September 26, 2014

Rugby Changing Lives - School of Hard Knocks Charity

Rugby, it is the game that we all live for and the game that adds so much joy to all of our lives. We love every aspect of it including the fact that it has an enormous ability to change lives for the better. The School of Hard Knocks concept is the brainchild of Ken Cowen and for the past 2 and a half years it has been showcased on Sky Sports. Two icons of the modern game; Will Greenwood and Scott Quinnell have presented and championed the show and through it we have seen exactly how powerful and effective the Hard Knocks way can be.  

In 2012 the School of Hard Knocks Charity was born, the SOHK Show stems from the Charity. The Charity constantly works to spread the Hard Knocks method across the country and founder Ken spoke to me about his memories of the very beginning;

“I first pitched the idea of using rugby to help change the behaviour of men to Knowsley Council in Merseyside... their response was plain and simple saying that it was a stupid idea which couldn’t work due to the fact that they didn’t have a single set of rugby posts in the borough. Obviously posts are important however I thought that it was a concept and idea worth perusing because the values of rugby are life values as well as intrinsic to game and with the physical outlet I believed it was the right solution."

When you meet Ken you realise that he is not one to take no for an answer, thankfully he perused the idea and just before the programme began he came into contact with a gentleman from Sky Sports who decided to film it. As a result 10 minutes of Hard Knocks appeared on Rugby Club and the rest, as they say, is history.

Two Fridays ago Sky Sports launched SOHK Series 7, this year the televised programme is based at Moseley Rugby Club in Birmingham and we have just witnessed the start of the participants' Hard Knocks journeys. Day 1 greeted them with snow and below freezing temperatures, even the hardy Scott Quinnell looked as if he was about to turn into an ice cube, however the importance of taking that first step and powering through in Arctic conditions was vital.

The programme and the Hard Knocks way, led by the SOHK Charity, has reached out to many people and has taken them from extremely dark places, darker than you and I could ever imagine and transformed their lives, in some cases it has genuinely saved lives. Now you may be thinking that I am being cliché or cheesy, but trust me I am not. In Series 7 we have already witnessed Adam, Adam's body found session one too much to cope with and he did what many players have done before, threw up his breakfast on the sidelines, however his breakfast was absinthe. Psychologist Paul Boross features heavily on the show and it is the work that he does, alongside Will and Scott and the rest of the SOHK team that assist these men in building their confidence, personal characters and helping them to overcome other significant life challenges. However it must be said that magic wands don’t exist in the land of Hard Knocks; instead perseverance, effort and determination are the tools for change and success.

Over the coming weeks Series 7 of the School of Hard Knocks programme on Sky Sports will showcase the journey that these men take, the lessons that they learn and how it impacts on them. Not every single individual going through the Hard Knocks doors will turn their lives around forever, however all are given a tremendous opportunity to do so. On Friday 3rd October the School of Hard Knocks Charity will preview the Series 7 Finale in London, it will be an emotionally charged night with individuals from the series, the SOHK team and guests sitting down to witness the final step of their televised journeys; beyond that last show it is up to the SOHK Graduates to take their opportunities and prosper. I cannot wait to be there and if you are in London I genuinely hope that you come along as well (details here). 

The School of Hard Knocks Charity continues the Hard Knocks way 365 days a year and it is through their dedication and the vision and work of founder Ken Cowen that means that rugby provides hope and a future when so many thought that there was nothing left.