Monday 23 September 2013
Stoke City's efforts to encourage cricket within the local community have been recognised by The Cricket Foundation, a charity which aims to bring the sport back to state schools.
The partnership that Stoke City Community Trust, the club's charitable arm, run with Staffordshire Cricket Board through the Cricket Foundation's Chance to Shine project has been nominated for an Innovation Award at this year’s ceremony at The Kia Oval, London.
"Cricket is a great way for children to get fit and be active"
The partnership has had a significant impact on the reach of the programme, where more than 1,500 hours of cricket have been delivered into 59 local schools to more than 3,000 children, 170 of whom went on to join their local cricket clubs in the North Staffordshire area.
The club have regularly lent their support to the Chance to Shine project with first-team players showing off their cricketing prowess to local schoolchildren. Stoke winger Matthew Etherington was the latest to pick up a bat at Sir John Offley CE Primary School, in Madeley. Etherington joined the community coaches to give the starstruck youngsters an hour's cricket lesson, while stirring some memories for the player.
"Coming to this school has really brought back a lot of memories for me, because I used to really enjoy playing cricket when I was at school," Etherington told stokecityfc.com. "I love watching cricket on the television and I really enjoyed watching the Ashes in the summer, although I sadly don't have time to play myself because of my football commitments.
"The session was really good, and all of the children seemed to be enjoying themselves. Projects like this are great because it is important to nurture young talent, and more importantly it is a great way for children to get fit and be active.
"As a football club we want young people to access as many opportunities as they can"
For Adrian Hurst, Stoke City's Head of Community, such a project demonstrates the wider objectives the club have for their community beyond football.
"As a football club we want young people to access as many opportunities as they can," Hurst said. "We are always trying to find the next player in our first team squad but it's also our responsibility to signpost them to other opportunities in other sports."
Chance to Shine was launched by the Cricket Foundation in 2005 with the aim of linking cricket clubs to local primary and secondary schools, paying qualified cricket coaches to deliver cricket sessions and matches in schools, training teachers and encouraging children to come and play at cricket clubs. Last year more than 4,500 schools were engaged with almost 350,000 children participating.
Jason Britton, development director for Staffordshire Cricket, hailed the "fantastic partnership" his board has with Stoke City.
"There are wins for all concerned," Britton said. "We gain the benefit of the association with a Premier League football club and Stoke City's strong community presence to reach further into the school network. Stoke's community team have an additional sport to offer and the schools and pupils are receiving a funded programme of physical activity to help them develop healthy lifestyles.
"We're delighted that the partnership has been shortlisted for the award."