BLOG: Chance To Shine celebrates six million participants

Chance to Shine Chief Executive Laura Cordingley has written about the impact the charity has, and continues have, on bringing cricket into the lives of children in state schools and communities across the country.

This week, on a warm summer’s day in Claremont Primary School, Manchester, nine-year-old Dhanya became our charity’s six millionth participant.

The smile on her face and the excited chatter of her friends as they threw themselves into another carefully crafted cricket session, is a scene that’s been repeated over and over again in the 17 years that Chance to Shine has been delivering in state schools and communities.

Let me be clear what ‘participant’ means to us.

It’s a child who has been given the chance to play cricket and has done so in a way that is designed to help build their confidence in the sport and support their wider wellbeing. Claremont Primary has received six weeks of sessions, where every lesson is designed to build confidence, develop life skills and of course inspire a love for cricket that will propel them into playing in the community.

Giving six million children this opportunity would not have been possible without immense support and commitment from our partners.

The ECB has been our biggest funder since our inception in 2005 and without their backing, alongside many other wonderful supporters, this level of impact would not be possible. We are also indebted to our delivery partners, in the main, County Cricket Boards, whose coaches work day in, day out, to make cricket fun and inspire children who wouldn’t normally get the chance to take part.

Every now and then I scroll through social media and see a proclamation that ‘state school cricket is dead’. This always hurts.

Nine-year-old Dhanya from Claremont Primary School in Manchester this week became Chance To Shine's six millionth participant

I do of course understand that there is a lot more work to be done. Our programmes are fully scalable, and we would dearly love to build upon the 500,000 children we reach in every school year, mainly because we know this system works – 62% of those young people tell us they want to continue to play cricket in their local community.  

Our challenge as a game is to take that enthusiasm and remove the barriers that exist to ensure that these children have somewhere to play cricket locally.

For many this will be a local cricket club – the lifeblood of the sport – whose volunteers help to inspire thousands of children into the game. For others, this might be a free Chance to Shine Street club, designed to be clubs on the doorstep of children in disadvantaged communities, where they can play tape-ball cricket year-round. Whichever it is, it is so important that these children, once they have been inspired, get the chance to realise their potential, whatever that may be.

Why does this matter? Because our evidence shows us cricket, delivered in the right environment changes the lives of young people for the better and we therefore want children to experience this for as long as possible. Ninety five percent of teachers surveyed last year agreed that taking part in Chance to Shine had helped their pupils’ personal development.

In June, I visited St Paul’s with St Michael’s primary school in Hackney and as part of an assembly designed to help cricket inspire children, a girl in Year Five put her hand up to say what cricket means to her.

“Cricket is a fun game,” she said. “It’s about trying your best and supporting your friends.”

I am fortunate that part of my job means I get to hear straight from children the impact that our work has, and I can assure you there are no filters!

That young girl is not alone, and we hear similar sentiments from young people across the UK. As one participant in Newcastle said last week: “It feels like all my feelings are just coming out through the bat, and they just spread out!”

We are realistic, we’re a small part of a young person’s journey, but we want our part to be as impactful as possible. Ultimately, we want to see that the skills they learn through the sport will transfer to their personal life and to their future development. Whether that’s a lifelong love for cricket or setting them on a course that may lead to them becoming a teacher, an accountant or (who knows) even a Prime Minister!

Whilst we’re not part of the professional pathway, we know that 1-2% will likely show talent in the sport and we also want them to achieve their potential. The day before my primary school visit to Hackney, our first two full Chance to Shine participants, who started their cricketing journeys in primary schools, walked out onto the field to represent England at Taunton.

Issy Wong and Lauren Bell are two wonderfully talented athletes and also two amazing role models.

I have recently been struck by a thought.. At Chance to Shine our scale is large – six million is a huge number that leaves us bursting with pride. But sometimes those eye catching figures mask the individual stories.

It hides the impact the sport has on the individual. So next time you watch one of our case study videos or remember that young girl from Hackney, try to think about the 5,999,998 other potential stories from our journey so far. I hope you agree that starts to feel very impactful indeed.