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Lancashire Cricket Board - A Liverpool School named Chance to Shine School of the Year 2013
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A Liverpool School named Chance to Shine School of the Year 2013

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St Christopher’s RC Primary School from Speke in Liverpool was recently awarded the ‘Chance to Shine’ School of the Year 2013.

Mid-evening on Thursday 12th October in the Long Room at the Kia Oval, London, saw Stuart Elsworth and his wife Kate, also a teacher at the school, along with 7-weeks old baby daughter Evie, being called up to the podium by ‘Chance to Shine’s’ MC for the evening, Mark Nicholas, to collect the C2S ‘School of the Year’ Award from England Captain, Alistair Cook, and fellow England players Heather Knight, Chris Tremlett and Jade Dernbach.  This marked the end of another very successful summer of cricket at this school where they had won 6 trophies, taking the tally to 49 since Stuart and fellow teacher and cricket enthusiast, Dave Harrop, agreed to offer cricket as ‘another’ sport to the pupils in 2002.

2013 saw the school win the three ASDA sponsored KWIK Cricket tournaments in Liverpool, Year 6 (Girls), Year 6 (mixed) and Years 4/5 (Mixed) and representing the city in the respective LCB finals, along with the Liverpool Catholic Schools Girls and Boys ‘softball’ competitions and the Liverpool Schools Cricket Association Robin’s Shield (softball).  St Christopher’s have now become the ‘school to beat’ in the Liverpool Primary Cricket world but this was not always the case.

In 2002 when cricket was first introduced by these 2 ‘White Rose’ born teachers the school were starting from a very low baseline with them losing their first 18 competitive fixtures against other schools when primary cricket was dominated in the city by Rudston, Sudley and Gilmore.  These defeats encouraged them to do more training as they sought to improve and register their first win.  The teachers sought to help this by investing in cricket clothing seeing St Christopher’s being the first primary school in the city to turn out their teams in whites and ‘badged, named  and numbered’ cricket shirts as they sought to give their players an edge when they went onto the field to play.

Stuart reported that their first successes came within the Liverpool Catholic Schools Competitions when they reached their first final in 2005.  They had their first ‘local’ success in 2006 when they won the Liverpool Schools Cricket Association 11-a-side ‘hardball’ competition, ‘The Echo Cup’ translating this into county SCA and North West successes in 2007 to reach the National Finals held at Oundle (Northants) where they finished a credible 6th of 8.

This period also them begin to establish themselves as a ‘competitive’ school in all of the ASDA KWIK Cricket Tournaments in Liverpool where their successes along with those in the Catholic Schools Tournaments have seen their accumulation of trophies accelerate, particularly since 2008 when they have dominated the Liverpool Year 6 (Girls) tournament and been regular attendees of the LCB’s County finals where a place in the top 4 has also seen them progress to the north west finals.  In 2010 they went the whole way and qualified for the National Year 6 (Girls) ASDA KWIK cricket finals that were held in Derby where they finished 6th out of 20 schools.

The school are now in their third year in the Liverpool ‘Chance to Shine’ programme having been nominated by Old Xaverian’s CC to be one of their ‘recommended’ schools.

Watch a short video from the Chance to Shine YouTube channel.

The location of the Speke estate at the southern tip of the city where it’s resident’s face many challenges makes it problematical for the talented players to progress their involvement in cricket when they progress to secondary school, particularly the girls.  The local mixed secondary, Parklands, does not give cricket high status within its PE curriculum with only the boys that progress to either St Margaret’s Academy or St Francis Xavier’s College (hence the Old Xaverian’s CC link) having any real chance of remaining engaged with the sport.  There are no cricket clubs based in Speke with the nearest one being Liverpool CC which is a car journey or bus ride away.

The school has seen several of its players attend Liverpool District Under 11’s trials with some being selected despite not being affiliated to a club. (The school have used both the Indoor Cricket Centre at St Margaret’s Academy and the Liverpool CC ground for coaching and practice and to build bridges).  Their greatest achiever to date has been Lauren Shields who, with support from her parents, became a member of Liverpool CC, played for their Under 11’s and, since, other age group teams, represented the City in the LCB’s Inter-District Tournaments and gained selection to the County Girls squads.  Sadly, for this one shining star many other potential ones that have been introduced to the game by Stuart Elswoth, Dave Harrop and colleagues have not been enabled to continue their developmental journey after leaving this unique school.  However, with the school already had some ‘Chance to Shine’ outdoor sessions in the autumn of 2013 and with plans in place for more in the spring of 2014 they plan to remain a force in Liverpool Primary School Cricket for many years to come – they are the teams to beat!

David Goodall (Liverpool Community Cricket Development Co-ordinator)

November 2013

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