Kiyo Jason grew up in inner-city London and overcame several challenges before becoming a cricket coach. He explains how the sport has shaped him - and how he hopes to use his experience to help others be their best.
Growing up, I wanted to be a musician or an athlete. I didn’t have the easiest of upbringings. In my school, I was the only person who looked like me and talked like me, and in my teens I was trying to find my feet and figure out where I fit in. It got me into the wrong crowd, I made a few bad choices and ended up in a bit of trouble, which took my eye off my ambitions for a time.
I’d played cricket as a young boy, but then moved away from it and started boxing. Unfortunately, things spiralled out of control very quickly when I had children quite young and suffered an injury which tore my sporting ambitions to shreds. It had me doubting myself and how I would support my family and I was left thinking: what am I going to do?
I built a good relationship with a football and boxing coach named Alex Maube who spotted me boxing training in Burgess Park at the Lynn Amateur Boxing Club. After my injury he advised me to get my football coaching qualifications which sparked an interest in teaching others, but there were no jobs available and I needed to support my family so decided to undertake my cricket coaching qualifications.
In 2007, I started coaching at Burgess Park CC and then in 2008, I joined the Spencer CC’s men’s academy and the girls’ team. From there, the girl’s section blew up very, very quickly. It was insane. The catchment area was densely populated and we pulled from the club’s hockey section, too. We started with about five girls and eventually reached 250, currently one of the biggest girl’s section in the UK.
I love cricket because it’s a team sport and there are so many different dynamics to it. It’s a game that constantly adapts which gives you the chance to improve as player or a coach. You’ve got different types of players and personalities which build a community base and create a unique cricketing spirit. I will always remember that at Spencer, we had a men’s first XI in the 1990s which included my hero, Mark Kenlock, and was full of Caribbeans, Sri Lankans and English players. That energy, that vibe, that atmosphere – it was fun, competitive, and everyone accepted each other. When you get it right, cricket gives you a very special community bond.
I’m also involved in coaching at Saint Paul’s Junior School and through the ACE programme. The ACE programme is exciting – it has recruited excellent coaches who’ve always had the skills but now have an opportunity to prove it and develop themselves and the players. That melting pot of ambition, creativity and drive is fueling the motivation for these young players to keep up to speed with the current County programmes.
I’m currently a Level Three Head Coach. My philosophy is to stay humble, constantly keep learning and improving myself as a coach, as well as guiding the players to become all-round better cricketers. So far, I have worked with some fantastically talented youngsters, like Alice Capsey at Surrey and more recently, Maddie Blinkhorn-Jones who is progressing well within the Surrey Women’s set-up and the South-East Stars Academy.
I enjoy the psychology of coaching. It’s only in the last year, as I’ve been doing my Open University and Level Four (Specialist) qualifications, that I’ve been conscious of the fact that I was already coaching both the mental and physical side of the game. But, now that I am more aware of the psychology, I can articulate my thoughts better, engage in more effective conversations, and find better strategies to encourage players to buy into their own personal development. That’s been my biggest growth as a coach.
These days, I’ve got a better vision of which direction I want to go and the sky is the limit. I enjoy being able to give advice to people who were in a similar situation, because I’ve been through it. I have an idea of what they may be going through.
My background of growing up in South London gives me a different perspective. Having overcome numerous setbacks, I try to be empathetic to others, especially if they may be struggling with aggression, or self-harming, or any other issues. I try to look deeper and understand what’s going on in their lives and then, through constant communication and planning, find a way forward.
Giving someone the chance to enjoy a coaching session, which can mean the world to them, makes it all worth it. It’s what motivates me. When I’m coaching, I am aware that some players are striving for excellence and for others it can be their only chance to get away from whatever stresses they’re going through at home, school or work and put their energy into something fun and productive.
Whatever path you choose in life, you’ve just got to keep working hard and keep believing in yourself. There will always be an opportunity there.