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Young volunteer Lenni has "opened eyes" to what rugby club can offer

Don't tell her team-mates at Peterborough Rugby Club’s under-18 girls’ side, but Lenni Lewis shed a few tears when she discovered she’d been shortlisted for the final of Living Sport’s ‘Young Community Volunteer of the Year’ accolade.
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Lenni, who shaved her head in July to raise money for a local 7-year-old suffering with rare brain cancer, is nominated for Young Volunteer of the Year (Photo: Supplied)

"I was really chuffed to be nominated," she told Peterborough Matters. "I really hadn’t realised how much what I’ve been doing has meant to people.

"I just feel so humbled by it. I’ve just been having some fun spending time helping younger people."

Lenni, whose real name is Celynnen, will turn 16 in February, and started helping the coaching team at Little Scrummers in Peterborough – rugby for children aged between 18 months and six – as part of her Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme a year ago. She enjoyed it so much that she’s moved on to help coaching Peterborough Rugby Club’s under-9 team and under-11 girls’ team as well.  And that’s on top of playing for the under-18s.

"Lenni’s taken to coaching like a duck to water," said Simon Potter, team manager of the girls’ team and also coaching mentor to Lenni. "She’s an absolute natural and, at Little Scrummers on Saturday mornings, she’s taking the lead in some of the games that we play and the training exercises that we do, which is fantastic."

As a player, Lenni has helped Peterborough under-15 girls to the quarter finals of the National Cup two years running and also the final of the ‘Junior Team of the Year’ section in the National Rugby Awards.

She began playing rugby three years ago, following in the footsteps of older step-brother Tom, and has never looked back.

"The rugby club has such a fantastic atmosphere," she added. "I love it. With training, playing matches, helping coach two teams and being part of Little Scrummers, it means being at the club five days a week but if people are happy with me doing what I’m doing, that makes me happy too.  

"Volunteers gave up their time to teach me rugby and so I’m more than keen to give up my time to teach another generation."

Peterborough Rugby Club brands itself as "the club for all" and recent years have seen a real shift of emphasis to embrace the female side of the game and also welcome the youngest of the young to start having fun, with a rugby ball in their hands, in a safe environment.

"We’re really grateful to the likes of Lenni," said the club’s coaching coordinator Jordan Smithson. "We’ve seen what she and a couple of other teenagers have brought to the club and as a result of their devotion and hard work, have rolled out a new programme to get more teenage players involved with helping the younger teams which will hopefully come to fruition over the next few months.

"Lenni’s really opened our eyes to the opportunities we can offer."

The Fengate-based club welcomes anyone, of any age or gender, who would like to start playing or coaching rugby. For more information click here