Magic on Merseyside

Barton Mathews, of The Cricketer, reports on how an inspirational teacher started a schools cricketing success story from scratch.

There are awards for start-up businesses. But inspirational Stuart Elsworth has been lauded as a start-up cricket coach.

Elsworth, 37, is head of science at St Christopher’s Primary School in Speke, Merseyside. Wanting to take an after-school activity, the list of options was limited.

Despite not playing cricket or having past interest in the game, he decided to give it a try. He started watching coaching videos on YouTube and soon his enthusiasm started delivering extraordinary results.

In the 15 years since he took up cricket coaching, St Christopher’s have scooped 59 trophies for boys and girls cricket. The girls team were crowned Lancashire county champions in 2015, and the boys have been regulars in county finals. I have seen children with behavioural problems who have really struggled with school life absolutely thrive through cricket, and seeing smiles on parents faces when they see their child learning new skills in a team is amazing.

Elsworth runs cricket workshops and transformed the school’s cricket club into one of the most popular after-school clubs. It is little wonder that Chance to Shine and MCC named Elsworth as Best Teacher of the Year in England and Wales at their

The judging panel said Elsworth had, in a deprived area with a high crime rate and an absence of local cricket clubs, created a cricketing powerhouse.

Chance to Shine put us in touch with clubs we didn’t know existed and helped us with coaches and equipment, Elsworth told The Cricketer. I’ve got no cricket background and they gave me the expertise to progress my coaching.

The football and cross-country clubs were full and I wanted to get involved. The trophies are great but really they are just the icing on the cake. I have seen children with behavioural problems who have really struggled with school life absolutely thrive through cricket, and seeing smiles on parents faces when they see their child learning new skills in a team is amazing. It’s all about having a laugh with the kids, while showing them that if they work hard and practise then they can achieve success. That’s what it is really all about.

Some of our youngsters have now gone on to represent Lancashire at Under-11 and Under-15 level.

Dave Goodall, a coach at St Christopher’s, has witnessed the school’s meteoric cricketing rise. The usual five or six schools would dominate the tournaments, he said, and then out of the blue, St Christopher’s suddenly emerged, the only team to be proudly sporting full cricket whites, and they started winning matches. The secret was Stuart’s enthusiasm.

Derek Brewer, the outgoing MCC chief executive, said: We had a lot of entries for this competition but Stuart’s stood out as the most impressive, and he is fully deserving of this award. We’re pleased to recognise the hard work teachers do both in encouraging boys and girls to play cricket, and in promoting the Play Hard, Play Fair message.

Chance to Shine has worked with 3,000,000 youngsters in 12,000 schools. The ECB have doubled their investment in the charity for 2017.

This article first appeared in The Cricketer, the world’s No.1 cricket magazine, on sale monthly.

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