CHESHIRE’S hugely successful schools’ cricket programme ‘Chance to Shine’ continues to inspire and enthuse following the introduction of an England all-rounder to the county coaching scene.

Former ECB Disability Cricketer of the Year Chris Edwards is sure to bring a unique blend of passion and professionalism to his new coaching role on the Wirral after agreeing a part-time contract with Cheshire Cricket Board Limited.

Chris, who joined Graeme Swann and Katherine Brunt at the top table in the 2010 ECB Cricketer of the Year Awards, will deliver high quality coaching sessions to primary and secondary pupils across the Wirral peninsula, while encouraging all schools to take part in area-wide competitions.

“This a dream job for me, and I’m very excited about it,” said Chris, a member of the England Learning Disabilities team since 2008.

“I want the children to know it’s not all about football and rugby, but that cricket is a great sport to play and to be involved in.

“I was first introduced to the game at my primary school, when we found a set of the blue Kwik Cricket stumps in a store cupboard.

“I was hooked straight away, and ever since that day all I wanted to do was play cricket. Now I have been given the chance to be a professional coach, and I want to give something back for what the game has given to me.”

Chris’s post has been made possible thanks to funding from Chance to Shine, a nationwide coaching programme for state schools spearheaded by the Cricket Foundation and backed by Brit Insurance.

The Cheshire Cricket Board was chosen by Chance to Shine to deliver the project in Cheshire, where more than 47,000 children have been engaged in the sport since 2008 alone.

CCB Director of Cricket Richard Newton believes the appointment of 19-year-old Chris demonstrates Cheshire’s ongoing commitment to the Chance to Shine philosophy.

 “Chance to Shine is not simply a cricket coaching scheme for schools, it’s much, much bigger than that,” explained Richard.

“The young people involved in the programme learn essential life skills such as respect, discipline, teamwork and understanding how to win and lose.

 “So Chance to Shine is all about creating opportunities through cricket, and by employing Chris we too have given an opportunity to somebody who richly deserves it.

He added: “Chris has enjoyed many successes on the cricket field for Cheshire and this is his opportunity to give something back to the next generation of youngsters.”

Indeed, it’s difficult to understand how anybody could not be inspired by Chris Edwards following his sensational rise to the top of the international game.

Diagnosed with autism aged three, Chris soon discovered he was a ‘natural’ with bat and ball and played his first game for the senior Cheshire Disability squad aged just eight.

He made his international debut for England Learning Disabilities aged 15 in 1998, and in the proceeding four years has helped transform England into the number one ranked side in the world.

It’s a story that goes down extremely well with the children at every school he visits, as Cheshire’s Wirral-based Development and Coaching Officer Owen Williamson explains.

“Chris has been shadowing me in schools for the past few weeks and he is enormously popular wherever we go,” said Owen.

“The kids are always asking about his England experiences, and it really motivates them to want to succeed.

“I have been extremely impressed with Chris’s dedication and commitment to his work, and he has made an excellent impression in the short space of time we have worked together.

“Children on the Wirral are extremely lucky to have someone like Chris delivering sessions in schools and I know he’s going to be a big success.”

In his brief but illustrious playing career to date, Chris has toured Australia and South Africa with the national side, spearheading England’s success in the MLD (Moderate Learning Difficulties) World Championship with several man-of-the-match displays.

He is now a qualified UKCC2 coach working towards his ECB Club Coach Award, and the chance to work as a professional was an opportunity just too good to pass up.

 “This is something I have wanted for a long, long time,” Chris said.

“I have battled against a learning disability for most of my life and I didn’t want to do a job that I wouldn’t enjoy.

“I am sure it will be a challenge, and I will have to adapt to the different coaching environments but the other Cheshire coaches will be a big help for me.

“I’ve shadowed Owen on the Wirral for a while now and have already picked up lots of ideas. I am keen to learn and can’t wait to get stuck in.

He added: “Chance to Shine is great initiative and my main goal is for all the children to get as much enjoyment from cricket as I do.”

To find out more about Chance to Shine visit http://www.chancetoshine.org/