Dallaglio: 'It's time to trust our young people'

Each month ConnectSport works with the Sport for Development Coalition to create a 'call for articles' around a particular theme. On the eve of a new decade Lawrence Dallaglio OBE, founder of Dallaglio RugbyWorks, opens our theme for December 2019 ‘Building the trust of young people’. Join us for this month’s Twitter takeover on Thursday, December 19th (8-9pm).

When you imagine the story of a Rugby World Cup champion you might imagine a life of glamour and fame, but like a lot of young people, I had to overcome challenges which required support and guidance to get through it.

I was also lucky. I found rugby! I managed to use my passion for rugby to stop my life from going down a dark path, and thanks to the support of my family, friends and coaches in rugby I had the chance to make the most of the opportunities available to me.


Sadly, many young people are not so lucky. Born into difficult homelives or living with mental health issues, a lot of young boys and girls never get the chance to show what they can do, and are consigned to a cycle of poor education or poorly-paid career opportunities before their life has even really begun.

The question we need to ask ourselves is why are our young people in this country facing such a struggle?

I believe they are the victims of a society which lacks cohesion and trust.

In any sports team, and certainly in rugby, without those two essential traits you are unlikely to succeed.

This lack of trust is reverberated back to young people who can feel alienated and marginalised. The recent research from Sported talks about a ‘trust deficit’ in modern society, especially amongst young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

This can lead to them making bad life choices, often with dire consequences for their future chances in life – and we know this all too well at my charity, Dallaglio RugbyWorks.


Each year on average 2,720 young people between the ages of 14 to 16 are excluded from mainstream education in the UK. Excluded children are the most vulnerable; twice as likely to be in the care of the state, four times more likely to have grown up in poverty, seven times more likely to have a special educational need and ten times more likely to suffer recognised mental health problems.

That’s why RugbyWorks engages with 14 to 17-year-old students with the highest needs in the country, with our programme designed to take young people on a journey into sustained education or training, that has the coaching/student relationship at the heart of it.

That relationship between our coaches and the students is built on one key factor – trust. For our young people to thrive, they must have respect for our coaches and know that they are there to help them achieve and build a brighter future. Through this they also learn how to respect their teachers, families, peers and most importantly, themselves.

Our programme is helping young people engage in society and break the cycle of their backgrounds by moving into education or career-based opportunities.

A new decade is about to dawn on us, and I see this as a pivotal moment where we can deliver more effective and radical solutions for society’s most pressing problems, which involves building better opportunities for our young people to thrive.

But how do we earn that trust from young people to allow them the confidence to find the right pathways in future life, be it in education, employment or training?


I believe that we need a more holistic approach to how we look after young people with greater needs and those that are on the verge of, or have already been part of, an exclusion process from mainstream education.

Part of a more holistic solution has to be empowering and equipping excluded young people to raise their positive aspirations. Providing programmes that are tailored to different needs and that revolve around the values inherent in a sport. It is a route where students find a rare positive space of reassurance, confidence and aspiration whilst developing vital life skills. Some of the young people on our programme had never played rugby before, nor have they been involved in sporting activity at their Pupil Referral Unit or Alternative Provision.

This also leads onto a critical question about character education for our young people. Is our education system, through all its streams, preparing young people for the challenges they will face in future life? There are many complexities to our daily lives, and we must build a holistic system so that our young people obtain as much information as possible to ensure they become a positive influence within their communities and are able to succeed in their chosen pathway.

We must also listen more to what our young people are trying to tell us. We live increasingly in our own social media silos and echo-chambers, where more often than not, we hear what we want to hear, not what we should be hearing.


This must change across society and particularly when engaging with young people. They face more complex challenges than ever before, with the world quite literally at their fingertips. It is essential we listen to our young people and build solutions for them to trust the adult world they will move into with confidence and determination to succeed.

2020 should be the time for clear vision and brave thinking for our young people. We can all help them to prosper but we must engage, build trust and not be afraid to act.

To find out more about Dallaglio RugbyWorks, visit its page on the ConnectSport directory. To add your organisation for free, contact hello@connectsport.co.uk.