As the summer of sport heats up, with both the Olympic Games and The Hundred aiming to inspire generations of children to participate in sport, Sport Industry Group chatted to Steve Peyman, Chief Operating Officer, Chance To Shine, about using cricket to engage with young people from underserved backgrounds across England and Wales.
Tell us about Chance to Shine
At Chance to Shine, our focus is on putting a cricket bat and a ball in the hands of as many young people as we can. We want them to learn a love of cricket and, by playing the game, learn skills like teamwork, leadership and communication that are integral to cricket. We know that being physically active has such a positive impact on young people’s physical and mental wellbeing and we want to ensure that they are all able to access those benefits by playing cricket.
In a typical year, we deliver a half-term of cricket in around a quarter of state primary schools, giving children a chance to try the game, to develop their skills and to learn whilst taking part. We run a programme in secondary schools that is designed to develop the leadership skills of teenage girls as well as a national tournament called Chance to Compete that is only open to state schools.
The Chance to Shine Street cricket programme is targeted at urban areas of economic deprivation where there is a lack of open space and traditional cricket clubs. Street cricket takes away all the traditional barriers to the game and is played with a tennis ball wrapped in electrical tape, it’s six-a-side and games last 20 balls per team. We work in all the major cities across the country, running over 200 projects all year-round.
How has the pandemic impacted your work? And how have you adapted?
As our work relies on going into schools and communities, the pandemic had a significant impact on what we could do, as well as our ability to raise funds. In the 2019/20 academic year, around 400,000 young people missed out on Chance to Shine sessions. However, within four days of our work being halted, we had come up with a plan to support teachers, parents and children to stay active whilst at home.
We released weekly sessions to our network of 14,000 teachers and on our social media channels. The sessions were fun and inclusive, and could be done at home with limited space, as well as in schools open for vulnerable children and those of key workers.
No specialist equipment was required – bats were swapped for frying pans and cricket stumps became wheelie bins. The sessions were hugely successful with over 500,000 views on our social media channels and fantastic feedback from teachers. When the January 2021 lockdown was introduced, we took this a step further and ran a weekly live-streamed session on YouTube which featured England stars like Joe Root, Heather Knight and Mark Wood. The sessions saw over 37,000 schools and households join in over seven weeks.
We have also made a significant effort to look after the wellbeing of our staff. With everyone being isolated at home, we have tried to put their wellbeing at the forefront of everything we do. We have always been supportive of flexible working, but the pandemic has brought into focus how helpful it is for staff, for example with young children, to be able to shape their working pattern around family and personal commitments – this is something that we will continue to adopt.
Can you tell us about the support you have received over the pandemic?
We’ve been incredibly fortunate that our biggest funding partners the England & Wales Cricket Board and Sport England as well corporate partners NatWest and Yorkshire Tea all stood by their commitments to us during the pandemic.
Without that support, the charity would have been in a great amount of difficulty as the pandemic impacted our ability to run fundraising and supporter events. We were also overwhelmed by the support from the public, many of whom took on incredible fundraising challenges. This included a team of lads who ran marathons in their back gardens in full cricket kit, who inspired Ben Stokes to run his first ever half-marathon to raise funds for Chance to Shine and the NHS Charities Together fund!
What are your plans for the upcoming summer and beyond now that sport has returned and restrictions are lifted?
This summer has probably been the busiest summer for Chance to Shine in many, many years. We’re trying to make up for lost time and get in front of as many children and young people as possible. Our brilliant coaches, and the fantastic delivery partners we have across the country, are working tirelessly to help reinvent and recover from the pandemic.
We know that the pandemic has limited young people’s physical activity and had a huge impact on their mental wellbeing as well. We want to help them to return to where they were before and then push on to improve their lives by playing, learning and developing through cricket.
How can Chance to Shine help cricket to embrace diversity?
A vital part of our work is to bring cricket to new audiences and to widen the interest in the sport. We’re very proud of the impact we’ve had on women’s cricket and for the very first time this year, we reached as many girls as boys. Many of the players involved in the women’s Hundred started their cricketing career in Chance to Shine sessions or have been coaches on our programmes.
We‘re also committed to supporting young people from different ethnic backgrounds to take part in cricket, as research tells us that people from diverse backgrounds are much less likely to be physically active. Our Street cricket programme is full of young people from varied ethnic communities and around 80% of those who play at our projects are from diverse backgrounds. We are aware that young people from Black backgrounds are under-represented within cricket and we are currently working on a targeted approach to increase the number of young people from Black communities who play the sport; focussing on areas that have not had Chance to Shine support in the past.
How important are effective corporate partnerships for the charity?
Corporate partnerships are absolutely vital for Chance to Shine, and not only because of the financial support they give us. Partners like NatWest have been so valuable because of their commitment to equality and diversity in sport and their public campaigning on those issues has helped to spread one of our most important beliefs: that cricket is a game for everyone.
As a small charity, we have limited resources and so to have the support of NatWest and things like their #NoBoundaries campaign putting Chance to Shine cricketers on giant billboards across the country has been fantastic.
For us, it’s all about working with partners in a way that benefits both organisations. We want them to feel part of what we do and to bring their enthusiasm, excitement and expertise to the table to help improve our work. We believe that working with corporate partners, we can have a real impact on some of the vital issues that society face in this country.
What work are you most excited about in the next 6-12 months?
There is no doubt that the next 12 months are going to be a significant challenge as we all look to get back on our feet. At Chance to Shine, that means delivering a programme to the scale that we were at before the pandemic where we were reaching 650,000 children and young people in a year. It’s crucial that we are able to get our Street cricket programmes running again, especially as we know that our participants have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
However, it’s not just about returning to the past, it’s about using our new experiences and innovation to improve our work and create more opportunities for children and young people to engage with sport and physical activity. We’re going to focus our support in areas where young people have been most impacted by the pandemic, areas where the greatest inequalities exist and areas of socio-economic deprivation where they have had limited opportunities to be active and to have fun playing sport.
We know that cricket has so much to offer these young people and are relishing the opportunity to roll up our sleeves and put a bat and a ball back in the hands of thousands of children and young people.