A young woman rugby player from Bradford is hoping new government funding will help kick her all the way to the top of her game.
Georgina Roberts, 20-year old full-back for the England Students rugby union side, is training and studying at Bath University. Now she is one of 800 young sportsmen and women backed by the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS), starting this autumn.
The initiative is designed to make it easier for young people to continue to pursue their sporting careers after leaving school, instead of seeing raw talent go to waste.
TASS scholars, aged from 18 to 25 and in higher or further education, will receive sporting services worth £3,000 a year, including paying for the cost of coaching, sports science, physiotherapy and the use of training facilities. Bursaries, worth £1,000, will go to teenagers still in education or in first jobs.
Georgina's rugby rise has been dramatic, as she first picked up a rugby ball only 18 months ago. A natural sportswoman, she had already represented her country at volleyball at under-18 level. Now she is pushing to get into the full national rugby side.
"I haven't been playing rugby union very long but have really got into it. I've already played six games for England Students and have just come back from a tournament in France with the U20s Sevens side that we won. Things are going well," she said.
Georgina is looking forward to the benefits her TASS scholarship should bring.
"Rugby's obviously a physical game and there's a fair amount of injuries involved. Physiotherapy can also be very expensive. So it will be good to know that the scholarship will help pay for treatment I might need in the future."
Georgina is entering her last year at Bath University and is able to use the top-quality training equipment at the English Institute of Sport facility on the campus.
To be eligible for the grants, young sportsmen and women have to be nominated by one of the 47 sports' governing bodies that are backing the scheme. Fifteen sports for disabled people are included and their athletes can be aged up to 35.
Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, said:
"All too often young people take part in sport at school, but then give it up soon after they leave. It can be really hard to combine a budding sporting career with college work, or a first job. The TASS scheme is intended to tackle this sad loss of sporting talent."
The five times Olympic rowing champion, Sir Steve Redgrave, is acting as an Ambassador for the scheme.
"TASS is an exciting idea which I hope will make a major contribution to producing the sporting talent we need to represent Britain in Beijing in 2008 and, I hope, in London four years later.," he said.
"I am pleased to be associated with it because I know how important it is to bridge the gap by ensuring that those who show exceptional ability at school go on to fulfill that potential as adult sportsmen and women."
Notes to Editors
1. Georgina Roberts is available for interview and can be contacted on her mobile number, 07713 260733.
2. The sports that are eligible for TASS bursaries and scholarships are: Archery, Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Boxing, Canoeing, Cricket, Cycling, Diving, Equestrianism, Golf, Gymnastics, Hockey, Judo, Modern Pentathlon, Netball, Orienteering, Rowing, Rugby League, Rugby Union, Sailing, Shooting, Skiing, Speed Skating, Swimming, Squash, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Tennis, Triathlon, Water-skiing and Women's Football.
3. The TASS disability sports are: Archery, Athletics, Wheelchair Basketball, Boccia, Cycling, Equestrianism, Fencing, Judo, Disability Powerlifting, Wheelchair Rugby, Sailing, Shooting, Swimming, Table Tennis and Wheelchair Tennis.
4. TASS operates across England through nine regional consortia. Each comprises several higher and further education institutions that work together to provide a package of sporting services to TASS scholars and bursars in their region. There are over 90 educational establishments across England delivering sporting services on behalf of the programme.
5. Most stars of the future are known by their national governing bodies and already receive support to develop in their sport, and it is therefore these bodies that are in the best position to select athletes for a TASS award. TASS athletes are also identified from other sources, including nominations to governing bodies from schools, colleges, and universities. Contact details for the governing bodies and eligibility criteria can be found on the TASS website at http://www.tass.gov.uk
6. A TASS bursary or scholarship is made annually for the period 1 August to 31 July. Providing that the sport's governing body recommends an award, support can continue for more than one year. Funding is paid directly to the service provider and not to the TASS athlete.
7. Guy Taylor, national manager, TASS, can be contacted on 0191 215 6567 (office) or 07966510436 (mobile)
8. For further information about women's rugby please contact Christopher Simon at Perfect Motion Sports Marketing Ltd on 0115 9161615.
Public Enquiries: 0207 211 6200 Internet: http://www.culture.gov.uk
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