Saturday, June 22, 2024

ECB: Local Hampshire club thriving with Super 1s opportunities

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Photo Credit: ECB

Toby Reynolds reports from Portchester CC, a small club in Hampshire which is making a significant contribution to opening up the game for all young players.

Super 1s is a Lord’s Taverners programme which gives young people with disabilities the chance to play regular, competitive cricket through weekly coaching sessions and inter-hub festivals.

Portchester Cricket Club, based in Fareham, is one of the seven Super 1s hubs in Hampshire and is making a huge difference to its community.

Katie Stares had not heard of Super 1s cricket until a few years ago but now she is a lead coach at the Fareham hub and a community coach for Hampshire Cricket Board.

“My son James is disabled, and he became involved a few years ago,” she said.

“My eldest plays a high level of cricket, and his coach from a few years ago knew about my son James and said, ‘Why are you not attending Super 1s?’ and I said, ‘I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about!’

He explained, ‘It’s disability cricket. Come on down on Tuesday nights’, and that was pretty much it. We went in, and he loved it, because it’s for him. Now five, six years down the line, I’ve taken my qualification and I’m the coach of one of the hubs.”

Throughout the year, the disability hubs come together for Super 1s festivals. In a round robin tournament, participants compete in pairs cricket, where every player bowls, bats, fields, and has a brilliant time learning and developing their skills. There is then an opportunity for more advanced players to move into the Super 9s and D40 competitions, which are part of the elite performance pathway.

It is not just Katie who is involved. Portchester have a large group of selfless volunteers, who give up a huge amount of time to help.

Katie’s husband, Geoff is the head coach at Portchester CC but assists with the disability players too. “Just to watch them at their festivals, to coach them and see how happy and excited they are, is amazing,” he said.

“The disabilities range from my son’s, who’s quadriplegic, to ADHD. It’s just such a diverse mixture of kids and the happiness that you see from them by coaching them, it’s hard to describe to be honest. They give you absolutely everything.”

Lucy Tillotson, who is a lead coach at Fareham Super 1s with Katie, is also the head coach of the Hampshire Adders, an all-female disability team.

She explained: “The main reason it was started up was because girls were saying they didn’t want to move on in cricket, because it’s so competitive with the boys.

“But also, there was no social outlet for them because able-bodied people would look on them differently because they have a disability. An older gentleman heard about this and wanted to sponsor a girls’ side.”

Lucy has been coaching the Adders for two and a half years now, making differences to so many lives. “I would drop everything to do girls disability cricket because to see their faces and to hear their positivity, when they come together is enough to give me pleasure,” she said.

“They’re so pleased that they’ve got something they can go to, and they feel part of and is theirs. If you came down to our hub tonight, the faces that you see, the achievements that are achieved, is just awesome. That’s why I do it.”

However, despite the good that Super 1s and Portchester do, disability cricket still faces many challenges. Raising awareness about the Super 1s programme and increasing participation rates are the priority.

Katie said: “Originally, it was that people didn’t know about us. It wasn’t freely advertised or anything like that. Now we have a lot of social media coverage and as I work on behalf of Hampshire Cricket Board, I go into schools, so I can promote it and hopefully we get more players.

“I’ve just been working at an event, where schools were invited to a festival day. We’ve played games but sadly, only two schools turned up. It would have been nice if we’d had more schools but it’s just the way it is at the moment.

“Sometimes it’s down to help. If they can’t drive, they can’t get their participants to us. It’s a bit tricky sometimes and I think that’s probably the biggest hurdle we have now.”

Super 1s prides itself on its accessibility and inclusiveness. “All disabilities are very welcome,” Katie continued.

“We have a range [of disabilities] in our hub. We have physical disabilities: my son is a full-time wheelchair user, one of the other coaches is a full-time wheelchair user. We have mental health disabilities: ADHD, autism. We have deafness. In another hub, we’ve got some sight impairments in a couple of participants. It doesn’t matter what disability it is, everyone is welcome.”

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