Cricket fever takes hold at Wicketz festival
In the days leading up to the first Ashes Test match, the biggest residential festival in the history of the Wicketz programme took place at Repton School where nearly 150 young people from projects across the country took part in a three-day residential consisting of competitive cricket, coaching masterclasses and vital life-changing workshops.
In what is surely the biggest cricketing summer in living memory for the participants, the buzz created by England’s extraordinary Men’s Cricket World Cup triumph was felt everywhere in the picturesque Derbyshire setting, and the intensity of the cricket here matched that remarkable July day at Lord’s.
Wicketz is about so much more than just cricket; it provides wider opportunities for participants to improve their future prospects and develop social and personal skills such as confidence, respect, teamwork and leadership. This was evident at Repton, where cricket activity was mixed with varied workshops on social issues ranging from cyber bullying and online safety to healthy eating.
Wicketz is initially aimed at hard-to-reach youngsters aged 8-19 within areas of high deprivation across the UK, using cricket as a hook to engage young people who live in communities where there are few opportunities to play the game regularly.
Now active in 19 locations across the country, there were young people from 16 projects coming together at Repton, with mixed-project teams ensuring that the young people were making friends and meeting others in similar situations to them from all parts of the UK.
“What I like about Wicketz is the community spirit!” says Luton-based participant Raza Ramzan, “Everyone comes together from different backgrounds, different ethnicities and plays together. No arguments, no nothing, we just play and have fun.”
In a Wicketz Festival first, the Royal Navy put the boys through their paces on Monday and Tuesday with assault courses, team building exercises, leadership and communication drills and talks on healthy eating.
LT CDR Suzanne Lynch commented: “We were delighted to be invited here today to work with these youngsters and get them to work on working as a team and cooperation. We’re working on showing them that they’ve got an active voice and they’re people that we should be listening to. When we serve overseas, we know that our country supports us, so it’s lovely to work with community groups who are now flourishing because of what Wicketz is giving them.”
Top-quality, high-energy cricketing masterclasses formed the backbone of the activity on the second day in Derbyshire, with the former England Cricket head coach Peter Moores and former Lancashire batsman, Karl Brown, leading fielding and batting clinics respectively.
“To get kids outside and playing any sport is a great thing." said Moores, "The kids here, they don’t always come from the best areas, areas where not a lot of cricket goes on and maybe not a lot of green fields, and they’re here in a brilliant facility. So, I’m happy that they’re playing cricket, if they were playing something else I’d be happy as well because there’s so much pressure on kids now to do so many things, so to actually get outside and get involved in cricket I think is great.”
National Wicketz Programme Manager, Dan Wilson, added “There’s a lot in the media about the issues that young people are facing all over the UK at the moment, and sport is just something that for an hour or two a week everyone’s on a level playing field. All the kids, they all have the same goal when they’re playing together, they’re all striving to achieve the same thing, and we just want them to translate that into day-to-day life.”
This year has seen Wicketz go from strength to strength with projects launching in Hull and South Wales and over 117 workshops delivered nationally, engaging over 1,700 disadvantaged young people, 69 per cent of which are from a BAME background.
Wicketz sees weekly coaching sessions run in Bradford/Leeds, Bristol, Crawley, Glasgow, Hartlepool, Hull, Jaywick, Leicester, Leyton, Luton, Manchester, Nottingham, Peterborough, Plymouth, South Wales, Southampton, Tower Hamlets, West Midlands and West Ham.