Cricket may not traditionally have a strong foothold in deprived areas of Glasgow, but sport has the power to not only change lives but change perceptions along the way.
The multi-cultural Wicketz project was launched in Springburn, north Glasgow in 2018.
Created and funded by Lord’s Taverners charity and delivered by Cricket Scotland, the initiative is supported by the community sports hub and Active Schools networks, Glasgow Caledonian University and Achieve More Scotland. It aims to use free cricket sessions to drive social inclusion and engagement in areas of deprivation*.
Wicketz now consists of three hubs in different parts of Glasgow. It unites young people from different races and religions, and the success of the Springburn hub embodies this with kids of 11 nationalities coming together, including members of the refugee community.
Nauman Javaid, project coordinator, says: “In Springburn we’ve got kids from China, where cricket is totally unknown, and from African countries. It’s not just the traditional Asian cricketing countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
“It’s a very diverse culture and a real family atmosphere, with lots of brothers and sisters. And they have so much desire when it comes to the cricket.
“It’s not just about cricket, though. These kids love to play but we also run workshops about issues they are facing in the community, things like drugs, alcohol, gangs and street crime.
“We look at the negative effects of getting involved in the wrong things, and the positive effects of being involved in sport. And the kids have responded really well.”
The driving force behind Wicketz was Ammar Ashraf, Cricket Scotland community engagement coordinator and winner of the Local Hero award at the 2016 Sunday Mail sportscotland Scottish Sports Awards.
Ammar says: “Wicketz is all about developing people. It gives people the chance to participate in cricket, which is great, but it also offers them lifestyle and life skills workshops, first-aid training, career advice and guidance on social issues.
“We are not necessarily expecting the participants to go on to play international cricket, the priority is getting children more active and helping them develop as people and encouraging them to make positive life choices. We also want them to feel safe and secure in a fun environment where they learn about teamwork and the importance of discipline and respect.
“In Springburn, Pollokshields and Govanhill, we are using community spaces that have become disused and revitalising them.”
Nauman, who previously ran cricket sessions through Active Schools in Lanarkshire, and whose full-time role with Wicketz is funded by Spirit Of 2012, explains how the project has evolved in its first year of operation.
He says: “At the start in Springburn, there were only two or three kids each week but that has grown so much, and when we launched the hubs in Pollokshields and Govanhill I went to different places in the local community and put up some flyers. On the day we got 32 kids and loads of parents.
“Some of the parents are involved now, too. They used to just drop the kids off to have some free time, but now they stay for 15-20 minutes at the start to see what their kids are doing.
“We have two parent volunteers who want to be involved in cricket and I am telling them how to get qualifications like UKCC Level 1 coaching.
“The kids are so engaged. We have a 15-year-old girl from China who wants to be a coach. She asked me if she could be a cricket coach and I am helping her to get on the pathway.
“It’s all about inclusion. I myself feel a strong sense of belonging in the Scottish sporting system, and that’s what I want the kids to feel as well.”
Robert McHarg, Achieve More Scotland CEO, adds: “Achieve More Scotland is a charity which uses sport and physical activity to engage children and young people to support them to build skills and confidence and make positive life choices.
“We have been delighted to support Cricket Scotland in the delivery of the Wicketz programme. Cricket Scotland have delivered training inputs to our coaching staff and we have been able to support Wicketz by providing coaching volunteers, as well as signposting children and young people who we engage through schools and community work to join the programme, gain skills and new experiences.”