Surrey County Cricket Club will this month launch a new scholarship programme to create new opportunities for young African-Caribbean cricketers to enter the Club’s performance pathway.
Targeting 11-18 year old girls and boys with sporting potential, the initiative intends to break down barriers for the local African Caribbean community by providing Level 3 ECB qualified cricket coaching, sports science and personal development education, equipment & travel grants – as well as chances to meet inspirational role models from their community.
Two free open days will take place on Wednesday 4 and Wednesday 11 March in the Ken Barrington Cricket Centre at the Kia Oval. More details on the programme can be found here.
One of the most important aspects of the programme is that it is one of the first ever to target girls as well as boys. Women’s cricket has historically been an overwhelmingly white sport in England, with only 3 black players represented in last season’s Women’s County Championship across all 38 counties.
Black girls and women remain at a double-disadvantage as far as cricket is concerned. England has a strong tradition of African-Caribbean cricket clubs, some formed as early as the 1970s, but these have traditionally excluded women, who in turn have lacked the resources to start their own clubs.
Ebony Rainford-Brent, now Director of Women’s Cricket at Surrey, remains one of only two black woman ever to represent England. Her own route into cricket came about largely by chance – she was spotted at a London Community Cricket Association coaching event, and was reliant on the support of an LCCA employee (Jenny Wostrack) to access women’s club and county cricket.
Rainford-Brent’s experience highlights how important this targeted programme from Surrey could be in helping to provide young black women with a clear pathway into cricket. The programme, which is being run in partnership with Surrey Cricket Foundation, will support local African-Caribbean clubs in developing a sustainable infrastructure and in building strong links with a range of community schemes.
Rainford-Brent herself will also be heavily involved in the programme, providing a role model for young black girls aspiring to reach the top levels of our sport – something that was lacking for many previous generations.
Overall, it is a welcome development in a sport which has never done enough to encourage diversity in its ranks.