Thursday, 21 October 2021 15:46

CWB join Alsama in Lebanon to support refugee cricket project

Between the 18th and 26th of September 2021 Cricket Without Boundaries volunteers and and joined the coaching staff and young leaders from the Alsama Project in Lebanon supporting the development of their cricketing skills and coaching knowledge as the project continues to expand its reach.

Funded by the MCC Foundation, over the course of the 9 day project Sara and Lee worked with cricket lead Mohammad Khier to up-skill 24 community cricket coaches and young leaders, while sharing ideas on how cricket can be used to support young refugees around the world.

From a cricket perspective, the project set out to to strengthen coaches’ technical knowledge as their participants begin the master the basics of the game. This included progressing bowling into spin and swing bowling, an introduction to the sweep shot, coaching wicketkeeping, and catching in the covers.  Coaches took this development to heart and in particular Lee and Sara continued to field questions about spin bowling throughout the week. A highlight was a young female leader who, when exploring leg spin during the coach education sessions, bowled a perfect and natural googly – watch out world for Syrian mystery spinners! 

Beyond technical skills, coach education focused on some key themes to help coaches and players get the most out of their sessions. This included maximising space, making sure everyone gets lots of goes, and using adapted games as a fun and engaging way to put cricket skills into practice. It was exciting to see this being implemented in practice by coaches and young leaders, and the sessions in the second half of the week were notably more energetic, with more opportunities for players to develop their skills. 

As we continue to grow our delivery with refugee groups - including development of resources to be used in refugee settings with UNHCR - we are conscious that while we have a great deal of cricketing experience, our refugee experience is still relatively small. Having the opportunity to put our heads together with Mohammed, Kadria, and other Alsama cricket coaches while developing activities was invaluable and something we will undoubtably continue to work together on.

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It was fantastic to see how Alsama’s cricket activities were genuinely gender equal, with boys and girls playing together and the young leaders who are the future coaches of the project being equally balanced between boys and girls. The passion for cricket and learning from newly appointed female coaches and largely female participants at “Beqaa Hub 2” was particularly exciting, and it was clear that these coaches were important role models for girls at the sessions, as well as being a trusted face that parents felt confident leaving their children with for their weekly cricket session. The Alsama project has strong values related to female empowerment and gender equality, and so when the MCC Law change of “batsmen” to “batters” was announced midway through the visit this was met with great delight as both male and female participants declared “I am a batter”.

The tournament highlight was the opening match, between the more established Shatila Hub 1 and Beqaa Hub 1. Having travelled across the hilly pass between the valley and Beirut, Beqaa Hub 1 were in pursuit of their first victory against the favoured Shatila side. While the first 5 pairs were evenly matched, and indeed Beqaa Hub 1 probably leading at this stage, it was only some tactical naivety – sending the least experienced batters in as the final pair – that cost Beqaa Hub 1 the game. 

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Alongside the main activities, there were opportunities to use cricket to share important messages beyond the playground. As an ongoing theme for the project, leg spin reappeared during a short workshop with teachers who deliver English, Arabic and Maths classes in the school that forms part of the wider Alsama project. Here, teachers explored similar ideas to those covered in the cricket coach education sessions; the importance of a clear purpose, of “learning by doing”, and using developed skills to solve problems and make decisions.

Thank you to everyone at Alsama cricket project for welcoming CWB so warmly to Beirut, and the MCC Foundation and Bat for a Chance for the funding and equipment for the project. We look forward to continuing to collaborate on this vital work in the months and years ahead.

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