Rugby fan Ian Blackman has managed has taken his love of the game and its values to the next level by helping to train the next generation of players at his local club.
The 40 year-old, who manages the Total Customer Satisfaction team at NTCE in Cranfield first became involved Milton Keynes Rugby Club as a proud dad cheering on sons Harry, 11, and Toby, 7, from the sidelines each week.
But his knowledge of the game – he still plays as a fly half for the veterans’ team – and his passionate belief in its values, led him to take a more active role.
Now he’s head coach of the under 11s team and works hard to instill the sense of sportsmanship rugby is so famous for in his young charges.
Ian, who has worked at NTCE for 16 years, said: “We have kids from all different backgrounds and different schools at the club but when they come to us we work really hard to teach them the common values and spirit of the game.
“Rugby is all about sportsmanship and taking part and it’s great to be able to share that with the young lads who come to the club.
“It’s also important that we’re able to get the kids to be more active and to get them outside, running around and away from their Playstations.”
Ian has now been involved with the club for three years, seeing the under 11s team thrive under his stewardship. There are now 38 kids in the age group and they train each Wednesday night in addition to either playing or training each Sunday.
It’s this commitment to the game and sense of community spirit that saw Ian selected to be one of nine UK Nissan employees who will carry the Olympic Torch on its journey to the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
His stint as torchbearer will see him carry the flame for approximately 200 metres through the city of Belo Horizonte – the City of Beautiful Horizons – as part of its 95-day, 36,000km journey that will be seen by an estimated 90 percent of Brazil’s population.
This will be the highlight of an incredible five-day trip that will take in the sights of Rio and Belo Horizonte. Ian will be accompanied on the trip by his wife Jo, who is also an active and hardworking volunteer at Milton Keynes Rugby Club.
He said: “When I found out I’d been selected to go to Rio I was obviously delighted. It’s wonderful to be recognised for putting the hours in and giving something back to the community.
“It was slightly embarrassing though as I do the team briefings and had to make the announcement about myself to my colleagues.”
“But I have a real sense of pride knowing that I’ll be representing Nissan and my country and I’m particularly pleased to be taking part in the year rugby returns as an Olympic sport.”
Ian added: “The kids will be excited. I believe we will be given a replica of the Olympic Torch for taking part and when I take that along to training I know the lads will absolutely love it.
“It’ll be a great way of showing them what they can achieve with a little hard work.”