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How cricket is helping fight inner-city youth crime in Birmingham

The Chance to Shine charity rightly prides itself on bringing cricket to thousands of young people, particularly those often under-represented in sport.

They have made a positive impact on disadvantaged communities, especially with youngsters that their internal research summarised as “good kids in tough areas”. Richard Joyce, the charity’s Community Operations Manager, wanted to build on this by digging a little deeper, engaging with the most hard-to-reach young people in urban communities.

That idea led to a pilot project founded on two key partnerships, both facilitated by the Alliance of Sport. The first is with TSA Projects, the organisation specialising in steering at-risk young people away from crime, including violence and extremism.

The second partnership was with HMP Oakwood in the West Midlands, where the aim was to engage young males in the sport academies set up in the prison by the 2nd Chance Group between 2012-2015, and train them to deliver cricket sessions in schools upon their release.

These partnerships together formed the ‘Crime Awareness Programme’, launched between January-July last year in four secondary schools in inner-city Birmingham. The education and mentoring delivered by TSA Projects’ CEO Tanayah Sam (himself an ex-offender) and cricket sessions delivered by a Warwickshire CCC cricket coach, proved a powerful combination.

“Initially, we didn’t have the right person at our fingertips for this kind of work, but Tanayah was perfect to structure and deliver it,” says Joyce. “He has that credibility, he has his ear to the ground and knows what’s going on at street level. He brings a fresh voice to the schools.”

Running for 12 weeks, the project aimed to educate and engage 12-15-year-olds who were already at risk of expulsion from schools and that had reported issues with drugs and gangs. Of the 41 young people who completed the programme, half had already been involved in the criminal justice system.

Young partpcipants visit Edgbaston cricket ground
Young partpcipants visit Edgbaston cricket ground

A typical day on the programme would see TSA Projects deliver a range of mentoring and workshops on impact, safety and culture of gangs, knife crime, drug crime, sexual offences and violence, aimed at deglamourising young people’s perceptions of offending and prison. Relevant elements of the law and Youth Justice System are explained.

Towards the end of the programme, the young people make a short film or presentation for their peers around the consequences of, for example, carrying knives.

Key messages from the classroom are reinforced on the cricket field. One example of this is young people being taught the concept of ‘joint enterprise’ – the legal doctrine which states a person may share responsibility (and be found guilty) for a crime if they are present when it happens, regardless of whether or not they were the perpetrator.

This has obvious relevance to young people in gangs, who may think they are ‘safe’ if they hide at the back when stabbings or violence occurs.

This message became even more powerful when it was translated into a cricket match. The 10th or 15th ball of the innings was deemed a ‘joint enterprise’ delivery, so if a batsman was dismissed, it meant the whole team was out.

“That was a very strong learning outcome from those initial sessions. Teachers told us that the legal language we introduced them to started to become commonplace,” says Joyce.

Hitting a ball around, competing and being physically active are also a perfect afternoon release for the thoughts and feelings that are stirred by what can be intense morning sessions with Sam. Intrinsically, cricket also teaches skills such as leadership and effective teamwork.

“Having ex-offenders deliver part of the programme worked really well too,” said Sam. “The young people respected the experience of the tutors and they were seen as positive role models, and therefore able to engage the young people.”

At the end of the programme, the young people are signposted to an accessible and inclusive local cricket club. When the programme runs again this year, this element will be strengthened to facilitate sustainability.

Key outcomes of the programme were:

  • Prevent participants from disengaging in education
  • Provide a safe place to share difficult thoughts, feelings and events – acknowledging that what’s happening on the outside is affecting them within the school gates
  • Change attitudes and behaviours of young people in gangs, carrying knives or using drugs
  • Develop understanding of consequences of actions
  • Build coping skills and resilience
  • Provide them with an alternative to crime
  • Give them a chance to build teamwork and co-operation skills through cricket
  • Provide opportunities to transition to a Chance to Shine project or cricket club outside school

Impact

Crime-3The young people on the programme reported a real change in their attitudes towards carrying knives, committing crimes and the police. Armed with vital information about the consequences of their involvement in crime, they were able to make better-informed decisions.

Teachers at their schools reported a greater understanding of risk and greater academic engagement. The cricket element added a chance to have fun and be active, as well as deepening understanding of key issues.

Teacher 1: “I do feel that it’s helping the way I can communicate with them about some issues in school. It’s almost like they’re understanding it now more from our point of view. I constantly bring the work Tanayah is doing with them into my conversations with them and my colleague has also told me that the cricket has helped him too.”

Teacher 2: “A couple of them have had run-ins with the police and their outlook has changed from being completely shut-off and aggressive to learning the strategies that Tanayah has taught them by asking questions calmly. They’ve changed their outlook on the police as well,

from shouting at them out of a window and calling them pigs to now saying ‘all right, how are you doing?’ It’s been a compete culture change.”

Young person 1: “I feel like I could deal with the police better. I also think that I would never put myself in the position to get done for anything such as carrying a knife or joint enterprise.”

Young person 2: “I think that there are now people that can help me and that a life of crime isn’t the right way to live.”

The Alliance of Sport would like to thank Chance to Shine and TSA Projects for being part of our Ministry of Justice Review of Sport in Youth Justice.  


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