The Game Of Life

When Simon Jones joined the Hampshire Cricket Board four years ago, funding shortages meant that there was only one coach working with seven Special Educational Needs (SEN) schools in the county, providing around 40 hours of coaching annually.

Fast-forward to the present day, and Chance to Shine’s programmes now operate in over 20 schools under the instruction of 10 coaches, providing up to 150 hours of coaching a year.

The charity’s fundamental aim of spreading the power of cricket has provided the strong management and well-directed funding required to do just that across Hampshire.

Jones, clubs and disability development manager for HCB, believes that being involved in “over 50 per cent” of SEN schools in the county means they can afford to talent-spot as well as continue to broaden cricket’s base by encouraging young children to participate in cricketing activities for the first time.

Previously, Hampshire would field one hardball and one soft-ball team to participate in the national league, but in 2016 this has risen to two in both disciplines.

According to Jones, “a large percentage of new players come through Chance to Shine. The programme allows children with special needs to start in an environment where people are reasonably familiar and comfortable, instead of being thrown in at the deep end by playing club cricket.”

The fact that some do then go on to play in mainstream club cricket is to be celebrated.

Primary and secondary schools in Hampshire benefit hugely from tournament festival days put on by the board and Chance to Shine, with 25 schools participating in three festivals during the summer term. This allows the county to scout players for their development squad, with the hope of one day elevating them into the county system.

Above all else though, as Jones says, Chance to Shine “gives people the opportunity to participate”, and not just at the elite level. Feedback provided suggests that involvement in the scheme gives their children “confidence, social skills, life skills and, in some cases, a radical change in personality.”

Proof of this can be seen at Oak Lodge School in Southampton, where two members of the county’s development squad were made Deputy Head Boys, in no small part due to the social interaction skills which had been developed through a Chance to Shine programme.

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