A group of pupils had a very special surprise from Yorkshire players this week.
Yorkshire CCC captain Shan Masood and seam bowling all-rounder Ben Mike made a surprise visit to The Ruth Gorse Academy to celebrate and inspire youngsters who are part of the academy’s ‘excellence in sport’ program.
As part of the visit the cricket stars took part in a coaching session delivered by the Yorkshire Cricket Board, alongside 20 pupils.
Masood said: “I think it’s really important to give back – firstly to help support the community and secondly to help the game to grow. Sport connects people and communities from different backgrounds all around the world. That’s what makes it so special.”
“I’m really grateful to the school and to Yorkshire for giving me this opportunity to come here, spend some time with the young people, and give something back.”
“In this world the best you can have is the support of each other and seeing the students smiling and having fun – those are the things that you want.”
Currently The Ruth Gorse Academy supports around 20 students in the ‘sport in excellence’ programme, across a range of sports including football, boxing, tennis, Irish dancing and its ‘Big 3’ sports of volleyball, rowing and karate.
Ruby and Naby are both part of the rowing programme and expressed how much they had enjoyed taking part in the cricket session.
Ruby said: “I’ve really enjoyed today and my favourite part was having a go at batting. Being part of an inner-city school means that we are quite limited to what opportunities we get so to be able to play cricket here today means a lot.”
“Being able to take part in sport has given opportunities to me and it has opened me to a world that I would never have expected – hopefully I will go far in the future of sport.”
Naby, added the best bit of today was getting to play with professionals and learn from them.
He said: “The fact that two professional cricket stars came over here has been great. They helped us learn more about cricket and today has helped inspire us. Sport for me is brilliant.”
Another highlight of the academy visit was a Q & A with the students and Masood and Mike followed by an autograph signing session.
Mike said: “It was a really great visit. It was nice to take part and show the students some cricket. I think it is massively important to inspire young people. I know with cricket there can be a lot of barriers to entry – it’s sometimes seen as a sport that is very elite… so it’s nice to come into urban areas like this and introduce cricket to them.”
“There are some real superstars here – they were saying one of the pupils can deadlift 180kg – he would be a good fast bowler – he’s got the build for it.”
“It was great to see that some of the girls were hitting it further than the boys. With a little bit of coaching, I could see some of them coming a long way.”
Students at The Ruth Gorse Academy are able to access exceptional opportunities to take part in extra-curricular activities. As well as the extensive health and fitness clubs run by the PE department, students have the chance to access a wide range of free of charge activities.
Charlotte Ball, Curriculum Leader of PE at The Ruth Gorse Academy, said: “This is an absolutely incredible experience for our students.”
“We are an inner-city school – we have a diverse school community and sport is very much at the heart of our academy. Sport is used as a vehicle for success.”
“Cricket is a sport we are hoping to expand further, and an event like this can start a conversation with students. Cricket is on our curriculum and we look at ways that we can make it accessible and work for us here, regardless of us not having a field in which to play – but we want to offer it to all of our students.”
“It’s incredible for us to see how excited they are to meet the Yorkshire players and be able to play alongside them it really is an excellent opportunity for them. We want to open doors for our students and ultimately let them experience as many different sports as they possibly can.”
Yorkshire CCC’s Performance Pathway has been a key building block in ensuring the Club is encouraging greater access to cricket for young people across the county. Across boys and girls age groups, the programme has introduced measures including removal of match fees, the provision of kit and winter coaching free of charge, alongside the creation of an accessible hardship fund for those that require further financial support.
Over the past year, these changes have seen the 940 young people come through the Performance Pathway, with a notable upswing in participation and engagement from people from diverse backgrounds.
The results demonstrate that focused investment on providing equity of opportunity and driving inclusivity can lead to strong results in a relatively short timeframe.