Chance To Shine: Cricket charity keeps coaching sessions running for home-school pupils

By Adam WilliamsBBC Sport
Children playing cricket in a playground
Cricket charity Chance to Shine ordinarily offers coaching sessions to school children in playgrounds or on school fields

Bright blue skies and long sunny afternoons have been a prominent feature of lockdown life and in a typical English spring, would have provided the perfect backdrop to the start of the cricket season.

For thousands of school children across England and Wales, cricket would also have returned to PE lessons at the start of their summer term. Instead the tricky and delicate challenge of home-schooling has replaced time spent either out on the playground or on school fields.

This time last year, just over 96,000 state school pupils were benefitting from nearly 3,000 coaching sessions delivered by cricket charity Chance To Shine.

In a world dramatically changed by the coronavirus lockdown, some of their coaches and a number of the sport's personalities have turned to social media to keep delivering those sessions.

Coaching from the garden

Ian Gregory is one of the coaches who has transformed his back garden to demonstrate how you can practise batting, bowling and fielding-related drills in your own home.

"We've been very fortunate in that the coaching videos we've created across social media in recent weeks have come from the content we already have on our free schools learning portal," he told BBC Sport.

"Since January, we'd also allowed parents as well as teachers to sign up to that, so that's been invaluable during lockdown, especially for home-schooling."

But perhaps what the 32-year-old from Bridgnorth, in Shropshire, and some of his colleagues across the country may not have been prepared for during lockdown was roping in family members to assist.

"Fortunately, my wife Mel is a PE teacher and her school have had Chance To Shine sessions delivered in the past," said Gregory.

"She's also played a bit as well and been incredibly helpful in being an assistant in the pairs activities.

"It can get a bit competitive at times. But our nine-month-old son Joseph has been another star of the sessions, acting as a third umpire while we're filming these activities."

Chance to Shine coach Ian Gregory
Ian Gregory has been offering coaching sessions online from his back garden

Chance to share your skills with the stars

Every week, three videos are released through social media to add to the existing resources.

On Monday, the focus is practising a skill through a physical activity, both individually and in pairs.

On either a Wednesday or Thursday, a cross-curricular session applies cricket-related activity to other subjects such as English or mathematics.

BBC Test Match Special commentator Alison Mitchell has helped encourage youngsters to have a go at radio commentary by retelling the final ball of the 2019 World Cup final super over in their own words.

Finally, every Friday coaches share some of the videos youngsters have sent in of them trying out the skills plus tips from England cricketers past and present.

Women's World Cup winner Ebony Rainford-Brent is among those to have taken part.

"Kids can entertain themselves to a point, but the Chance To Shine resources can help parents and teachers develop fundamental sporting skills like hand-eye co-ordination," she told BBC Sport.

Batting against a ball in a sock

"I've been having fun having a go at some of the drills myself. It takes you back to your childhood and reminds you how hard some of the challenges are.

"I remember sticking a ball in a sock and then hanging it from a washing line - hitting it for hours and hours with a bat. The great thing with these challenges is they're inclusive," the Test Match Special summariser added. "You don't have to have the biggest space - outdoors or indoors - and you can easily adapt them."

Ashes-winning former England seamer Matthew Hoggard has also been trying out the skills sessions in his own back garden with 13-year-old son Ernie.

"It's doing a brilliant job keeping children playing cricket in lockdown," Hoggard said.

"It just shows you can play the game at home, without any equipment or anything like that.

"We've been using the sessions as PE lessons while we're home-schooling Ernie."

Rainford-Brent, Surrey director of women's cricket, hopes the work will help keep participation up after a memorable summer of cricket in 2019.

"I'm ever the optimist," she said. "One thing that may come of kids having to spend more time at home is it will force them to be more active during this time and for parents to be more creative in the ways they keep their bodies and minds moving.

"It's not the easiest of situations for most of us, but I hope it will help people integrate physical activities into their time at home more rather than just waiting to go to an hour-long coaching session on a Thursday after school for example."

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