There is more to cricket than leather meets willow. From helping to improve health, mental wellbeing, and reducing stress, cricket can also develop individual skills ranging from communication, teamwork, and leadership, while bringing communities together and breaking down social barriers.
Cricket is evolving and transforming from a game traditionally played during the summer in whites on a leisurely afternoon, to one that is colourful and vibrant with a variety of formats making it accessible and inclusive to all people of different abilities and social backgrounds. Its evolution is moving from a summer game played on traditional village greens to a year-round offer played in a variety of locations, such as indoor sports halls, inner city Multi Use Games Areas and community halls with either hard or soft balls, wooden or plastic bats, allowing the game to fit in with different lifestyles in various communities.
The community cricket programmes of the Gloucestershire Cricket Foundation offer fun and inclusive activity for people of all ages and abilities across Gloucestershire and Bristol, whilst aiming to improve people’s lives and providing opportunities through the Power of Cricket.
Walking Cricket is one of the game’s success stories.
What is Walking Cricket?
Walking Cricket is cricket that has been specifically designed for people aged 50 and over and is usually played indoors. The game has been adapted from various formats of cricket, to offer a gentler game with less impact, which can be played by both women and men, whether they have played cricket before or not. With a combination of indoor cricket, where runs can be scored off the walls, and pairs cricket, where everyone gets an opportunity to bat, bowl and field, Walking Cricket is truly an inclusive game that allows players to play at their own level and their own pace.
The game uses a softball, plastic bats, and plastic stumps, resulting in no injuries from missing the ball and bats being less heavy to pick up, eliminating the requirement for protective equipment. With equipment being provided and sessions being free, all people need to do is wear comfortable clothes, turn up and play.
It’s more than cricket
Research shows being physically inactive is one of the top risk factors for developing conditions that lead to preventable disability in later life and improving levels of physical activity in those aged 50-70 can have a significant impact on quality of later life.
Walking Cricket isn’t just about cricket. There are also the physical and mental health benefits as well as the social ones that come with being physically active and interacting with people. Reports show that taking part in physical activity provides better sleep, strengthens your heart, improves lung function, reduces stress, builds confidence, develops strong relationships; and these are just a selection. The benefits of physical activity for people over 50 may help to reduce the risk of bone loss and osteoporosis, improve cardiorespiratory fitness, and help keep joints healthy, to name but a few plus, the social interaction makes people feel valued and included.
One Walking Cricket participant aged 76 said:
“I used to play cricket when I was young, but now at my age I don’t do much physical activity anymore apart from a spot of bowls. I was invited by people I know here at walking cricket to come along, and I’ve never looked back. The sessions are good as I’m now exercising, and I’m always involved. In the past I had broken my leg and I find coming to the sessions has helped with my movement. Since my wife died, I found socialising difficult. The walking cricket sessions have helped with the social side as the group is very friendly and there is good camaraderie. It’s a good way to spend an hour of an afternoon.”
Supporting local initiatives
Launched in May 2018 with the Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees as part of Bristol Walk Fest, the project teamed up with Bristol Aging Better and Age UK Bristol to support Bristol City Council’s initiative to get people aged 50 and over engaging in physical activity. The Gloucestershire Cricket Foundation also linked up with other groups who offered walking sports in Bristol to work in partnership and inform their networks of the Walking Cricket sessions that were taking place.
Karen Lloyd, Active Aging Programme Manager, Age UK Bristol said:
“Age UK Bristol recognises there is a need to a need to increase the walking sport offer across Bristol and Gloucestershire. Walking sports are a great way to keep active, learn new skills, have fun and make new friends.
“The Gloucestershire Cricket Foundation became involved in walking sports in Bristol when the Active Ageing Manager supported them to develop and launch a Walking Cricket session as part of Bristol Walk Fest 2018. The subsequent sessions proved a great success, attracting many participants, including some women as well as men.
“Working in partnership with the Gloucestershire Cricket Foundation has helped support the aims and objectives of Active Ageing’s programmes/goals, ie. enabling more older people, to be more active, more often. We very much look forward to working with them going forward”
Highlight of the week
Participants who regularly turn up to the Walking Cricket sessions have said they have experienced a noticeable change in their health and wellbeing, with some saying they feel more mobile and others saying it has reduced their anxiety, especially coming out of lock down with the easing of Covid restrictions. All the members of the group have said it is a great way to socialise and meet new people with some saying it had really helped with their mental health and staying active. The Walking Cricket session is now a key part of their weekly diary with some describing it as ‘their highlight’.
Another participant at Walking Cricket, who is aged over 65 said:
“There isn’t much opportunity to be active, but I do play walking football. Walking cricket is a bit of fun and a great way to stay active. When I retired I found there wasn’t much to do. I enjoy cricket and when I found out about walking cricket, I wanted to come along. It’s a really good way of meeting new people and remain being active. There is a good atmosphere and it’s a great way of playing sport in a friendly group. Coming to the sessions has led me to playing golf, well pitch ‘n’ putt if I’m honest; something I thought I’d never do.”
Since the Gloucestershire Cricket Foundation launched Walking Cricket, sessions have taken place at the Bristol Cricket Centre in the Seat Unique Stadium with between 10 – 20 women and men regularly turning up, where not only can they enjoy a weekly session, but also discuss what happened and catch up with each other over a cup of tea or coffee and cake in the newly opened Thatcher’s Café in the stadium.
With the start of the cricket season, the Walking Cricket sessions will be moving to Golden Hill Cricket Club at the end of April.
If you’d like to find out more about Walking Cricket, contact Crispin Shingler, Community Development Manager on 07903 823 922 or email firstname.lastname@example.org