A rugby volunteer who stepped up to help Lincoln Rugby Club when it needed it most during the pandemic, has been recognised nationally after being shortlisted by the Rugby Football Union for the Honda Volunteer of the Year Awards.

Jodie Hill, 28, who is the chair of Lincoln RFC, has been nominated in the unsung hero category which recognises local heroes who have had a major impact in their clubs and communities and demonstrated their commitment to the game over the past 12 months.

Jodie will now head to the national final at Twickenham in September when volunteers from across the country are celebrated as part of Honda’s Volunteer Recognition Programme. 

Three overall winners will be announced on the evening for each of this year’s categories: Unsung Hero, Connecting the Community and Game for All, which recognises volunteers who have provided an inspirational and diverse offer to engage with their local community.

Lincoln were left without a chair following the Covid pandemic, with Jodie stepping up to the role and the club never looking back since.

A full-time Head of Education at Hill Holt Wood – an environmental social enterprise - in Lincoln, Jodie dedicates all her spare time to her local club, from lunch hours to evenings to weekends.

When not on the pitch playing for Lincoln RFC’s women’s team, Jodie can be found organising matches as first team fixtures secretary, performing her role as team manager, organising fundraising and social events, or checking if anyone needs mental health support during anxious Covid times. 

When she’s not doing that, she’s working behind the bar, cooking for players and making sure no club task is left undone.

Speaking at the regional award ceremony at Nottingham, Lincolnshire & Derbyshire CB, Jodie said: “You never really know what it’s like in a rugby club until you actually join one. The amount of support you get and friends you make is similar to family and unbelievably rewarding. I live quite far away from my family, so the rugby club has technically been my family for the past four years.

“It would mean absolutely everything to me to win the national award. I’ve never really been someone who looks for recognition, as I’ve always done things in the background, but it means the world to be recognised in this way.
“To win would mean so much and it would be amazing to see Lincoln Rugby Club recognised nationally.”

Club members nominated Jodie for her tireless commitment and welcoming approach, saying: “Jodie greets everyone at the club with a gleaming smile and is constantly around the clubhouse making everyone feel welcome and ensuring the club is a better and safer place. 

“She is never away from the club for long and shows passion and dedication to the work she puts in at the clubhouse. She is truly a shining star and we wouldn’t be where we are now without her.

“Our ladies’ team is unbeaten for a year and this is down a lot to the effort Jodie has put into recruitment and retention and organising events to get the women’s team more involved at the club. 

“Jodie has also ensured they are equally valued by pushing ideas such as a captain’s board in the club house. She is a role model for our younger players.”

The Honda Volunteer Recognition Programme brings the opportunity to thank those who have gone above and beyond this year for teams, clubs, referees’ societies and educational establishments.
With Honda recently coming on board as a partner, and supporting volunteering in the grassroots game, this year’s Awards will help to recognise and celebrate volunteers for their achievements and efforts, both on and off the field.

Speaking about the awards, RFU President HH Jeff Blackett said: “I am delighted that through the Honda Volunteer Recognition Programme, we are able to recognise the exceptional work that has gone into getting Rugby Clubs back up and running over the last year. There are so many outstanding volunteers who have really made a difference and the Honda Volunteer of the Year awards provides a great opportunity to say thank you.”

Jean-Marc Streng, President Honda UK, added: “Honda was built upon the Power of Dreams, that same challenging spirit can be found in abundance at local Rugby clubs up and down the country. “Honda UK is proud to help recognise the volunteers who work tirelessly to support their local Rugby communities.”

Over 100,000 volunteers give back to grassroots rugby, week in, week out. From the kit washers to the line painters, the bus drivers to the tea makers, the game that we all know and love wouldn’t be the same without the people who work tirelessly behind the scenes.

Volunteers are the backbone of grassroots rugby in England. If you’d like to get involved and make a difference at your community club, visit: www.englandrugby.com/volunteering