Leicester volunteer Kay Patel: “Cricket has made me so much happier.”

This Volunteers’ Week we are proud to share the stories of volunteers across England and Wales who make up The Cricket Collective and help to make cricket happen. Here, Kay shares how starting as a Dream Big Activator has turned her into an avid cricket volunteer and changed her life for the better.

Growing up, I liked to watch cricket when India and Pakistan played. But it was in 2016 when cricket really took off for me. At that stage, I didn’t have many friends in England. I felt lonely. Then I saw a Facebook post about cricket volunteering. At first, I wasn't sure if it would be for me but then a conversation at the school pick-up changed everything. I met Shilly (Pancholi, ECB City Programme Executive for Leicester and Birmingham) because our sons went to the same school. Shilly encouraged me to go to a session with her and said she’d take me and introduce me. Looking back, I didn’t know anything. I was even holding the bat the wrong way round, but she just kept saying: “It’s fine, it’s fine.”

Every week for a year, Shilly took me to cricket and brought me home again. With every week that passed, I learned more and found myself loving the sport. At that time, my children were small too. They came every week and played as well. After 12 years of barely leaving the house, cricket helped me find myself.

Volunteering in cricket has opened so many new opportunities for me. I was interviewed on stage at Lord’s by BBC presenter Harpz Kaur. I was nervous beforehand, but afterwards I was so pleased that I did it. Cricket has taught me that there’s nothing to be afraid of. If you want to do something, just go and do it.

I even went on stage and performed Bollywood dancing, under our programme Bolly-Cric-hit, when the Men’s World Cup came to Leicester and stayed away from home for the very first time as part of the Criiio Cup in 2019. There’s no way I’d have done that in the past.

The more I volunteered in cricket, the more confidence I gained. And I’m so thankful to my family, too. They’re behind me all the way. I know that if I fall, they’ll raise me up.

For the last two years, we’ve been running Walking Cricket sessions for over-50s ladies. Shilly asked me if I’d like to help out, and when it’s cricket I’m always ready. My mother-in-law is 74 years old. She came for a couple of sessions, loved it, and now she’s always asking when the next session is. When I started, there weren’t as many ladies or children involved as there are today. It’s just getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

At home, my role is to make sure the house is running perfectly, with the kids going to school, the housework all well managed, and the shopping done. At times I felt like I was a robot. I didn’t have time for myself. But now, when I play cricket, I just forget about everything. It’s a real remedy for me. If I want to scream, I just go into the field and scream.

Volunteering has taught me so much, everything from learning how to engage with children through to getting huge amounts of perspective: you think you have a problem, but then you talk to other people and you realise your problem is nothing in comparison. Cricket has shown me how to enjoy life wherever you can.

I volunteer at every opportunity I get; I’ve just passed my Foundation Level 1 coaching certificate and even attend community events to encourage other people to take up volunteering. Wherever I go in the cricket community, I know people and it’s lovely to have that welcome feeling. My confidence has increased so, so much. In the past, I’d have always stayed quiet. Now, if there’s anything I need to ask someone, I just ask. Cricket has made me so much happier. Sunday is my cricket zone. After cricket, we’ll go out for some food too. It’s a chance to have your own time, and that’s so important.

If you’re reading this and thinking about getting involved in volunteering, just do it. There are so many coaches there who are going to help you. They’re so welcoming and they’ll give you all the support you need. Getting involved is the best thing you can do.

If you want to start your volunteer journey or are an existing volunteer looking for advice on how to inspire more people to get involved, visit The Cricket Collective page.