A recent survey conducted by YouGuv commissioned by the Cricket Foundation Charity and reported in the Daily Telegraph, has concluded that only 1 in 10 pupils play cricket in state schools against Government claims that more than 8 in 10 schools offer cricket.
For too long now we have been living in a fool’s paradise that the 2005 Ashes win has made cricket the popular sport it has always deserved to be in Britain. The facts suggest otherwise. If we don’t do something soon to increase the amount of cricket played in state schools, the next Ashes win could well be some time away. More and more children are watching and enjoying Twenty20 cricket, but how many of them are actually playing?
The Chance to Shine project has gone a long way to increasing the amount of cricket played in schools and their aim to add 500 schools every year is excellent. However that will still leave a large number of schools not playing cricket in 5-10 years time. The project, which is organised through school clusters, is run through local cricket clubs who provide coaches in return for the opportunity to promote their club within the schools. From the club’s perspective this is an excellent way of boosting numbers.
Unfortunately, many cricket clubs are unable to provide a coach who can go into schools during the daytime and for those who can, the income available for doing so (once the currently astronomical petrol costs have been taken into consideration) is rarely sufficient. Cricket clubs are usually run by volunteers and it is rare for the qualified coaches within clubs to have the flexibility to coach during the day in the week unless they are students. This is by no means the fault of Chance to Shine. If they had more funding available they would be in a better position to be able to pay for more coaches to go into more schools for more clubs. Increased funding is the key to getting cricket back into our schools. It’s amazing how many coaches you can find when you are offering them £25-£30 an hour rather than £15. And that is not unreasonable. For a coach travelling up to 50 miles to coach in a school, petrol costs can easily come to £15 for a round trip! Many of us coach through love but you can’t pay the bills with love.
In our experience, one of the main reasons why cricket is being played less and less in state schools is the ever decreasing amount of male teachers. At many schools, less than 10% of the staff is male and often there are no male teachers whatsoever. Pleasant though it is walking into a female only school staff room in your ECB tracksuit before a coaching session it does tend to highlight the issue! With teaching salaries still being relatively low, it is very hard for the main breadwinner in a family (male or female) to be able to earn enough from teaching. There is absolutely no reason why a female teacher shouldn’t be able to teach cricket but the facts are that rounders tends to be the game of choice these days rather than cricket.
Cricket is a much more technical sport than most school sports and the availability of coaching courses is such that only the main ”focus” clubs in each county tend to stand a chance of getting onto courses. There are specific coaching courses aimed at teachers but these are currently few and far between. Progress is being made but all the while there is such a large waiting list for clubs to get coaches on courses for ClubMark requirements, the longer it will be before teachers will get on the list.
Because of these issues, inter-school matches are rarely played. In Thanet in Kent there has been a softball schools cricket tournament running for many years thanks to the enthusiasm of a dedicated individual but this is the exception rather than the rule. Local borough Kwik Cricket tournaments are run but these tend to be “festival” days where schools all meet at the same time to find a winner amongst them. These days, when properly organised, are a fantastic spectacle and a huge amount of fun but one day in a summer does not make a cricket season. Many of us have fond memories of playing cricket on Wednesday afternoons every week against local schools but there are now very few schools continuing this tradition. How could we manage this 25 years ago but not today?
At Darren Talbot Cricket Coaching, we have spent the last 12 months trying to get cricket into as many state schools as possible, offering before and after school clubs as well as curriculum time coaching and PPA cover. To date we have done well, being in over 25 schools this summer and having 9 area managers covering 15 counties. Not bad in just 12 months.
But we are not happy with that. With think that every state school in Britain should be playing cricket as a matter of course. Even though we are in 25 schools, we could easily have been in over 50 given the amount of interest which schools have had in our coaching. We have the coaches, we have the time. However, well over half of the interested schools have ended up with too few replies to make out of schools club coaching viable despite initial interest from parents and pupils alike. Why? It comes down to cost.
As I mentioned earlier, experienced cricket coaches travelling up to 100 mile round trips to schools are looking for around £25-£30 an hour to coach (that only equates to around £15 an hour after petrol). With administration fees on top it is very hard to be able to run an out of school club for less than £4 per child. £4 for an hour’s cricket after school? Doesn’t sound too much does it to have our children playing sport for an extra hour each week while mum’s saviour that precious extra hour without their loved ones?
However, when you consider we are all paying around £100 a month extra for our shopping, £10 or more extra on a tank of petrol, £100 plus extra per month on our mortgages despite falling interest rates, perhaps £4 a week on a cricket club is a luxury item? They’ve got a Playstation or Nintendo they can play on when they get home, do we really need to pay another £4?
Although the government recommends that every pupil do at least two hours of sport at school each week, barely a third do so. As reported in Britain Today: The state of the nation in 2007, according to a survey by Sport England last December, only half the population do any exercise at all. The latest figures show that Britain has the highest proportion of obese individuals in the EU and the Department of Health predicts 27.6 million people will be classified as obese by 2010. The number of obese children has nearly tripled in the past 20 years, with over 5% now obese and more than 20% overweight.
For the sake of our children’s health and for the future of cricket in Britain we need to find a way of making cricket so affordable that parents and schools just can’t find a reason to say no to it.
If allof our children were playing cricket at school surely we would be increasing our chances of finding the next Andrew Flintoff?
More sponsorship and funding are required to help subsidize the cost of providing coaches in schools. Perhaps the petrol companies could dip into their large coffers and give something back to us to help us become a more active society? Perhaps the supermarket giants can expand their children’s activities projects further to get our nation playing our national sport. Perhaps Mr Sanford could be persuaded to plough his billions into grass roots cricket rather than high profile glamour cricket? Twenty20 cricket could well be the football of the future but we’ll need to get our children playing it first.
Darren Talbot is Academy Director of Youth Coaching at Cobham Avorians Cricket Club and founder and Managing Director of Darren Talbot Cricket Coaching. For more details about sponsoring schools cricket or for more details on the services offered, visit www.cricketcoach.uk.com.