed over the years is working with the young guys and girls at grass roots level. So when HSBC approached me to be the ambassador for this programme I was delighted. This is what I really enjoy doing and I think its only right that when I get the opportunity to pass on that experience that I do so.

Its a case of me working alongside them and hopefully when they go home they will be able to say that they were doing a two-on-one or passing with Jason Robinson and that will encourage them to become more involved with rugby.

This is not a short term programme, its the biggest thing going and it will affect the lives of 60,000 children. Were looking at the future and thats why Im delighted to be involved. And who knows? another Martin Johnson might emerge from one of these HSBC festivals.

Another dimension to the HSBC project is the support for the SOS IRB Kit Aid project which connects under-privileged children across the globe with schools in the UK and Ireland who have spare kit to donate. Children in South Africa will be the beneficiaries of the additional focus that the HSBC initiative is developing.

Says Robinson: Ive been to South Africa and seen children playing with nothing on their feet. So to get all this stuff and take it out there will be fantastic. There is a lot more to come out of this which will benefit a lot of people.

And the final treat for the teams who make it to the Twickenham finals on May 2, when the annual Army v Navy game will be providing a spectacular backdrop.

There is something great about playing in the best arenas in the world in front of big crowds. Every time I played at Twickenham I just knew that this was what it was all about and I knew that I was in a very privileged position to be able to go out there and perform in front of these people.

As a youngster being able to get that opportunity to just walk out there will be fantastic. Its a great opportunity for them and something I know they will never forget.

He knows it because hes been there; got all the T-shirts; stored all the memories. In his new rugby career, spreading the word and inspiring another generation of HSBC youngsters is fulfilment of a different sort, but rich fulfilment nevertheless.

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