Projects show cricket is thriving at all levels across Sussex
We have been catching up with Gary Wallis-Tayler, who is in his first season as director of community cricket at Sussex Cricket, to find out what his job entails - and what schemes are coming up to boost cricket across the county.
Tell us a bit about your background in cricket and how you arrived in your current role...
Having played and watched cricket since a young age, having the opportunity to work in a sport you are passionate about is a privileged position to be in. I have worked at Sussex Cricket for 13 years in various roles in the community department, most recently as a territory manager, before being appointed as community cricket director last October. I have a keen interest in all sports, especially cricket, which I continue to play at a weekend for my local village side Poynings CC.
How important now to a county cricket club is the community side of things? Has it grown massively in recent years?
Having the support of the county club is crucial to the success of the recreational game. We’re extremely fortunate to have Rob Andrew (our chief executive), who is equally as passionate as I am about growing the recreational game across our communities in Sussex.
Community cricket continues to grow across the country and has seen an increase in demand for playing opportunities off the back of the Covid pandemic, which is quite incredible given the challenges everyone has faced. As a sport this is our opportunity to grow the game and make cricket the sport of choice for people to access.
What are your main responsibilities as director of community cricket?
My main responsibilities as community cricket director is to ensure the growth and development of recreational cricket across our communities in Sussex, by implementing our county strategic plan which is linked to the ECB Inspiring Generations strategic plan. As Sussex Cricket’s charitable arm, our aim is to actively change lives through cricket across the community.
We use the game and the Sussex Cricket brand to deliver accessible and enjoyable opportunities that grow the sport, tackle inequalities, improve health and wellbeing and enable people to fulfil their potential.
Tell us about some of the projects you and your team are involved in now...
My team are involved in many participation projects taking place over the summer as well as ensuring the development of our 185 affiliated cricket clubs.
Programmes include Chance to Shine in state primary and secondary schools, social inclusion programmes such as Street Cricket & Wicketz, Disability Super 1s Hubs, women’s softball festivals and growing girls cricket across the county.
There is also a heavy focus on the recruitment and retention of volunteers within clubs through running Coach Education courses for new coaches, umpires and scorers whilst also focusing on our Young Leaders in Cricket programme which has a cohort of more than 100 children aged 14 to 16 taking part this summer.
There are plenty of playing opportunities available for all during course of the summer through the 1st Central Sussex Cricket League, the Newbery Junior Leagues, the Sussex Slam (our midweek t20 competition which has grown from 58 teams to 106 teams and now includes a Women’s Slam), women’s softball festivals to encourage new women into the game, Women & Girls’ Leagues and three County Disability cricket teams.
In addition to the participation side of the game we also develop community based initiatives such as our mental health and wellbeing hub (we’re first professional sports club to have its own bespoke platform), Tea4Two, which encourages clubs to collect food from its members to support local foodbanks, and our Sporting Memories programmes, which enable the older generation, some of whom suffer from dementia or other illnesses, to share their love of sport.
How pleased are you to see the rise of women’s cricket and junior cricket? Both seem really vibrant in Sussex. Is there a need to build on that, particularly with juniors, and make sure you capture the players and fans of the future?
I’m delighted with the growth of junior and women's cricket across the county but there is still a lot more work to do!
We have seen a significant rise in sign-ups to our entry level ECB All Stars (5-8 year olds) and Dynamos (9-11 year olds) this summer with more than 2,500 sign-ups including a high percentage of girls sign ups which clearly shows the demand for cricket is there.
Women’s and girls’ cricket in Sussex is something we pride ourselves in and an area we’re continuing to grow and develop. We have seen an increase in clubs start a women and/or girls’ section at their club and we will be running 20 women’s softball festivals during the summer.
We need to continue the momentum we have off the back of Covid to ensure we keep people in the game by providing as many opportunities to play as possible.
We like to make the 1st Central County Ground as accessible as possible to new and existing fans and also use our professional players, both men and women to act as role models to help inspire the next generation.
The appointment of our three Sussex Cricket Foundation champions, Ben Brown (club captain), Georgia Adams (Sussex women’s captain) and Dan Field (Sussex visually impaired captain) will help strengthen the link between the Foundation and our professional players.
Finally, I’d like to mention our three main events this year:
* DIScoverABILITY Day on Thursday, September 16, our annual disability cricket day at the County Ground
* Workplace B’Ashes on Thursday, August, 5, a six-a-side competition for businesses across Sussex.
* Where Cricket Meets (see story on this page)
To learn more about the Foundation or get involved email [email protected] – and to view the Impact Report see sussexcricket.co.uk/foundation-latest-news