"Cricket for Change has enabled me to make good friends, to experience things that I never thought possible; it has given me confidence in challenging life situations."
Making a difference at Feltham
By Alex Bassan, C4C Development Coach:
It is now just over a year on since I first ventured into Feltham Youth Offenders Institute (FYOI), based in West London, in 2010. When I first went in there I felt intimidated and unsure, I was looking forward to the challenge and what would come from it but there was me a 20 year old, slightly round kid with freckles, thinking this is someone who they have been waiting for, for a while.
When I first met the group there was a real sense of division within the group. It was a group of 20 and you could definitely see that there were a couple of leaders in the group. I got straight in and explained the rules of ‘Street20’ and got them playing cricket. We carried on for a few weeks like this and although the numbers dropped, the session became easier because I could interact with those left more easily.
After a few weeks I was realising that (in coaching terms) they struggled to run between the wickets they would hit the ball into a good area but then they would just stand there and not run, I decided to change the rules around and give them extra points for running. I started to give them extra points for different areas hit, but also taking some away for bowling wides and no balls.
Achieving and enjoying more
These changes worked really well, because they were achieving more and so enjoying the game more. As the weeks went on new faces would arrive and old faces would return. You get to know some of the guys in there and you know the one’s that are full of rubbish and the ones that talk to you but when you look into their eyes you can see they are soulless.
Some of the guys talk with sense with real feeling in their voices. They talk about how they want to change and what they have done has been a mistake. You really do get a positive vibe off them that makes you want to make a difference to their lives. They are the ones in the session that try their best, make people listen and help with the equipment.
One session, we had a competition where members of staff, charity partners and a few young ambassadors came into the prison. This was a good chance for the prisoners to show off the skills that they had learnt. It went well with the teams being mixed and everybody communicating well.
As the session progressed there wasn’t a sense of divide but a sense of a community.
With the guards wanting to take on the prisoners this was the match of all matches, with the guards posting a good total of 32; it looked like the prisoners would struggle. But with 8 needed off the last over, the prisoners won with a wide and then the ball been smashed against the back wall for a 6 to win the game!
Following the game, there was an opportunity for the young ambassadors to talk and listen to some of the prisoners but also for the prisoners to listen to the young ambassadors about what they are achieving.
As the sessions progressed in FYOI and when the weather started to improve we ventured outside and I decided to introduce them to hardball cricket. I thought this would be more of a challenge but they took to it really well. They had good bowling techniques and could hit a ball well.
What I did find quite amusing was the fielding and how they would bop around pushing out their chest’s but when the ball came towards them they would run a mile. Fair play to a lot of the lads they would get a hand on it, but trust me they would let you know if it hurt!
We are now moving forward in Feltham YOI with the idea of running Level 1 cricket coaching courses and ways we can help to stop the young people re-offending. Working closely with the Feltham YOI gym guards we have ideas in the pipe line that will hopefully provide great opportunities for the young people inside to grab with both hands have a chance to really move away from the bad things they are involved in. There are definitely people in Feltham YOI that have the talent and ambitions to push forward, but whether they are willing to take on the challenge is another thing.
It is now my job along with the people in Feltham YOI to pick out those who we think wish to tackle these positive opportunities head on.
Alex Bassan - C4C Development Coach