On Wednesday I attended the Girls on the Front Foot Gala Dinner, part of the Cricket Foundation’s Chance to Shine initiative, which aims to bring competitive cricket – and its educational benefits – back to at least a third of the country’s state schools. As a guest of the FT’s Mrs Moneypenny (an inspirational and quite extraordinary woman who not only runs her own company, but also has a Channel 4 series ‘Superscrimpers’, flies planes and shoots grouse), I found myself amongst a number of the great and the good who support cricket and see the value it can bring to every child. And whilst honoured to be in such company, it was the few minutes of Lois Turner that got me thinking.
Lois is a participant of the StreetChance initiative and she has a passion for cricket. But what marked her out that evening as being someone special was not her passion, nor her visual impairment (Lois sees the world as if through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars) but her articulation of how StreetChance had changed her life. Her message was not sensationalist – it was simple and it was honest. And it showed that whilst she may not be blessed with full sight, she has the ability to see things for what they really are. Lois said, and I paraphrase, that cricket was important to her because it had changed the way that people viewed her; they no longer saw her as the quiet girl with a disability who sat on her own in the corner, but as someone who could play sport. Cricket has given her confidence and friendships.
And as I watched Cheadle Hulme School students on the rugby pitches on Saturday, (and they were brilliant without exception, working hard, playing together and relishing the mud) I mused on how very true Lois’s emblematic message is – how much every one of us, but young people in particular, can benefit from taking part. It is only through participation, through getting up and getting out there, that any one of us has the chance to shine.
A great school should offer as many opportunities as it can to its students to do just that. The way that success is measured can sometimes distort the real value of something; in sport the value isn’t necessarily in the winning, but in the way that you play and the way you work with others; in music it is not about playing all the notes absolutely perfectly, but about having the discipline and the courage to command an instrument and play in unison; in drama it is in the willingness to say your lines with empathy and conviction. Cheadle Hulme School encourages all of these things and more besides: it is why we value participation and effort so highly. The most accomplished students are those who have a record of getting involved.
Lois’ message was a salient one. It had many in tears; not out of pity, but because here was someone for whom cricket had made a difference. Not only did it make others see her from a new perspective, but it made her feel differently about herself. It raised her confidence and her self-esteem.
Every young person has the right to feel good about themselves. And in an age when the media distorts our concept of physical beauty, particularly in the young, co-curricular activities and interests offer something more valuable and precious to us all, not least to those who are susceptible to feeling as if they are somehow less than they should be.
Bravo Lois. Bravo cricket.
Head, Lucy Pearson