2015 is turning out to be a truly record-breaking year for the Wigan Warriors Community Foundation. The Warrior matchday magazine recently caught up with Community Marketing Executive and Foundation Coach Amanda Wilkinson for an update.
When hearing the words ‘Wigan Warriors Community Foundation’ you’d be forgiven for thinking the work of the Foundation, the Club’s charitable arm that engages people in sport, is focused purely on the Wigan borough. Indeed a large amount of work is focused on the Wigan area however the Warriors Foundation will impact people from as far away as Scotland and London this year as the organisation continues to spread the word about the Wigan Club and the sport of Rugby League.
"Without doubt 2015 is turning out be a year like no other, we’re engaging with more people than ever before and across a wider geographical location too." An enthusiastic Wilkinson exclaimed.
Historically, the foundation would only carry out work within the Wigan borough however the team of Coaches and support staff have, for a number of years, now engaged with people from outside of the Wigan heartland.
Amanda explained. "It all started about six or seven years ago. Originally I’m from Cumbria and when I started working here some contacts I know from Barrow Island ARL got in touch with me asking if we could go and do a Rugby Camp up there. With Cumbria being a real hotbed of Rugby League we knew it would be a good chance to work with a large number of youngsters, helping them develop their skills whilst also having them engage with the Warriors.
"A year later we actually managed to draw Barrow in the Cup and straight away we knew it would be a great opportunity to take it a step further. We went up to Barrow for a week, working with children in the schools around Barrow during the day then local amateur coaches in the evenings.
"After that we then had people from all over Cumbria contacting us asking us to go up and get involved with them, it was clear to see that it was a great chance to help clubs and players develop whilst at the same time spreading the message about Wigan Rugby League Club."
Following early success in the Cumbria region, Amanda was keen to keep the momentum going and expand the ‘Wigan web’ even further.
"The majority of the ‘out of area’ activity that we did at first was in Cumbria until I spoke with a friend of mine called Neil Coupland. I knew Neil from my time at Leeds Rhinos and he wanted to do some work to develop junior players at Coventry Bears. First off they came to watch a game and learn about us and how we go about things before we then went and did a camp down there. Most of the kids that came were from a Rugby Union background so it was about introducing them to the game of Rugby League, showing them some of the key skills that are required in our game and just introducing them to the sport."
The success of the Bears is clear for all to see. From an amateur club formed just 16 years ago, they are now in the third tier of professional Rugby League and fighting it out with the likes of Swinton, Oldham and Rochdale.
Amanda says she is delighted to see the success of the Midlands outfit.
"I know that they managed to develop some players for their team from the camps that we did there and that’s just brilliant. The camps we have done there in Coventry and now down the road in Hinckley too are really helping to strengthen the sport in that area."
The Midlands is again on the radar of the Community Foundation with a few new locations included this year too.
"We’ve got a camp lined up in Scotland for later this summer. With Steve McCormack (Scotland RL Head Coach) now coming on board here at the Warriors, he set us up with a link at a team up there in Gala so we’re really excited to be heading up there.
"We also have plans to head down to London and work with some teams down there too so it’s a great time for the Foundation."
Not forgetting the capital of the Rugby League world of course, the Community Foundation will also work with thousands of children across Wigan throughout 2015.
"Alongside the work we continually do in Wigan schools we’ve also got three Player Camps coming up at Central Park over the summer. The Player Camps continue to be really popular amongst our junior fans.
"I have to say that I do love my job and there is nothing better than seeing the kids when the players come down to camp. The players are great, they take time on their day off to come down for us and they really get stuck in and enjoy it."