Sussex fast bowler Will Sheffield paid a visit to Coombe Road Primary School in Brighton this week to join in with cricket sessions being run by Sussex Cricket Foundation (SCF) and to speak to pupils about his journey to becoming a professional cricketer.
Will joined coaches in delivering one of the weekly skills sessions that SCF is currently delivering for children in years three to five.
Part of the Chance to Shine programme, the sessions are used to inspire the next generation of male and female cricketers by giving them an enjoyable first experience of the game.
Will – who signed a contract extension with Sussex in October - said: “I think it’s really great that the Foundation are running sessions like this and it’s nice to see all the kids getting involved in the sport and trying it out for the first time. The work the Sussex Cricket Foundation do is so important to bring cricket to the younger ages.”
Rowan Milsted, a teacher at Coombe Road Primary School said: “Having worked with the Sussex Cricket Foundation for a number of years now, I can honestly say that the impact it has had on Coombe Road Primary is massive.
“The coaches and staff are fantastic with our children, ensuring that sessions are fun, active, accessible and also skills-based. Our teaching staff have benefited from their expertise, which in turn has had a positive and sustainable effect on our practice at the school. Furthermore, many of our children have been afforded opportunities they might not otherwise have had, which has increased participation in extra-curricular sport and helped raise the profile of PE and sports across the school.
“In particular, the Chance to Shine project has been proved to be an incredibly positive experience for all concerned. Many children - including those who are not normally inclined to take part in PE and sports - have shown a passion for cricket.
“Moreover, we have been able to run successful sessions, clubs and tournaments for girls, which has dramatically improved their participation in and attitude toward sport as a whole. This comes from the the dedication, professionalism and enthusiasm demonstrated by the coaches and experts we have worked with.”
After the Chance to Shine sessions, Will spoke to year six pupils heading to secondary school next September about how he combined his education with his development as a cricketer.
Prior to joining the staff at Sussex, Will studied at Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA) where he was part of the Aldridge Cricket Academy (ACA), which, working in partnership with Sussex Cricket, gives males and female cricketers the chance to develop sporting talent and academic qualifications together.
He was the first male ACA pupil to go on to become a professional cricketer when he was signed by Sussex ahead of the 2019 season.
Reflecting on how the SCF sessions can inspire primary school leavers to take a similar path to his own, Will added: “The sessions link so well with the new Junior Cricket Pathway that Aldridge has started, as it sparks the interest for the sport and lets them know that it is possible to develop their skills alongside their education.
“The sixth-form programme at BACA helped me get to where I am and I think it’s brilliant that others get the chance to have that experience now from as early as year seven.”
Commenting on the Junior Cricket Pathway at ACA and the programmes SCF run in local primary schools, director of cricket for the Aldridge Cricket Academy and Sussex Women’s head coach Alexia Walker said: “We are continuing to invest heavily in cricketing opportunities for young people at Brighton Aldridge Community Academy with the introduction of a bespoke Junior Pathway for year seven to eleven to complement our successful sixth form programme.
“Working in partnership with Sussex Cricket to deliver quality cricket sessions to the Brighton and Hove Primary Schools is hugely rewarding and we hope to welcome more cricket enthused students to our school in the future.”
Find out more about the programmes at Aldridge Cricket Academy here and in the video below