Letchworth rugby coach wins dream trip for devotion to players with disabilities
PUBLISHED: 11:22 17 October 2019 | UPDATED: 11:28 17 October 2019
A Letchworth rugby coach has been rewarded with a once in a lifetime trip to Japan after years of volunteer work supporting adults with disabilities in grassroots rugby.
Nicholas Winwood - a member of Letchworth Rugby Club for 27 years - is one of three recipients of the Mitsubishi Motors 'Journey to Japan' programme, which rewards dedicated rugby volunteers with the opportunity to go on a knowledge exchange programme with a Japanese Rugby Club.
The initiative will see Nicholas travel to Japan for the week-long trip where he will soak up the culture and spend time learning from his counterparts at a local rugby club.
In 2009, Nicholas - along with his son Alex - formed Bravehearts, a mixed ability rugby team featuring players of disability and no disability, who play at Letchworth Rugby Club.
Bravehearts are one of only three accredited mixed ability rugby clubs in the country, and the team have been invaluable contributors to increasing opportunities for people with disabilities within rugby.
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Bravehearts have taken part in a disability world tournament in Spain - organised by Nicholas - and they train and compete all year round.
Nicholas, a social worker for over 30 years in the Adult Disability Service, has been acknowledged for a lifetime's service dedicated to improving the lives of players in grassroots rugby and beyond.
After receiving a place on the programme, Nicholas said: "It's part of my family. I've had so much fun and enjoyment and this is me giving something back.
"I am a firm believer that good practice and knowledge should be shared. Nobody should be prevented from developing and learning from others. This includes understanding national and cultural differences.
"It will be a fantastic opportunity to partner with the host club with possibly exploring player exchanges and tours."
Brian Burke, President of Letchworth Garden City RUFC, said: "I can't think of anyone else in this area of Hertfordshire who deserves this more than Nick, who has striven unremittingly over the past few years to bring our learning disability side, Braveherts, national recognition."
Mitsubishi Motors UK are the official partners of England Rugby and also run the annual Volunteer Recognition Programme, which provides grassroots rugby clubs with further opportunities to recognise volunteers in their community.