Many sports fans take going to watch a game for granted, but now a group of youngsters have received training to provide a visually impaired 'buddy' a running commentary of the World Club 7s tournament at Twickenham on August 16.

The HITZ students also listened to a talk from Paralympic gold medallist Lord Holmes, who lost his sight overnight at the age of 14.
Twenty students from Premiership Rugby's award-winning HITZ scheme undertook training from BT Sport commentator Nick Mullins at Harlequins' Stoop stadium, learning how to describe the excitement of rugby to their 'buddies'.

Mullins was on hand to pass on his tips, and admitted that sometimes you have to make a fool of yourself to be a good commentator.

"The two keys for commentary are firstly to build a frame," he said.

"That's what the picture looks like - where you are, what the stadium looks like, the colour of the pitch, the kind of things that sighted people take for granted.

"Then you can dab in the coloured dots of player identification, positioning, colour of the shirts and other peripheral things.

"You have to be passionate about it, but you can't be cool - if you want to be a sports commentator you've got to be prepared to make a bit of an idiot of yourself sometimes by getting genuinely excited by things that get you off your seat.

"Tell us what you can see and if it's exciting, get excited about it."

The HITZ students also listened to a talk from Paralympic gold medallist Lord Holmes, who lost his sight overnight at the age of 14.

HITZ project manager Helen Clayton says the opportunity to hear the Lord Holmes' story gave the youngsters more of an understanding of the importance their commentary will have at Twickenham.

"When Lord Holmes said he went to bed one night and woke up blind the next day, it prompted so many questions from the youngsters in the room," she said.

"He said that when he goes to watch a game he wants the person commentating to transfer their passion and get really involved in the game.

"It was so good for him to say that because it made our young people more relaxed when they were commentating.

"They weren't trying to be commentators, they were just trying to explain what they saw."

During the commentary session, Mullins took the students into the stands at the Stoop and encouraged them to describe their surroundings.

And then he picked out HITZ student Sam Musampa as one to watch out for, having seen the youngster make significant progress over the course of the session.

"Sam, in a sense, typifies the kind of person that HITZ are working with," Mullins said.

"He's very bright and cares about what he does, but just needs to be encouraged to try and do it.

"He began the session finding it difficult to describe the room, or the area that he was in, but by the end he was leading sessions and getting involved.

"Commentating is a fairly self-conscious thing to do. With radio and television, no matter how much nonsense we're spouting we can't see people's reactions.

"But if you're sitting next to someone and having a good conversation then you're getting constant feedback from them.

"I think Sam, in the end, enjoyed the idea that he could offer someone the benefit of his sight for a couple of hours at a rugby match."

The visual impairment project Eye 2 Eye has been piloted in Bath, Harlequins and Saracens. Working in partnership with Action for Blind people and Wooden Spoon a programme has been developed that stretches both sets of students and allows both to enjoy a day at some of our most iconic stadiums. Funding for this project is provided by Big Lottery, Norton Rose and The Waite's Family Enterprise Trust.

HITZ is Premiership Rugby's award winning programme that tackles some of the greatest challenges facing young people today - unemployment, crime and disillusionment. It is delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby and funded by partners Barclays, Comic Relief, Land Rover and Wooden Spoon.

Published in Grass Roots