The biggest Festival in the history of the Wicketz programme took place at Repton School last week (6-8 August), where over 120 young people from across the country took part in a three-day residential consisting of competitive cricket, coaching masterclasses and vital life changing workshops at the Derbyshire private school.
Glasgow’s Wicketz hub based in Springburn were present for the first time at Repton led by their effervescent coach and Cricket Scotland’s community engagement co-ordinator, Ammar Ashraf. The team managed to win 2 of their 5 games and finished a very respectable 6th in the tournament.
Using cricket as a tool for change, Wicketz is aimed at hard-to-reach youngsters aged 8-16 within areas of high deprivation across the UK, by engaging young people who live in communities where there are few opportunities to play the game regularly.
The programme is about more than getting young people playing cricket – it provides wider opportunities to improve their overall quality of life and develop social and personal skills such as confidence, respect, teamwork and leadership. In amongst three days of cricket competition in the U11 (softball) and U16 (hardball) age groups, the young participants were treated to coaching masterclasses delivered by former England Head Coach, Peter Moores, former England international, Kabir Ali and Derbyshire all-rounder Luis Reece.
Participants also attended eight different workshops educating them on a number of social issues. These were delivered by Wicketz Development Officers and external organisations and covered subjects such as social media awareness, first aid, tackling knife crime, using poetry and music to express your feelings and avoid taking a bad path in life, Sugar Smart and counter terrorism.
The poetry workshop was delivered by a previous participant of the programme, Abdus Salaam (18), who first attended the Luton Wicketz project in April 2016. He witnessed domestic violence in his early life which led to severe anger management issues and the temptation to take what he describes as a ‘bad path’.
He was introduced to sport, initially as a way to overcome this and has learned not only to manage his own emotions (sometimes using poetry or music as an outlet), but also to diffuse arguments between others with sensitivity and maturity. Being part of the Wicketz programme has seen him not only improve as a player, but also a coach and mentor – encouraging his peers to join him on the cricket pitch rather than follow a path of anti-social behaviour.
13 of the 16 projects across the country were represented at the festival, with participants invited based on their attitude, personal development progress and contribution to their Wicketz project in the last 12 months.
The Lord’s Taverners now successfully deliver the programme in Birmingham, Bradford/Leeds, Bristol, Glasgow, Leyton, Manchester, Plymouth, Crawley, Hartlepool, Luton, Nottingham, Leicester, Tower Hamlets, West Ham, Peterborough and Tendering.
The experience wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Beyond Boundaries, Scotland’s cricket charity, who donated money to ensure the team could travel south.
Wicketz Coach for Glasgow Springburn, Ammar Ashraf, was delighted with the impact Wicketz is now having on the children at Springburn: “I’m very proud to have led this trip, the festival at Repton this year was amazing, what a great opportunity for young people to enjoy cricket in a safe, secure and fun environment. The programme also included a number of important workshops designed to be informative and interactive so young people can make positive life choices. Sport has the power to change the world, and as we continue to grow and work with more partners, we will empower more young people and their communities to make positive changes through sport.”