International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), 3rd December, falls within Disability History Month – a month-long celebration of the lives of people living with disabilities.
Mark Bond, former England Blind Cricketer and now Disability Cricket Programme Manager at Lord’s Taverners, shares his thoughts on how his disability made him want to help others and why Super 1s - the national grassroots cricket programme run by the charity - is making such a huge impact both on and off the field.
"I played cricket as a kid, and I was always really into it. But I was born with eight different sight conditions. As I got older, and people started bowling faster and hitting harder, it wasn’t safe for me to continue.
"Later on, I found out about a blind cricket scheme the Lord’s Taverners were supporting. Initially, I didn’t want to go. I just wanted to play casually with my mates. But I got dragged along and after about three weeks, the coach told me he wouldn’t be there the next month because he was on tour for the World Cup. That’s when I realised it was more than just a day out for some blind people. I quickly got very inspired to take it as far as I could.
"I was very lucky to play for England and go all over the world. But it was more than that. It was about learning to get on a train, a bus, or a tube by myself to go and play or coach cricket. I met blind or visually impaired adults who were doing things – travelling, working, living independent lives – that I didn’t really know blind people could do. As a kid, I didn’t look at it and think cricket would change my life. But 10 years later, the impact is huge.
"I wanted to give back to the game that has given so much to me. Super 1s provides a parallel opportunity for young people with disabilities. If a young person without a disability gets introduced to cricket, they can pop down to their local club. With Super 1s, we wanted to create the same opportunity – of playing cricket regularly – for kids with disabilities.
"If you’re a parent of a young person with a disability, you’ve got all the usual fears that any parent would have – multiplied by 100. But if you turn up to a Super 1s session, and the person running it has got a disability, and is travelling and working independently, that changes the whole mindset of both the young person and their family. They realise what they can achieve.
"One of our players, Sam Alderson, is a wheelchair user in his early 20s. He wasn’t comfortable travelling independently, so he wasn’t seeing his friends or accessing sport. He saw an advert for a Super 1s hub, decided to give it a go and turned up as the hub’s first participant. He stuck with it as it grew, then discovered he was excellent at both playing cricket and motivating others. He’s now done his coaching badges and has spoken at events in front of 1,000 people on the impact Super 1s is having.
"Pretty much everyone we speak to who’s been involved with Super 1s, whether it’s a parent or a participant, thinks it’s brilliant. But this whole programme is not just about cricket’s impact on people with a disability. It’s about the impact disabled people have on cricket and making it a better sport.
"Having the ECB involved has given it even more validity. Super 1s is now recognised as the disability grassroots offering and making people feel part of something thinking. It’s all about making people with disabilities believe that cricket is a game for them. The support of the ECB is critical in helping us achieve our goals and we’re thankful for everything the partnership has enabled so far.”
Ian Martin, ECB Head of Disability Cricket, talks about ECB's partnership with the Lord's Taverners in delivering Super 1s across the country.
"The ECB has supported the Lord’s Taverners delivery of Table Cricket for many years, and I am delighted we have strengthened our existing partnership to support the phenomenal community-based disability programme, Super 1s.
"Its set-up enables young people with different impairments to access our sport in environments and formats that are bespoke for them, delivered by an organisation that is as passionate about the game as we are. We look forward to the growth and expansion of the Super 1s programme across all areas of the country over the coming years."
To find out more about Super 1s and how to get involved, please visit: https://www.ecb.co.uk/play/open-age/disability-cricket