Children in the Mumbai suburb of Borivali struggled to find space and safe facilities to play cricket, their favourite game. Grounds with adequate facilities such as local gymkhanas would price them out of the market and local parks were unsafe, underdeveloped and unsuitable.
Schools of the area, on the other hand, were in a constant battle to motivate and inspire these children to attend regular classes and complete their schooling. The children themselves were naturally resilient, given their somewhat challenging backgrounds. They were rough gems, and all they needed was to be polished and set up for a brighter future.
The ‘Life through Cricket’ programme is a collaborative venture between the Tata Trusts and the Cricket Live Foundation from New Zealand. It aims to harness the power of sport, in particular Cricket, to develop the life skills and education of children from these marginalised urban communities.
It is vital for the programme to establish strong partnerships with local schools to ensure access to suitable, safe playing spaces. These schools also provide a credible platform to launch the selection process.
Initially shortlisted by the physical educators of the local schools based on their abilities and love for sports, children are finally selected on the basis of their current living situations. Children in extraordinary living circumstances, and children who show promise at school, but need a helping hand were given priority.
Coach education is a significant element of this programme. Teachers and Coaches of the Cricket Live Foundation travel to India from New Zealand to work with the local coach prospects, and help them develop their technical knowledge into a more holistic approach to coaching - with a focus on active learning, teaching concepts through games, planning, questioning and importantly, mentoring.
The programme structures around a carefully selected set of values, known as the ‘5 Key Competencies’, namely – Self Discipline, Respect for friends and family, Teamwork, Punctuality and Time Management, and Nutrition and Healthy Living. The coaches imbibe these life skills amongst the students during their training sessions. They help the children relate to these concepts and derive their importance in sports and life, through gameplay and question-answer sessions after the training.
Commencing this programme with 48 children in December 2017, it is the unquantifiable milestones that are most satisfying to see; increased self-confidence, developed leadership skills, seeing boys and girls interacting positively with one another. In 2018, the annual Cricket Live Premier League was held, where 96 boys and girls participated in a special three-day cricket tournament. For most, it was their first time playing on a proper pitch, with a leather ball. The teamwork and support displayed at this event were humbling for all to see.
One of the participants, Arbaz Shaikh, a student at Rajda School, Borivali, says “Through this programme, we have come to learn that sports have no boundaries, no race, religion or gender. It has the power to break down barriers, unite communities and most of all, teach us some of the most important life skills.” The kids who were part of the programme, now have new dreams that they want to achieve.
“Joining this programme has taught me that there’s more to the sport than just becoming a professional player. My aim is to improve my cricket skills, complete my studies and become an official scorer for cricket matches. My dream is to take my parents to a stadium to watch India playing a match.”
This story has been taken from the Sir Ratan Tata Trust and Allied Trusts Annual Report 2018-19