CROYDON'S Thomas Whitehurst is bidding to become the latest beneficiary of a rugby scheme backed by Lions legends Scott Quinnell and Will Greenwood that aims to improve employability using rugby.
Unemployed since January, the 18-year-old enrolled in the School of Hard Knocks last month, a charity featured on Sky Sports that uses rugby to facilitate integration into full-time work.
Boasting Quinnell and Greenwood as ambassadors, the eight-week programme has had a dramatic impact in helping out-of-work youngsters confront their fears on and off the field across the United Kingdom.
Based at Streatham-Croydon Rugby Football Club, Whitehurst and 24 others meet twice-a-week and train for two hours in the morning, before attending employment theory sessions in the afternoon.
Whitehurst also experiences a 24-hour team-building expedition and seminars with inspirational individuals with the course culminating in a game against an established rugby club.
"I had a temporary Christmas job but that ended and applying for jobs has been very unsuccessful," said Whitehurst, who plays for Old Mid-Whitgiftian.
"Right now I wish this was all week because the following day I will have nothing to do. You get to learn about rugby and discover how to best go about getting a job and learning the key skills you need.
"I am relishing the physical challenges that are going to be put in front of us and I want to be a professional rugby player so this is a great opportunity."
Another optimistic student from Croydon, 21-year-old Jack Palmer believes the confidence he is gaining from the programme has rejuvenated his desire to find a job.
"I can't fault this at all – it's amazing," said Palmer, who studied at Croydon College.
"I need to get my life back on track and I have always seen rugby as a man's sport. It gives any person that plays it confidence to do what they want on and off the pitch.
"I think team work is a major aspect I have improved. I have also come down here every day on time and that is the dedication and commitment I can prove to the employer."