At Oldbury Academy in Birmingham, a school in one of the most deprived areas of Britain with low levels of sports engagement, a group of girls who started playing cricket less than three years ago have improved at such a rate that last year they won the Staffordshire Indoor County competition.
Petrina Ellis, P.E. teacher at Oldbury Academy, credits Chance to Shine for a large portion of their success. “Chance to Shine has really helped,” says Petrina. “The girls have done so much work with Stuart [Baker, their coach] who also runs an after-school club for them. They've gone from not being able to do much to being county champions.”
Aside from the cricket, both Petrina and Stuart are convinced of the benefits cricket has given the girls in other areas of life. “It's definitely helped with their teamwork and cooperation with each other and their decision making,” Petrina says, while Stuart has seen how girls who might not see themselves as leaders have taken younger pupils under their wing.
“At one session, one pupil Shenay pulled a face when she saw some of the younger girls turning up. She said ‘Aw sir, why have we got to have the younger girls?’” Stuart says. “But then watching her in action during the session, she was brilliant. She was taking girls to one side saying, ‘This is how you should be playing.’ You saw another side of her.”
The motivation to bring cricket to a school that had previously never offered the game came from Petrina.To begin with she had little knowledge of cricket, but was motivated by a group of keen girls to offer it as an option.“It started with the Year 11s,” Petrina says. “They always asked if we could play cricket.Haley, our games organiser, got Chance to Shine in to help with the sessions and also to give me some extra training, because I hadn’t done much cricket before.”
Chance to Shine coach Stuart Baker is full of praise for the way Petrina has learned from his sessions in order to be able to coach the girls by herself. “She is always there during sessions, and she learns from them so she can run similar sessions to the ones I've run during lunch times and after school,” says Stuart. “The girls love Petrina. If she says ‘Do this’ they’ll do it, because they respect her. But she gives them leeway
too. We've had 50 to 60 people at some of the after-school clubs, which is incredible for an inner-city comp.”
Oldbury Academy’s spectacular story was capped off by victory in the Staffordshire Indoor County competition, beating private and grammar schools where cricket was a long-established sport. In a short period of time, cricket has helped keep the girls active, given them a new hobby and given them skills that can be transferred off the cricket pitch.
And in Petrina, Oldbury Academy have a teacher who gets on well with the girls and has learnt the skills to coach cricket herself, meaning cricket should thrive at the school for a long time to come.