October 30, 2020, marked a significant day for cricket in Birmingham with an announcement made that the ACE programme would be launched in the city to help reinvigorate the game within the local African and Caribbean community.
Warwickshire Chief Executive Stuart Cain said at the time that ACE “will create opportunities for a community that has a proud cricketing history but has unfortunately not had the support that it deserves over recent years.” Nearly 12 months on from when the announcement was made, ACE is very much underway in the northwest of Birmingham.
“Starting ACE in Birmingham was very different to its beginnings in London,” says Warwickshire Cricket Board Cricket Development Manager (community) Eaton Gordon, who has led the programme’s development the city.
“London already had a core group of players and some talented individuals within this who had not been identified. However, we have always said that we are starting something afresh in Birmingham with a blank sheet of paper. Because of this our focus has been on getting cricket into schools and then creating further opportunities to play at Handsworth Cricket Club and at the Holford Drive Community Sports Hub.”
Through ACE, around 500 local primary school children have been given their first experience of cricket, with regular coaching sessions now delivered across five selected schools. Many of these sessions have been delivered by former Bears fast bowler Recordo Gordon and fellow coach Ron Barker.
Further to this, nearly 60 youngsters have joined the additional weekly sessions at Handsworth CC Monday) and Holford Drive Community Sports Hub (Friday).
“We have already taken ACE indoors with our hub sessions for the winter months, which are staged every Saturday morning at King Edwards VI Girls Grammar School,” said Gordon.Eaton Gordon
“The ACE Academy has also just launched at the Edgbaston Cricket Centre, which provides advanced mentoring and coaching to young black cricketers who are playing in the local club game or within our Warwickshire County Age Group set-up.”
Six months into the ACE programme in Birmingham, expansion is certainly on the mind of Gordon and the Warwickshire Cricket Board. “Our goal now is to expand our age groups by getting into secondary schools as quick as we can,” Gordon.
“We plan to deliver coaching in four secondary schools in the latter half of this autumn school term and then run these sessions through the full term in the New Year and launch another hub in the summer.”
Through the launch of ACE in Birmingham, the programme has been able to also create links with the Cyrille Regis Foundation, which will lead to youngsters playing football and cricket to aid their sporting development; something which has been advocated by Warwickshire’s pathway team for several years.
ACE has undoubtedly made strong start in its first six months and an exciting journey in the game lies ahead for the young players that it is supporting.