I never really liked football but I really wanted to feel part of a team and make new friends. My cousin encouraged me to play cricket so I started playing cricket for Rotherham Phoenix Cricket Club when I was 12 years old.
I started to play in the junior side and although I was never the best cricket player I was welcomed at the club and quickly became part of the team and really enjoyed the social side of cricket as well as playing the game. I also soon realised that the club needed players not only to play cricket but also to help out with all the other parts of the game. Although I did not realise this at the time this started me on my way to volunteering,.
Whenever I was not busy at school I would go up to the club and help the groundsman there – it started out that I was picking up litter, and generally tidying the ground – I then started to help out by cutting the grass – or just chatting with the groundstaff. I never knew at the time but I was learning so much about ground keeping. I was always made to feel welcome and the more I helped out the more I became appreciated and the better I felt about myself – it gave me a purpose whilst helping the club out at the same time.
Like the majority of cricket clubs we were struggling for funds so I decided to try to raise some money for the club. I was also a young DJ and the only way I could help was to arrange a disco and an event which luckily did raise quite a lot of money for the club.
Because I had a good result it made me feel really good so I wanted to do more.
I helped the groundsman to prepare the cricket pitches for games whenever I could, after school and at weekends. I also helped to get the ground ready for the Whitworth Cup final which was held at Rotherham Phoenix Cricket Club and did the sound system, I even got my mum and dad to help out that weekend. I was enjoying the work so much I never realised that my efforts were being acknowledged as I did not feel I was doing anything extra – I just wanted the Rotherham Phoenix CC to succeed. However, my club nominated for Rotherham Sports Award – Junior Volunteer – I was shocked to win this and went through to the South Yorkshire Sports Award – again to my shock I was successful and went through to the Yorkshire Sports Award and then the National Sports Award at Lord’s cricket ground. The experiences I have had have been absolutely incredible and something I will remember always. I was never bright academically at school, but always tried my best, however the experiences I have gained through my volunteering work has given me the confidence to be positive and the people I have met through the ECB and YCB have helped me to achieve a goal I thought I never would.
At the beginning of 2011 I was asked if I would like to become the groundsman and look after 2 cricket squares – 10 strips per square for the club. I was nervous but proud to accept. My contract was for 10 hours per week and I was well pleased. I soon realised the job needed more than 10 hours per week spending on it but I was more than happy to be there for as long as it took to get the ground prepared and looking good. At weekends I would often put in 10 hours both Saturday and Sunday then most nights after school but the praise I received from the umpires using the pitch, our own Chairman, and other players using the pitch more than made up for the extra effort I put in.
In January 2011 I was appointed Rotherham Phoenix Cricket Club Secretary (as no-one would do it!!) – I have been told that aged 17 years I was the youngest club secretary in the league. I am enjoying this challenging role and never would have had the confidence to take it on without the experiences I have gained through my volunteering work.
The people I have met through the YCB and ECB have most definitely opened up a whole new world for me. They have supported me when I was having a difficult time at school – I was told by school that even though I gave 100% at all times they did not think it would be worth my while staying on to continue with my A levels – I was totally gutted and shocked and did not know what to do. I contacted a few people I had met at the YCB and ECB and they were brilliant, they offered advice on different types of training courses, they sent out emails on my behalf to their contacts and put me in touch with their colleagues who have also been very happy to help and encourage me. These connections have helped me to secure my dream job as a trainee sports turf contractor/machine operator with Premier Pitches – a job I am really enjoying and one I never thought possible when I was at school. I certainly would not be in the job I am today without the support, advice and opportunities provided from both the YCB and ECB.
I would recommend volunteering to everyone because, like me, you never know where it may take you – so get out there and volunteer your time and energies – take it from me the rewards are well worth it!
Charlie Redfearn – Age 17 years