Earlier this year, former prime minister Theresa May was guest of honour at Holyport CC when we hosted our first ever Disability Cricket Festival. As a Disability Cricket Champion Club, it was brilliant for her to join us and spend time talking with the 50 or 60 players from three counties taking part that day.
I’d urge any club thinking about starting Disability Cricket to go for it. Even three years ago, I would never have imagined we’d be in that position.
Back in 2018, our club nearly folded to one senior team. We decided to do everything we could to grow, and we had a first attempt at disability cricket by running a winter hub for kids with autism and ADHD aged six to 12. My son has both of those, so it was a natural starting point as they were conditions I understood. We had 12 spaces, and they were all taken every week. But when we tried to run it through the summer the numbers dropped off a cliff as many were just too burnt out after a day at school.
But then, in 2021, we had another go – and the results have blown us away. Through LV= Funds for Runs, we applied for support to put on coaching for both Disability and Women’s Cricket. Initially, the Disability Cricket was going to run for 10 weeks. Our early adverts targeted seven to 12 year-olds but within a week or two we were getting phone calls asking if older children could join in. By the end of August, we had 16-20 children taking part ranging from seven to 18 years old.
Instead of finishing in August, we ran through to the end of September. And then we just kept extending it even further. It’s open to any Disability or Special Education Need (SEN) and you don’t have to be formally diagnosed. We don’t want people feeling they can’t come simply because waiting lists mean they don’t yet have a formal diagnosis. We’re also now open to any age: we like to say our Disability section runs from six to 106!
We’re so proud of what we’ve achieved, especially because of how close we came to closing. We’ve opened up Disability, Women’s, Junior, and Walking Cricket (over-60s) sessions. It’s all part of making the club as sustainable as possible for the long term and making cricket accessible to anyone. It doesn’t matter about age, race, gender or ability. If you’re over five years old, you can play cricket at Holyport.
In 2022, we became a Disability Cricket Champion Club and Super 1s hub and ran sessions right through the summer. We then partnered with Berkshire Cricket Foundation to run a winter hub, which is also happening this year too. So we’ve got Sunday mornings in the summer and Tuesday evenings in the winter.
We regularly attend Disability Cricket festivals, too. This year we’ve been to Buckinghamshire and Surrey, and hosted our own Disability Cricket Festival. We had six teams taking part, two from Holyport and four visiting teams. The weather was glorious and the whole day went brilliantly. Every team played at least four games, culminating in a really competitive final watched by 100+ players and parents/carers, Mrs May and the new chair of Berkshire Cricket.
The impact of all this has been unbelievable. The club has gone from people in the village who’ve been there 30 years not knowing we existed to it now being a key part of the community all year round.
If any other club is thinking about starting with disability cricket, I’ve only got two words: DO IT!
You do have to have coaches ready for anything and you have to be adaptable, but it’s far better to be presented with challenges and adapt, than it is to avoid them because you’re afraid. No-one will mind if it doesn’t go right every time – most will be delighted the sessions are available and will understand that not every exercise will suit every ability.
Talk to your local county to see what support they can provide. Then promote the sessions relentlessly, because getting the message out is the hardest part. Don’t be downhearted if you get a low turnout in the early weeks. You’ve just got to keep going, because it’s so worth it. The players turn up and have fun and the parents/carers love it. We’ve only ever had positive feedback – and our club has never been in a better position.
For any questions or advice on the above, you can contact Tristan at email@example.com