Ambassador James Taylor inspires London schoolchildren

Former England batsman and current England Selector James Taylor inspired primary schoolchildren across the Capital yesterday (Thursday 27 September). He joined children from Fairholme Primary School in Feltham for their PE lesson in the morning and then Sybourn Primary students in Waltham Forest in the afternoon.

James, a Chance to Shine ambassador, gave over 100 children from across the year groups batting, bowling and fielding tips on the playground. He also took part in a special ‘Spirit of Cricket’ assemblies led by Middlesex and Essex Cricket coaches Shakeel Ahmed and Charlotte Read, respectively, to help teach the children the importance of good sportsmanship.

Students were given a chance to ask James questions about his England cricket career and the serious heart condition that forced him to retire from playing cricket in 2016. He spoke passionately about the lessons that experience had taught him, from not giving up when faced with challenges to always embracing change.

Speaking at the school, Chance to Shine Ambassador Taylor said, “I absolutely loved my time at Fairholme and Sybourn primary schools today. The children here clearly love cricket and the school has really harnessed the power that sport can have on young people’s lives. I was really impressed by the questions the children asked me, especially around my heart condition and retirement from cricket which was the most difficult time of my life.”

The children relished the chance to show off their cricket skills and impress the England Selector in the school playground. Ivreen, 9, (pictured) a skilled bowler who has already been scouted by Middlesex Cricket said, “Today was really fun and exciting to meet James Taylor. The first time I tried to play cricket I wasn’t that good, but then I started learning, kept practicing and now I play for Middlesex.”

One student in particular has benefitted from the Chance to Shine cricket sessions at Fairholme Primary. Ten-year-old Shae (pictured left bowling) explained how sport has helped him to get back on track after a difficult period in his young life: “Before, I was hanging around with people who were a bit older than me and they weren’t the best role models. When I was eight I started a fire on a school field, the police came to my house and had a chat with me. I moved from another school into Fairholme and my behaviour still wasn’t that good in Year 3. But at the end of Year 4 I was introduced to sport and my life turned around. My behaviour improved, I developed respect and I was known as ‘the sports guy’. It made me feel good about myself. Cricket has helped me to make friends, made me better at collaborating and less shy. I love sport and when I’m playing I have my head in the game and I’m not thinking of anything else, I just want to have fun.”

At the start of September, Shae was the official England Cricket team mascot when England played India at the Final Test match held at The Oval. He also helped the Chance to Shine charity celebrate their four millionth child milestone at the House of Commons earlier in the Summer, along with other Fairholme Primary students.

Fairholme Primary Headteacher Helen Willis was delighted by James’ visit saying, “The opportunities that Chance to Shine have provided for children at Fairholme have been amazing, particularly getting to meet James Taylor today. He has such an inspirational story. We really believe that sport can play an important part in developing children’s life skills and working with Chance to Shine to promote cricket across all age groups has been very powerful. Our children are more confident in their abilities not just on the sports field but also in their everyday lessons.”

Sybourn Primary Year 5 teacher Catriona Hoult commented after the event: “Many of our children are cricket mad, so it was a fantastic opportunity for them to meet a role model and to be inspired to have a go at cricket or take their playing to the next level.

“James Taylor was great with the children. He answered all their questions and they loved trying out their skills with him.”

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