As the third Ashes test gets underway at Edgbaston we at Forever Manchester are looking at how cricket can bring a community together.
Although cricket can be an expensive game, with expensive kit, equipment and balls, there are groups and clubs within communities who host activities which provide this, so the sport is open to anybody.
Run entirely by volunteers, Bury Cricket Club recruits players from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures in the Bury area. The club puts on events throughout the year such as car boot sales, quizzes, barbecues and bag packs.
A cricket force day at the beginning of each season sees volunteers of all ages help to prepare the ground. The local community comes together to ensure the playing fields are up to standards for the new season. They bring together their skills and their tools to do anything from painting, to mowing. This event was so successful in 2013 that the club won an OSCA (Outstanding Services to Cricket Award).
Open coaching sessions for new junior players are offered free of charge via established links to a number of local schools. The club’s continued commitment to junior cricket was recognised by the award of the Sport England Club Mark and the Bury MBC Community Club of the year in 2005.
Michael Hill, Chairman of Bury Cricket Club told Forever Manchester: “Six years ago, my son asked me if he could go to cricket training with a friend from school. As a supportive parent I thought it was just another sport for him to try so I brought him to Bury Cricket Club where his friend was already playing.
“As a new parent at the club, I was met with a smile and a list of questions; Why Bury? Where did you hear about us? Has he played before? The values of the club were explained to me and how these are used to guide all the young people at the club, fun and enjoyment being the key, I saw 30 or 40 young people from the ages of seven to thirteen, boys and girls, being coached with a fun attitude, coaches and parents that were welcoming and I immediately felt that from a parents perspective, it was good for my son to be involved.
“At the end of the first session my son asked if he could stay a little longer and play some fun cricket with a few of the boys, he had enjoyed the coaching and been made welcome. It all started from this. Over the years I have put the cones out, placed the covers on the pitch, moved the sight screens, painted the buildings, scored games, met some fantastic young (and old) people, developed a whole new set of friendships and I have become involved in helping administratively and joining the committee.
“We have built a new pavilion and I have become Chairman of the club. My favourite time every year is when a new batch of seven and eight year olds join us to learn about the game and when we are at schools convincing them of the benefits of playing cricket. Every time you get that smile, the acknowledgement of a pleasure from a child or parent, it just drives you to want to do more. It’s been an exciting period and all started six years ago and fortunately I still feel it today.”
One player, Freddie started playing cricket at Bury in 2009 when he was 8-years-old. He joined the club with a school friend because they wanted more organised coaching than they could get at their school. He started at Bury to see if he would enjoy playing cricket at the club. He was warmly welcomed by Junior Co-Ordinator Paul Belston and quickly settled into the weekly coaching sessions.
Over the course of the next three years, he played regularly for the under 9’s and then under 11’s. Having struggled initially with his technique, he persevered in the under 13’s and earned his place in the team as much for his skill with the bat or as a bowler. Bury Cricket Club has seen him develop both as a player and as a person. On the field he is now one of the most vocal in encouraging his fellow team mates and he has been massively boosted by the enthusiasm of the coaching staff, who have consistently pushed him to continue, especially on the occasions where he was not meeting the standards that he set himself, they simply didn’t let his head go down.
Freddie said: “I love playing cricket because I like the competitiveness as well as the fact that you have to think as well as just bat, bowl and field. I enjoy playing it at Bury because it is so friendly with brilliant coaches who encourage us, and the club provides us with equipment if we need it. We really learn that playing together as a team is what helps us to win matches.”