Inspirational Young Coaches pay tribute to Cheshire Cricket Trust after 'experience of a Lifetime'

INSPIRATIONAL young coaches Hannah Thornhill and Gaby McKeever have paid tribute to the support of the Cheshire Cricket Trust after returning from "the experience of a lifetime" in the Caribbean.

Hannah and Gaby, members of the Cheshire Women's squad, travelled to St Lucia last summer (2015) to organise and deliver coaching sessions for a group of under-privileged children.

The girls have described the trip as "the most rewarding and amazing experience" of their lives to date, and wish to thank all those who made it possible.

"This was one of the best experiences of my life," said Hannah.

"I just can't believe how enthusiastic and grateful the children were to learn and play cricket, despite the poor facilities.

"Their talent was impressive too - some were naturals! A lot of the girls had never even picked up a cricket bat before and, in the two weeks I was there, it was so rewarding to see them progress to playing proper games.

"We carried out fund-raising events and sought sponsorship in order to fund this unique experience and would like to thank everyone who supported us, especially the Cheshire Cricket Trust, who made a very kind donation in addition to giving us cricket bats and kit to take to the Caribbean."

In addition to the Trust's bequest, the girls raised a further £300 through a well-attended quiz night at Hannah's club Wistaston, helping turn their dream of coaching abroad into a reality.

Once out on the island they discovered a vastly different cricketing landscape to the one they have become accustomed to in Cheshire, as Gaby explains.

"The majority of the days we were based at a summer camp where we played on hard netball courts. Some days we were at a different summer school where we played on the beach and had to use sticks as the wickets," she said.

"Hannah and I were also invited to train with the National Women's team, which was another humbling experience. The venue, we were told, was the second largest stadium on the Island so we were expecting big things.

"When we arrived, we were shocked to see that they were playing on a run-down football pitch and that the stands could probably only hold a maximum of 100 people. This emphasised to us just how few resources they have out there, and how lucky we are to have such nice grounds back home in Cheshire."

Gaby described teaching the young children to bowl as the most rewarding part of her trip, and says she would "jump at the chance" to return to St Lucia in the future.

"It really was the most amazing experience of my life. I would one hundred per cent recommend this to any other young cricketers who want to support the United Through Sport Caribbean charity"

Gaby's comments were echoed by her friend and colleague Hannah, who was first inspired to take up coaching by Sport England's This Girl Can campaign.

"I was impressed by This Girl Can yet wanted to put much more back into the sport than simply the usual coaching I had done at Wistaston Cricket Club.

"Gaby and I worked hard to raise the necessary funds to allow us to travel abroad and work with under-privileged young children in the Caribbean.

"The sessions make a real difference at grass roots level, as they help get the children off the streets and do something positive during their long summer holiday.

"Most of our time was spent coaching the basics of batting, bowling and fielding in addition to playing some fun games. The facilities were poor and the charity was very grateful to have received the kind donation of cricket equipment from the Cheshire Cricket Trust, which was a vast improvement on the equipment that the children had been playing with.

Hannah added: "The children had natural ability and quickly learnt the basic skills and rules of the game. It was so rewarding to see their development and rapid progression over the two weeks we spent coaching them."

For information about the Cheshire Cricket Trust, making a donation/bequest, or seeking support for a cricket related activity please email Cheshire Cricket Trust