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“Incredible” Flicx Pitch transforms state school cricket at Heathfield

If ever there was a blueprint for cricket development success in a state school, surely Heathfield Junior School is it. Located in a disadvantaged area in Hounslow close to Twickenham Rugby Stadium and Heathrow Airport, Heathfield Junior School is now a hot bed of both cricket participation and talent. In recent times pupils have gone from never seeing a cricket bat or ball before to winning the Richmond Borough competition and being runners up at London Youth Games cricket competition. Heathfield also proudly sit at the top of the MJCA softball league and the Surrey’s hardball league whilst in August they will compete in the National Finals of Chance to Shine Street Cricket.

The transformation has been rapid with James Watson at the heart of the change after he took on the role as PE co-ordinator at Heathfield Junior School alongside year 6 teacher and Teddington CC player Callum Donnelly. Together they set about building up a cricket program from the ground up with a huge number of challenges in the way especially around funding and facilities. Initially the schools’ facilities comprised of a concrete floored cage and a netball court whilst the playing field was in very poor condition, not flat and totally unsuitable for cricket matches and training.

Despite the lack of facilities at the school, a huge number of pupils immediately really enjoyed the new sport and loved hitting balls! Teachers straight away noticed improvements in confidence and communication as a result of the introduction of cricket then after COVID lockdowns, the school begun to take cricket much more seriously as it was a natural go to sport with the social distancing rules that remained in place so again pupils had the huge benefit of playing team sports.

Watson was aware of the 2G Flicx Pitch as outside of the classroom, his huge passion for cricket sees him involved as a coach at Sheen CC who have 3 roll out Flicx pitches so James knew how well they played and what an impact they could have at Heathfield. With funding tight at the school however purchasing a 2G Flicx Pitch was just a pipe dream and something they just couldn’t afford within their existing PE budgets. This situation changed however when a new Sport England fund was announced to help schools deliver extra-curricular activities and open their facilities outside of the school day during evenings, weekends, and school holidays so James put in a comprehensive and ultimately successful bid for £20,000 to take cricket at Heathfield to whole new level.

Funding Secured and a 2G Flicx Pitch purchased

With funding secured for the start of the 2023 season, James set out to transform Heathfield’s cricket facilities, investing in a double net system from Durant Cricket which is located on the edge of the school field. The ground here was improved thanks to the expertise of a local groundsman who created a firm, flat area for the nets and did likewise to a small area in the middle of the field to creating an optimal space for the Flicx Pitch to be rolled out. A 2G Flicx Junior Skills x Multi Age Hybrid Pitch was purchased which forms the pitch in the two net bays and is also then moved into the square on the field for inter school games and house competitions. This new hybrid pitch from Flicx gives a skills coaching design on one end, plus the junior creases in built on the other so all age groups are catered for when the batting ends are joined together for matches

“I honestly cannot tell you what a difference the 2G Flicx Pitch has made” said James, “it’s incredible and means our pupils can train all the time”. We have boys and girls literally playing morning, noon, and night all year round even in the snow” Everyone is desperate to go into the nets! Its brilliant” “The pitch plays so well; it bedded in really quickly and gives such a true bounce for both hard ball and softball cricket”.

James Watson – Heathfield Junior School

The cricket programme at Heathfield is hugely impressive and the ECB and Middlesex Cricket have both sent senior leaders in Nick Pryde and Kari Caswell to witness the set up in action first hand with Middlesex supporting Heathfield with tickets to games to inspire the pupils further whilst former England spinner Monty Panesar has run a masterclass.

Cricket offering at Heathfield

At Heathfield, all pupils from years 3-6 have 12 weeks of cricket within the curriculum where they focus on striking and fielding skills then outside of the curriculum there are multiple clubs attracting big numbers of boys and girls. Heathfield coaches then put on squad training for girls and boys and their teams have won the borough competitions this summer. Interest is so high that a satellite club has launched so now the schools girls are playing competitive cricket as part of Hampton Wick Royals girls cricket club as there are no local schools to play against so playing against clubs is the only way to get fixtures.

Being located in a deprived part of London, the school also run camps for children on free school meals as well as nets on Wednesday and Friday mornings and Allstar’s and Dynamo cricket camps during the holidays attracting players from the local community to benefit from the schools new facilities.

Heathfield Vision

This is only the beginning of the vision for James who has been invited to visit local schools on behalf of the ECB to share the journey of his school’s success in cricket and already Bishop Perrin C of E just down the road is starting to get their programme off the ground as a result. At Heathfield the next step is to create another satellite community club in partnership with Teddington CC so more pupils can take their interest in cricket further and for it to become a sport they pursue and stick with into adult life. Another objective for Watson is to continue to offer their facilities to more and more people in the local community whilst continuing to develop the talent pool at the school offering more fixtures (which is in part reliant on other schools catching them up!)

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for James and he had many established local cricket clubs reject his offers to partner up and provide a club outlet for all the players taking up cricket at Heathfield. Despite contacting many of them, it’s only been Hampton Wick Royals and Teddington who have so far come to the party.

Hopefully the Heathfield model can be adopted more widely around the country in the months and years to come. It’s a great example of community collaboration and how with a lot of passion for cricket and a good pitch to play on, there is no limit to what can be achieved. The belief that cricket can have a truly positive impact on the lives of the young players whatever their background is one of the fundamental reasons for the development of the 2G Flicx Pitch and we are committed to doing all we can to ensure cricket blossoms in all state schools in the future – the solution is here and we can help make it happen just like Heathfield demonstrates on a daily basis.

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