Cricket is for everybody

Rosabella is a six-year-old girl; she works hard at school, loves to spend time with her friends and is a buzz of energy when she gets to take part in something she enjoys. Rosabella is also dealing with greater challenges than most people will ever have to tackle. Her mum, Rebecca, thinks Rosabella has around 10% of the sight of her classmates as there is a brain tumour restricting her optic nerve.

In a frenetic session in the school hall at Prestbury Primary, Cheshire Cricket Board coach Andrew ‘AJ’ Jackson leads 30 children in an exciting and energetic cricket lesson. To a casual observer, this would seem a typical Chance to Shine session, blending cricket skills and learning maths. Rosabella takes part in everything: batting, bowling and fielding alongside her friends.

Look closer and little adaptations ensure that she is able to experience the same as her classmates: her ball has a little bell in it; when bowling her classmate will stand behind the stumps and clap to signify their location and feedback once she has delivered the ball “a little to the right Rosabella”, “slightly forward”, “middle-stump Rosabella, well done!” Rosabella keeps score, using blocks to count, alongside classmates that record runs on a whiteboard. It is all a natural part of the session and Rosabella’s experience differs very little from the other 29 children: a fun, fast-paced and active 45 minutes.

For Rosabella, experiences of physical activity were not always this way. Rebecca says that in the past Rosabella had lacked the confidence to take part in other activities: “Everything was ‘oh no I don’t want to try that’. As she grew older things are more competitive and people weren’t necessarily as open to being patient with her.”

However, one afternoon 12 months ago, Rebecca noticed a significant change in her daughter when she returned home from school after her first cricket session, “I don’t know what happened in the class but something certainly inspired her to enjoy it!” Rosabella’s teacher, Hannah, is full of praise for her Chance to Shine coach, “AJ has a really good relationship with her, she’s very confident to talk to him. She’s much more willing to have a go at lots of different things that she wasn’t prepared to do before. It’s certainly shown her that it is possible for her to do that.”

Rosabella’s Learning Support Assistant, Vicky, has noticed the change and development within her. “It’s really helped with co-operative working, she’s giving her opinion and her self-esteem has been really boosted by it.”

Rosabella is also aware of the benefits of playing sport: “Cricket makes me feel more calm and sensible. I would like to carry on because I really, really like it and it’s really nice for me to do it because I can’t see as well as everyone else but playing cricket makes me feel like I can.” This is something which isn’t lost on her classmates; one of her friends Ruby has seen how inclusive the sport can be: “Everyone can play cricket if they want to, no matter who they are or what size and colour they are.”

After Chance to Shine, Rosabella’s teacher encouraged her to go to the Cheshire Cobras Visually Impaired Cricket Club. Rosabella will  be taking part in All Stars Cricket at Prestbury cricket club in May 2019. Despite the challenges, barriers and hurdles she has had to face down, Rosabella is foremost a six year-old girl who loves to play cricket.

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