Cricket-based scheme StreetChance has been praised for engaging with disillusioned children in rough areas who may otherwise become involved with gangs.
The Institute of Youth Sport’s recent evaluation of the project found StreetChance to be offering youngsters ‘the opportunity to develop their confidence and choose to stay away from gang members in their community.’
Dr Carolynne Mason, co-author of the IYS report, said: “These opportunities allow young people to come together and mix, who may not otherwise have these opportunities. The experience challenges stereotypes and misconceptions held by both adults and young people.”
The initiative is a joint effort between the Cricket Foundation and Barclay’s Spaces for Sport devoted to giving free cricket coaching to selected schools, pupil referral units and community venues.
A 14-year-old participant from East London said: “Most of the guys that live on the estate are gang members. They used to come to my school… so I started hanging around them, but now I just play cricket and focus on my learning.”
StreetChance was launched in 2008 as an extension to the Cricket Foundation’s already existing Chance to Shine scheme that has introduced cricket to over 20,000 youths in areas with crime and anti-social behaviour problems.
The IYS assessment of the initiative concluded it had been extremely successful in reaching out to a wide range of students, including many girls and those with physical and learning difficulties. One female participant said: “Instead of hanging around on the street you actually get to do something.”
At Feltham Young Offenders Institute in West London, the StreetChance sessions are offering the opportunity for people to engage in sport after they leave their cells. And it is also being used to discipline the same people by not allowing them to participate if they behave out of line.
StreetChance coach Alex Bassan explained: “I had one incident where one guy hit another guy on the head with a stump and he was my best cricketer… and then three weeks in a row he wasn’t allowed to come. That was his punishment, but after that he’s never done anything else. He knew that for three weeks he wasn’t allowed out of his cell whilst all his other mates were having fun.”
And the scheme has now expanded into 20 London boroughs with activity in Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and Dewsbury as well. Organisers are also working closely with the Metropolitan Police to try and break the barriers between police and youngsters.
StreetChance Operations Manager, Richard Joyce said: “StreetChance is successfully reaching children in disadvantaged areas – many of whom have become marginalised from mainstream sport in schools – and using cricket as a positive outlet to help channel their energies. Our coaches act as positive role models for these young people and, in some cases, have diverted them away from criminal activity.”
For more information about the highly-acclaimed scheme visit www.StreetChance.org