Street in Rochdale

Rochdale Street project takes place every Monday at the local leisure centre welcoming up to 70 young people every week, many of whom are from ethnically diverse communities.

The project is located in an area where 28% of children receive free school meals and 44% of children are getting less than 30 minutes of activity a day (including walking), compared with 32% of children nationally. Garreth Chambers, lead coach at Rochdale Street, acknowledges that his was a challenge when the project was launched, “When they all started, not a lot of them would be able to play cricket at all and they didn’t really know each other.”

The task for Garreth and his fellow coaches was to ensure the participants felt able to take part in at least 60 minutes of physical activity a week, the guideline for children and young people aged five to 18, but also motivated to sustain this beyond the first few sessions.

“We had to make our sessions really basic for the young people who had never played before and gradually increase the skill as time went on.” says Garreth. “We aimed to make the sessions as varied as possible and make sure there was a fun element throughout. This included games which would improve the young people’s fitness and motor skills, as well as cricket skills.”

One young person who lauds the impact this approach had on them is 13-year-old Aadam, “I feel that I’m gradually getting better over time because when I first came here I was just terrible at cricket and I feel I’ve been getting better over time. Whenever I do hit a good shot or I do take a good catch. I do get a bit of enjoyment myself.”

Along with seeing their skills develop, many of Rochdale’s young cricketers highlight that having a supportive community at the project is a key factor in encouraging them to return each week.

95% of participants surveyed by Chance to Shine in 2020 agreed that their coach inspires them to do their best. Garreth and his fellow coaches have done just that according to Yusuf, aged 13, “If your arm’s not straight or say you’re not bowling properly, they’ll tell you and they’ll advise you and they won’t criticise you in any way but they’ll tell you how to improve.” Sameer, aged 10, agrees, “They’re fun, they’re not coaches that just scream at you when you’ve done something. They tell you about how to do it, they’re fun and they ask you what you want to do.”

This has also transferred into the strong bonds that many of the young cricketers have formed with each other. For Yusuf, the motivation to attend every week simply wouldn’t exist if he didn’t see his friends every week, “my friends are here so I enjoy the sport more. If they weren’t here, then I wouldn’t really enjoy it more because then I’m not with people I know. Also I like it because it’s quite fun to meet new people.”

With a focus on developing skills, confidence and friendship, it’s no wonder that the parents at the project can now see their children developing a love for the sport and being physically active, “They absolutely love it!”, says Reehana, “They look forward to it every single week and they’re just enjoying it, improving their skills and fitness as well. I think they just want to keep fit now and enjoy the cricket, even at home, it doesn’t stop, they want to meet up and play cricket generally.

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