Wicketz Community Impact
Brother and sister duo Zaki and Sara attend Wicketz sessions delivered by the Hampshire Cricket Board and talk about how Wicketz has impacted them and their family since they first attended weekly sessions.
Wicketz is a free community cricket programme funded by the charity and delivered in conjunction with county cricket boards and foundations across the UK.
Using cricket as a tool for social change, Wicketz supports young people through cricket living in areas of deprivation. Through weekly cricket sessions and life skills workshops in areas of most need, it seeks to promote positive futures and healthier, more cohesive communities. Integration and inclusion are key focus areas (with representation from over 30 ethnic communities), bringing together participants from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.
Two young people who have benefited greatly from Wicketz are Zaki (16) and Sara (17) (brother and sister). They attend Wicketz sessions delivered by the Hampshire Cricket Board (HCB) and below they talk about how Wicketz has impacted them and their family since they first attended weekly sessions.
How did you first find out about Wicketz?
Zaki: It was back in 2019 during the Cricket World cup. We made our way to the World Cup fanzone at West Quay. We met Sam Moss (the Southampton Wicketz Development Officer at the time) there and signed up for the Wicketz programme there and then!
Sara: I heard about Wicketz through my brother Zaki. The sessions he was attending moved to zoom during lockdown in 2020 and I began to attend these as well and it went from there.
What convinced you to attend a session for the first time and which hub did you attend?
Zaki: Sam really excited me about the sessions when we first spoke about Wicketz and it presented an opportunity to play cricket which I didn’t have before. I signed up for the sessions that took place in St Marys.
Sara: Initially I used to go and watch my brother play cricket and I found myself drawn to Wicketz due to the strong sense of community. This ultimately led me to joining sessions myself, firstly on zoom in lockdown and then at Mayfield, despite never having played before.
What is it that you like about Wicketz?
Zaki: Wicketz has provided me with some tremendous opportunities to play cricket in some great venues. I’ve made lots of friends and it allows me to play in a relaxed environment.
Sara: I really enjoy having the opportunity to play cricket locally in the inner city of Southampton. I love the progression within Wicketz which has enabled me to progress to hardball cricket, club cricket and coaching. Without Wicketz I would never have begun to play cricket.
How has being involved in Wicketz helped you develop as a person?
Zaki: Due to Wicketz I’ve had the opportunities to develop and obtain key life skills such as teamwork, leadership, communication and empathy. Whether it be through playing cricket or participating in life skills workshops, both have been extremely beneficial to me and have helped me grow as an individual. The diversity and inclusion workshop I attended at the 2022 Wicketz Festival at Malvern College was particularly eye opening and it actually led to me and my friend Hamza (also on the Wicketz programme) delivering a workshop ourselves at a Wicketz festival this year
Sara: Wicketz has helped me to develop a variety of skills beyond cricket. Taking opportunities at Wicketz has made me feel more confident in applying the same skills in other aspects of my life. This has meant I have been comfortable in taking leadership roles and public-speaking. I have an ECB Core Coach qualification which has allowed me to to coach in communities and on talent pathways across Southampton, including the Wicketz and Southampton MCC Foundation Hub programmes. I also now sit on the youth advisory boards for HCB and Take Her Lead.
What opportunities has taking part in Wicketz sessions led to for you?
Zaki: In my four-year journey so far I have had the chance to meet both male and female professional cricketers, played at some amazing cricket venues such as the Ageas Bowl nursery ground and Malvern College. Wicketz sessions also introduced me to hardball cricket which ultimately through the program led to me joining a club.
Sara: Since joining Wicketz, I have taken a variety of opportunities which has led me to now playing club cricket and take on a coaching role. As a result, I have also taken courses in umpiring, grounds management and scoring, something I hope to continue with in the future.
How has the community come together through Wicketz since you’ve been involved?
Zaki: During our events across the summer there was an amazing display of community as the whole programme came together with both hardball and softball competitions being played. As well as being able to use the St Marys fire station which was a unique venue to play cricket in and provided an experience of being a firefighter, giving us a tour of the station and letting us use the hose!
Sara: The Wicketz community is strong and supportive and welcomed me when I first joined. Since being involved it has only got stronger and ties with local families and households have also grown.
How has your family engaged with Wicketz?
Saqib (Dad) steps in to take this one: We all had an interest in cricket but this has grown significantly through Wicketz. Not only have I acted as the person to give lifts, but I have also undertaken a coaching course. As a family, we have all attended cricket matches across the country which I’m sure we would not have otherwise done. We have also supported (through volunteering) at the national Wicketz festivals.
Do you now see yourself as a role model for young people who may now be in a similar position to you when you first started attending Wicketz?
Zaki: I enjoy coaching and helping out at Wicketz sessions for younger participants and wish to keep giving back to the programme, hopefully impacting on some young people’s experience with Wicketz.
Sara: I hope that I can be a role model for young participants beginning their journey in Wicketz and for older players looking to begin coaching. I hope to provide an example of what you can achieve with Wicketz.
How important is a programme like Wicketz in helping making the game available to all?
Zaki: Wicketz is crucial to breaking down barriers and stereotypes by delivering sessions to kids in areas of deprivation, providing opportunities to them that they never would have had and allowing personal growth in a safe and understanding environment.
Sara: Wicketz is vital to ensuring that everyone has access to cricket as it focuses on areas that have many barriers to participating and removes them, allowing people from all backgrounds to be involved.
What are your ambitions for the future?
Zaki: My ambition is to get my coaching qualifications and give back to the programme and community, continuing with Wicketz and hopefully positively impacting more lives as Wicketz did to mine.
Sara: In the future, I hope to continue being involved in Wicketz as well as helping to improve cricket on a wider scale. I hope to have a role where I can make a positive impact on cricket through increasing participation opportunities and reducing barriers.