Blog: “You could see people realise that… we’re all pulling in the same direction.”

East Midlands Wicketz development officer Mitchell Adlington reflects on a collaboration with Chance to Shine Street, giving 50 youngsters in Leicester a day of cricket and life skills workshops.

East Midlands Wicketz development officer Mitchell Adlington reflects on a remarkable collaboration with Chance to Shine Street that brought together more than 50 young people in Leicester for a day of cricket and life skills workshops.

Through the Lord’s Taverners national Wicketz programme, we try to use cricket as a tool to improve young people’s lives in communities that don’t usually get these opportunities. We tend to operate in areas with lots of challenges, and we use cricket as a way of intersecting a family’s journey and putting it on a better course.

Within the programme, we deliver free weekly cricket sessions all year round. Obviously, the cricket gets people to come and take part. But while we have people there, we try to have a further impact through our life skills workshops. We tailor those workshops so they are specific to the area in which we’re working. So, for example, in an area facing deprivation issues we might put on different workshops to areas that have diversity issues.

There are 17 Wicketz projects across the country, from Plymouth all the way up to Glasgow, and a dedicated development officer is in post for each one. As the East Midlands development officer since March 2020, I work full-time, for Lord’s Taverners, across Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire.

Wicketz LCCC in action

Chance to Shine are a separate organisation, doing their own amazing work, and their Street programme brings cricket to young people who traditionally face barriers to getting active. It uses the sport to increase aspiration, promote social cohesion and create opportunities in diverse communities and areas of deprivation. It’s cricket’s answer to five-a-side football. There are over 270 Chance to Shine Street projects across the country.

The Wicketz programme in Leicester is in the city, and a lot of the Chance to Shine (CTS) Street projects are also in the city. There is a huge demand for cricket in underserved areas. We are working closely with Chance to Shine to understand how all of our work can complement each other and we are forming a very close relationship. Together, we wanted to do something to create more cohesion among the different ethnic groups living in the area, so we had this idea of running something like a City Cup.

There’s a real love of indoor cricket in the area, so we organised a day-long competition at What A Goal. I took two teams from Wicketz and four CTS Street teams also participated. Over five hours on a Sunday afternoon, we ran a round-robin competition on two indoor pitches side by side: one for a younger age group, and one for an older age group.

We rented a room at the venue to be used primarily as a prayer room. We had buffet food available, and while teams weren’t playing we delivered our workshop based on four key discussion points: values, religion, community, and culture. The aim was to try to get people to understand that everyone shares the same values.

We asked people to think about how those four points interlinked, and that started with me sharing a bit about my culture. I explained how I’m not religious, but I have certain values that are common to many of us. And, slowly, you could see people realise that those from different backgrounds were all pulling in roughly the same direction. We’re not so different after all.

We had over 50 kids playing on the day, and the picture at the end of everyone stood together with their arms around each other really highlighted what we were trying to deliver. Everyone stands together with a shared value of wanting to play cricket. We’ve shared stories, had some food, and celebrated each other doing well.

There were some lads involved who did a similar workshop with us last year, and back then they probably wouldn’t have been confident enough to speak about these kinds of issues in that setting. But this time they led the discussion and it’s great to see that progression.

The issues that we see people facing nowadays, it always seems to be the same places and the same groups that are suffering. So, the more the Wicketz programme grows and the more kids we get through the door, the more impact we can have and the more positive stories come off the back of it. If we can change people’s perceptions and ideas about how to live their lives, that’s the best impact we can possibly have.