Community Sports: Impact on Young People - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 4:25 pm ar 16 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Hampton Lord Hampton Crossbench 4:25, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, it is always a joy to follow the noble Lord, Lord Polak, and I join in the chorus of thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Wood of Anfield, for tabling this important debate. We have had references to Jurgen Klopp, Nelson Mandela and Bill Shankly: I am going to describe the noble Lord’s inspirational opening speech as Churchillian, and raise that one more. I also congratulate the noble Lords, Lord Hannett of Everton and Lord Shamash, on their excellent maiden speeches and look forward to hearing from them for many years to come. Can I beg the indulgence of the House? I am going to declare my interests rather as I go; I think they will become obvious.

I also thank all the organisations that sent me briefing materials on this subject. I have ignored them all, except for Lieutenant-Colonel Dave Groce’s statistics on rugby league, which I read and then ignored, because we all know how important this is. That is why we are here. We all know the billions of pounds that we could save if our children were healthier, felt better and were more motivated. That just goes without saying, so like the noble Baroness, Lady Nye, I urge the Government to keep looking at sports education in schools, because it is just not good enough. It is like arts education; we expect this multi-billion pound economy to spread from nowhere.

The need for community sport is becoming more and more important. My daughter is an extremely able right-back with Hackney girls’ under-14 football team, which is a wonderful community club funded by Hackney. But I am afraid I am not going to be talking about her—not because it is not relevant but because my son’s experience is more relevant.

My own active engagement in sport dwindled and it was not until my son was six years old that I had that opportunity, as one does, to relive your life through your children, so I took my child along to Stoke Newington Cricket Club. Stoke Newington is not what it sounds; it is not some lovely Cotswold village. The dreaming spires of Stoke Newington are in Hackney, east London. Stoke Newington Cricket Club is a case study that we need to look at and replicate. It is community sport at its best.

The club trains Saturdays and midweek throughout the year: indoors in local schools during the winter and outdoors on Hackney Marshes in summer, in the home of football. Thanks to funding from the ECB, Sport England and Hackney Council, a cricket hub was opened on Hackney Marshes in 2018 with three full-size grass cricket pitches, seven astroturf pitches and all-weather nets that can be used by anybody, any time. They are now used every day, particularly Christmas Day. With a little note to Chris Hoy on this one, Hackney Marshes nowadays are not marshes. They are on six feet of bomb rubble, so they drain really quickly.

The club’s mission is to give as many adults and young people as possible the chance to enjoy and play cricket to the highest standard they can achieve. Every week in the summer it puts out 10 men’s teams, three women’s teams and 16 junior teams. All equipment is provided, not doing so often being a barrier to sports. I started watching my son playing but, like all good cults, the club reeled me in—a fielded ball here, a bit of shouted advice there and suddenly, there was a friendly voice behind me saying “Join us. They don’t understand you; come with us”.

Before I knew it, I was coaching on a Saturday; I was taking nets on a Tuesday; I was organising the under-11 Gubby Allen team. I was ringing people up saying, “Why aren’t you here?” I even ended up as a member of the committee and coached the Hackney team for the London Youth Games for several years. The club paid for me to do my level 1 and level 2 ECB coaching badges. At the same time, I started coaching for Chance to Shine, which the noble Lords, Lord Wood of Anfield and Lord Polak, have already mentioned. It is a wonderful charity that provides free cricket equipment in schools, mainly in really deprived areas.

During this time, I really saw the value of community sport. I would regularly pick up players for practice and games from tower blocks, from squats and from multi-million pound houses. Once you got them together, it did not matter what culture they were from. It did not matter what home they came from, or who they were. They learned discipline, and self-discipline. All my sides were very good fielding sides. You just learn that—that is hard work. On good teamwork, one of the best skills you can learn in life is how to console somebody who has just messed up and possibly cost you the game. That is really important. Life is not always fair, but you accept the umpire’s decision.

Years later, my son Charlie still has really good friends from that team. Like several of my fellow coaches, I found the experience of working with this community team so rewarding that I changed careers and became a secondary school teacher, which I am now.