DEVELOPMENT is the buzz word when it comes to asking what the Wigan Warriors Community Foundation is all about.
It’s a mantra – something that is ongoing right across the board – and something that its staff are never afraid to shy away from.
Last year was another extraordinary year with the outreach coaches travelling to more schools than ever while the college at Central Park continued to flourish and earned itself a very encouraging Ofsted report.
The Community Foundation is based at Central Park, at the site of the former Pembec High School, which also houses the club’s state-of-the-art Education Centre.
This is run by the Warriors offering vocational training and further education programmes aimed at providing experience, qualifications and work opportunities for 14 to 19-year-olds, many of whom are not currently be in education, employment or training (NEET). And the college is certainly not just there to teach folk how to play rugby; it also provides vocational courses in subjects as varied as hairdressing, cookery and construction.
The provision also offers facilities to be used by the local community as well as new headquarters for the club, a Centre of Excellence for the highly reputed Wigan Warriors’ Youth Development Programme and a sophisticated base for the Warriors Community and Foundation.
It has helped ensure the charity has been able to deliver services to the highest standard.
Community Foundation General Manager Martin McLoughlin said: “Since I came on-board over 12 months ago we have had a number of clear aims and objectives that we wanted to implement. Being out in the community is a key focus for us.
“We now run programmes from under-5s all the way up to 65+ in partnership with a number of community groups. In schools we have a robust pathway that links into the community but also our performance and education departments as well. Visibility and profile is huge for us as we need people to support what we do.”
A key feature that the Community Foundation prides its self upon is the close partnerships that have been developed with schools to ensure that all programmes fully meet the needs of participants.
Martin added: “In Key Stage One we deliver movement literacy programmes combined with Animalates which is a dynamic exercise programme for young children, in Key Stage Two we run numeracy and heritage projects alongside tag rugby, we have just delivered a successful heritage project with WLCT around World War One.
“In secondary schools, Steve McCormack has come on board as Coach Education and Development Manager to support the fantastic job being done by the teachers and volunteers in the Wigan area to develop the sport and participation in Rugby League.
“We’re probably one of the leading foundations in terms of our links with secondary schools”
Steve McCormack was a big signing for the foundation team at the end of October.
Steve is currently head coach of Scotland and is the longest reigning coach in the nation’s history having held the role since 2004.
He also has an extensive club coaching career, having coached Salford in the Super League and Whitehaven, Widnes, Barrow and Swinton in the Rugby League Championships.
His official title is Coach Education & Development Manager, a new role that has been introduced to support development and community pathways.
Steve has responsibility for a number of grassroots player development initiatives and plays a key role in establishing rugby league education programmes for school teachers and coaches at both community and professional level
He said: “It’s great to come into foundation that has an established delivery programme that is working well, I’m not setting things up from scratch.
“It’s already successful with regards to working in primary and secondary schools. We’ve also got a sports college that is gaining a very good reputation.
“It’s part of my role to enhance all these projects and from development point of view create some great opportunities for post 16 players at our sports college.”
Steve and his family have grown up in Wigan and know just how integral the rugby league club is to the town.
But he knows full well that simply having a big name is not enough to bring positive results in education.
He added: “It’s something you can never take for granted.
“We all know how famous Wigan Warriors are. But as a born and bred Wiganer, since coming in I didn’t realise the good work the foundation does. “It’s been a bit of an eye opener for me, maybe we don’t bang the drum enough about the outstanding work that is going on.”
Director Wayne Joyce commended the excellent team of staff who work for the foundation.
He said: “he staff have worked tirelessly to improve how the charity functions and ensure its outreach is as big as possible.
“Across Rugby League development, Education and wider community projects the numbers we’re working with has seen a massive increase in numbers over the last 12 months engaging participants aged between 5 and 70. Credit and thanks to Foundation General Manager Martin McLoughlin, Head of Education Kevin Perry and Projects Manager Mike Wearden for the outstanding work they have done over the last 12 months.”
The next two years will see a significant development of the Wigan Warriors Community Foundation.
The excellent progress to current date will be built upon and driven into a new era with a revised innovative approach that will promote, grow and diversify the scheme.
Through its activities, the Foundation will explore new ways of supporting learning, health participation, promoting health and welfare, encourage social inclusion and cohesion, embraces and celebrates diverse communities whilst in the process, maximizing the opportunities to champion the sport of Rugby League and support for Wigan Warriors.
The Foundation also plans to substantially expand the range of opportunities at the Central Park site where the foundation is based at.
Wayne added: “It’s exciting times for the foundation. We are all really focussed and have the aim of making the foundation the biggest in the sport.
“With the support of the world renowned Wigan Warriors behind us there is no reason why we can reach out to more members of the local community by developing even more sport, health, education and cohesion programmes for all.
“We remain totally committed to working with wider community groups across a number of different areas such as directives to decrease the level of those who are NEET”
Watch out for further updates on the work of the foundation throughout 2015 at www.warriorscommunityfoundation.com or on twitter @WiganWarriorsCF.