One of my favourite childhood memories is being at the cricket club. My Dad was a keen player, and summer weekends were taken up by being at the club, playing endless games of British bulldog with the other players’ kids. We sometimes went ‘away’ and this inevitably meant a stop at a pub for a bag of crisps and a bottle of vimto in the pub garden, which according to Dad never made us happier. My Dad’s love for cricket was a big part of my childhood, and still 4 years on from him dying, I can’t hear Test Match Special without thinking of him, and those endless summer days at the cricket club.
Although, I never went on to play cricket, my brother did and is still an avid fan, and I knew that my son would enjoy it and he plays every week. The passion has certainly passed down through the family.
Indeed, these ideals that cricket isn’t just a sport, but a lifestyle choice for the whole family is a sentiment shared by England players, Lauren Winfield and Johnny Bairstow, who are ambassadors to the new grass-roots cricket programme, All Stars Cricket from The English Cricket Board.
At the recent media launch for All Stars Cricket, Johnny told us that his mother is still friends with people she met through him playing cricket in his teens: Cricket opened up a whole new social chapter in both their lives. He is very passionate that cricket can play a big part in an active family-life, and that the benefits spill off the pitch as well as on.
Lauren told similar stories, that as a child, she would attend matches her Dad was playing in, and soon she had the cricket bug. As there was no female team, so she joined and played with the men’s first 11, and even played against Johnny who played for another local side! Obviously, Lauren has gone on to achieve great things, she is the women’s captain for Yorkshire and also plays for England, but she loves going back to her old club, and still plays for the men’s team when she can!
Lauren was exceptionally inspiring, many girls might have backed out of cricket with no women’s team, but she didn’t. However, she is thrilled with the progress that the awareness of women’s cricket has made, and that she is able to play professionally. She really hopes that the All Stars programme will encourage girls along to the club and get involved in cricket. As Lauren sat on a Sri Lankan beach recently, it’s true cricket really has taken her places!
The All Stars programme will run for 8 weeks and at £40, seems very good value, especially when the child enrols they get a backpack, cricket bat, ball, water bottle, personalised shirt and cap – this is always a winner with kids!
To find out more and a programme near you, have a look at the All Stars Cricket website. I really think this initiative has some potential: Not only is it a way of getting kids active, but it’s also a way of introducing cricket to a whole family and can get involved with all the local cricket clubs have to offer. You never know, All Stars Cricket may well produce the next Lauren or Johnny. I really hope it does.
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