The joys of 'dad' cricket
Primary schools could be the saviour of social cricket - but not in the way you think
04 May 2021
In 2009 a group of cricket-loving dads from Heber Primary School in East Dulwich, South London, challenged another group from nearby Goodrich Primary School to a match. There's a historic friendly rivalry between the schools, so the match had a bit of an edge. I was one of the players who put themselves forward to play.
We played on a municipal ground in Belair Park, Dulwich. It was a great afternoon, with several families turning up to watch. The teams agreed to a re-match the next year.
Word spread, and other local primary schools expressed an interest. First a team from Dulwich Hamlet primary school joined in, then Ivydale, and a few years later St John's C of E primary. The five schools have been playing informal matches against each other ever since.
Sundays in the summer term are now filled with a programme of friendly 30-over-per-team cricket matches being played between parents. The standard of cricket varies. There are a handful of players who are decent club cricketers. But there are many who haven't played cricket since they were teenagers, and still others who have barely touched a cricket bat before. When played in the right spirit, this doesn't matter. Cricket can be a very inclusive and social sport, and the range of abilities in a team can actually add to its charm. Hapless Harry can still be a hero by edging the ball through the slips for the winning runs.
There have been some unexpected benefits. Over the last ten years around 200 adults from across East Dulwich have played in one of our matches - that's 200 who now have a shared interest and nod to each other on the high street, and maybe even stop for a chat.
There are family benefits, too. A Sunday afternoon cricket match is an opportunity for a family to join friends for a picnic. Children can play in the outfield, or help to operate the scoreboard. If the team is short of a player, there's even the occasional chance for older children to help with the fielding. I can't think of any other situation where children can so safely and naturally mingle with adults outside their own family.
The cricket authorities spend millions of pounds on projects that aim to get children to play cricket. Unfortunately, despite those efforts, beyond the age of 12 or 13 most children lose touch with the game. Exams, teenage distractions and later the absence of opportunities to play cricket (unless you join a competitive league club) mean that many never play cricket again.
Maybe in East Dulwich we have discovered a solution. Primary school 'dads' cricket (mums welcome) has proved to be a great way to get adults who played cricket as children to re-connect with the game. And by bringing their children along, they are gently passing on the joys of cricket to the next generation.
WANT TO TRY SOMETHING SIMILAR WITH YOUR LOCAL PRIMARY SCHOOLS?
This is how we arrange our parent cricket matches. They are designed to make the games as inclusive as possible:
* Each school has a parent who is keen on cricket who puts together the team.
* Hire a pitch from a local secondary school or cricket club, who provide pitch, stumps and scoreboard
* Offer a social net in advance for those who want to remind themselves how to bowl or hold a bat
* Give guidance on dress code. Nobody should feel bad about not having full whites. A white t-shirt and trainers is a good basic level to work up from.
* 30 overs per team
* Maximum of 5 overs per bowler, maximum of 3 overs in any spell
* Share bats and (covid-permitting) pads and gloves. (Remind players that they'll need their own box!)
* Batters have to retire at 25 (they can return to bat if everyone else is out)
* Tea & cake between innings (we bring our own and share)
* If funding is an issue, you can approach www.googlyfund.co.uk who might be able to give you a small grant