The Duke of Cambridge has opened the Coach Core Awards, stressing the importance of sport and the resilience of this year’s apprentices.
In a video message for the virtual ceremony, William told the nominees he was “so proud” of their achievements amid the challenges they faced during the pandemic.
He spoke of how sport had been hit hard at a time when people needed it most and praised them for going “above and beyond” to keep grassroots physical activity going.
The duke said: “2020 has been difficult for everyone but Covid-19 has hit sport and the activity sector particularly hard at a time when it is needed most – for both our mental and physical wellbeing.
“This year more than any in the programme’s history, Coach Core’s apprentices have had to overcome challenges, adapt and learn to be flexible in the face of difficulty.”
Coach Core delivers sports coaching apprenticeships for 16 to 24-year-olds who are not in education or employment, in a bid to develop their talents and help them learn vital sporting, work and life skills.
William congratulated the nominees for managing to coach while still following social distancing rules.
“Tonight’s award nominees have gone above and beyond in order to keep grassroots sport going,” he said.
“They have innovated and persevered in the face of a global pandemic to find new ways to coach in a socially-distanced manner.
“Apprentices have supported their peers, friends and families, and have volunteered in the community, setting a golden example for us all to follow.”
William, the Duchess of Cambridge and Harry launched the project through the Royal Foundation in 2012 – the year of the London Olympics – in a bid to harness the power of sport and its ability to change lives.
The Duke of Sussex, as Harry is now known, was heavily involved in supporting the scheme, delivering a speech at the awards in 2018 with the Duchess of Sussex at his side.
Meghan branded the initiative inspiring and said at the time: “My husband has devoted so many years to Coach Core.”
Harry quit public duties in March after stepping down as a senior working royal.
The Cambridges have also heavily backed the project, which is now an independent charity, carrying out numerous royal Coach Core engagements, often previously with Harry as a trio.
William told the apprentices: “I am so proud – both of your individual accomplishments this year – and of Coach Core itself. ”
The awards celebrate the best of the organisation’s talent, from apprentices and graduates, to mentors and tutors.
Coach Core works with 100 apprentices a year at 14 sites across the country.