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StreetChance, the tape-ball cricket initiative


Penny Hopkins
WVoN co-editor

Can young people’s behaviour be influenced for the better through cricket? Seems so…

StreetChance is an inner-city initiative involving a fast-paced version of tape-ball cricket – a tennis ball wrapped in electrical tape – where each innings lasts for 20 balls and games last for just 20 minutes.

It is also a partnership between the UK’s Cricket Foundation’s Chance to Shine scheme and Barclays Spaces for Schools in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police and county constabularies thoughout England.

The aim is to engage children and young people in areas affected by high rates of youth crime and anti-social behaviour – in cricket.

The idea is to break down barriers between diverse communities, promote respect and encourage better relationships between youngsters and authority figures such as the police and teachers.

This is achieved through structured cricket coaching and opportunities for competition.

Over 40 per cent of participants are girls, many of whom play in mixed teams. But in April 2010, the first girls-only scheme was also set up, in Sutton, and the regular Friday night session has quickly become popular.

Girls from vastly different backgrounds come together to train and improve their skills and afterwards take time to prepare food and eat together.

And after community coach Beth Evans identified a ‘distinct antipathy’ towards the police, two female Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) started to attend, and gave out advice on personal safety and discussed local issues.

Ms Evans has seen a marked change in the girls’ attitudes. “It’s amazing to watch them become a family,” she said.

She also saw a notable improvement in their cricket skills.

When they first competed against StreetChance boys they lost every game and did not really enjoy the day. When they returned to take on the boys six months later, they won all but one game.

Coaching is focussed in areas with limited green space and targeted in areas of social deprivation, and takes place in selected state schools and a variety of community venues.

Sessions are held on weekday evenings and coaching is combined with outreach, when those taking part can discuss with their coach and peers any issues they may have.

Still doubtful? The statistics speak for themselves.

Since its launch in 2008, the StreetChance scheme has provided over 7,000 hours of free cricket coaching and engaged over 15,000 young people in some of the most deprived areas of England.

And 69 per cent of the participants say it has made them act more responsibly, while 60 per cent think they are less likely to become involved in gangs because of StreetChance.  And 58 per cent say their attitude towards the police has changed.

Still, future targets are ambitious. Over the next three years the scheme aims to train more than 200 teachers, 250 local coaches and volunteers and create over 1,600 young leaders in schools.

London, Birmingham, Bristol, Dewsbury and Manchester are currently included in the StreetChance scheme and Liverpool and Hull are due to get on board in 2012.

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