JEREMY van Kralingen is bidding to improving his job prospects through a rugby scheme backed by Lions legends Scott Quinnell and Will Greenwood after being failed by traditional employment methods.
Last month, unemployed 21-year-old van Kralingen joined the School of Hard Knocks, a charity featured on Sky Sports that uses rugby to facilitate integration into full-time employment.
Boasting Quinnell and Greenwood as ambassadors, the eight-week course has had a dramatic impact in helping out-of-work youngsters confront their fears on and off the field across the UK.
Van Kralingen and 24 others meet twice a week and train for two hours in the morning, before attending employment theory sessions in the afternoon.
They also experience a 24-hour team-building expedition and seminars with inspirational individuals, the course culminating in a game against an established rugby club.
“Since finishing my English literature degree I have been looking for work,” said van Kralingen, a University of Roehampton graduate. “I was planning on doing teaching but I left it too late to apply, so I need the experience to continue pursuing a career.
“I had a job centre meeting and the course was suggested to me so I jumped at the opportunity to come and play rugby.
“It is a group of guys - who haven’t got work -coming together to play rugby and help each other find the same thing – a job.
“I hadn’t played rugby for four years and getting back into it was so rewarding. The drills at the beginning were really hard and you have to push yourself through it.
“You are way out of your comfort zone and most of the guys haven’t done anything like this before, but if we can conquer this we will have the confidence to find employment.”
Encouraged by what he has seen of the current crop, School of Hard Knocks chief executive Ken Cowen believes the physical and mental demands of the sport will help the likes of van Kralingen reintegrate into society.
And, with only a few weeks until a game against Streatham-Croydon, Cowen is confident the challenge will galvanise them to realise their potential.
“We believe at the SOHK that one of the best ways to teach people responsibility, motivate them and give them some steel is to play rugby,” said Cowen.
“It seems to get them upbeat, give them a lot of self-confidence and we get really good percentages of people into work within three months of a course.
“Hardship builds teams and teaches them the concept of citizenship. They learn to take responsibility not just for themselves but for those around them.
“A lot of negative behaviour is fear-driven and I think playing rugby you have to confront your fears and that takes courage.”
School of Hard Knocks is a social inclusion programme, tackling unemployment and social disengagement through sport. Visit www.schoolofhardknocks.org.uk to find out more