Street in Lockdown – Masoor Khan

Masoor Khan is coach at Easton Street Project, winner of Project of the Year at the 2020 Chance to Shine Awards. He leads three sessions at City Academy Bristol, giving children from a deprived area an opportunity to play cricket. Masoor was furloughed during the first lockdown but was raring to go when he returned to work. We spoke to him about the impact that lockdown has had on Easton Street and what it was like when the project restarted in July.

As soon as I found out that I was off furlough, we sent out a survey to find out how [the participants] were, physically and mentally, and what they would like to see going forward. I think it was very important for parents to let us know if they had any concerns because, with so much going on, we wanted to make sure they were happy and felt their children were in a safe place and were going to enjoy their cricket.

It was quite evident that they needed sport. We had a lot of kids whose parents were saying that they were getting quite angry during lockdown, that they lacked motivation and were feeling lazy.

For our first session back, we didn’t do any cricket. We ran a picnic and invited parents and siblings just for them to get outside, see some people they recognised and have those childish conversations about whatever they wanted. I’m sure that’s what they were missing. We gave out some goody bags and they all got their own tennis ball so they could keep practising. That was a big motivator for them. We asked them questions and did a ‘Life’s better with…’ session (part of the Street Life Skills Modules). We asked simple questions, ‘life’s better with or without chocolate’, ‘the impact Covid-19 has had’, and it got quite deep as the session went on. We got them to come up with some questions themselves and it was a really good way for them to open up and communicate about anything.

After that we went to Bristol West Indies Cricket Club and ran sessions there throughout the summer. [The impact of lockdown on the participants] has worked both ways. Some have come back with a new positive outlook on life; they are more chilled out because they have realised what priorities they have. A lot of kids have come back really eager because it’s what they feel passionate about doing. On the flip side, we’ve seen kids who are a lot less engaged. We’ve had lots of conversations about kids who are reluctant to do something new because they don’t feel confident. That might be from the fact that they have spent a number of days by themselves or isolated within their household, but we have worked really hard on making sure that the sessions are fun and inclusive.

In late September we moved inside. We are fortunate in the indoor space because we have three sports halls, so we could accommodate most of them. The only downside was we could only accommodate 25 instead of the normal 40 we would get before lockdown. At the start of the week, an email was sent out to the parents, on a first come, first served basis and we tried to squeeze them into the session. We’ve had new kids turn up, probably because there’s not much to do and other sports haven’t been as flexible as us. It’s been quite hard having new arrivals come in, and unfortunately having to let them down because of the capacity but we put their name down for the next week and just have to be flexible. But for us, having new kids turn up every week has been brilliant for cricket.

It has been a tough year, but it’s actually brought more positives than negatives for us. The fact that we’re able to communicate with the parents so closely and just seeing the children enjoying the sessions. It’s not just the fact that they’re playing cricket, but they’re meeting friends and having conversations that they might not feel comfortable having with their parents and teachers, it’s just another safe space for them to feel welcome.

Once we move out of lockdown, we will begin to welcome young people back to Street projects across the country. The safety and wellbeing of young people is our top priority. We have created something very special for young people and need your help to ensure Chance to Shine can continue to keep children active, and support their mental, personal and social wellbeing. Please donate today

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