“If you really like it and are passionate about it, then you will find a way”.

Warwickshire Access cricket team member Jaden Payne has won a prestigious Diamond Award, having been nominated by the Child Brain Injury Trust (CBIT).

The awards celebrate 30 years of the CBIT and recognise individuals and teams who have gone above and beyond to support the work of the charity. Jaden received the ‘Young Achiever for Inspiration and Impact Award’ at a ceremony in Oxford.

The award celebrates a young person who has been impacted by a Brain Injury and has an inspirational story to share. Jaden’s family was nominated for the ‘Outstanding Family Award’, which recognises a family the CBIT has supported and who have shown great resilience.

Jaden’s story is inspirational. In May 2017, aged 14, he was involved in a car accident and suffered a serious brain injury as a result. He spent six weeks in hospital, including 13 days in an induced coma. Since then, Jaden has shown incredible resilience, both academically and physically, despite the life changing nature of his injuries.

He is now studying Sport Rehabilitation at St Mary’s University in Twickenham and hopes to become a Physiotherapist after his degree. From 2019 onwards, Jaden has competed for Birchfield Harriers, as a Para-athlete in the T38 category in the 100m. Last year, Jaden also joined the Warwickshire Access Cricket Team and recently talked to us about his involvement in cricket.

Jaden, how did you become involved in cricket?

I played cricket before my accident in the junior section at Kings Heath, so was already familiar with the game. After my accident, I initially didn’t think I would be able to play cricket at all, because my experience had been hard ball cricket and that didn’t fit well with the advice from my neurologist not to play contact sports. In 2019 I started athletics as a para-athlete in the T38 category. My occupational therapist started looking round for other sports I would also be able to play. She found out about the Warwickshire Access cricket team and liaised with Andy Wyles at the WCB about the adaptations to the game. When I found out the Access Team uses an incrediball that put my mind at rest (my neurologist also advised me to wear a protective helmet when playing cricket).

Having made contact with Andy, we took it from there and everyone was very welcoming when I came to my first training session. My attitude was, “Ok then, let’s see if I’ve still got it!”

Tell us about playing cricket as part of the Warwickshire Access team.

Cricket is now an important part of my journey. I love being active and able to participate in a team sport. The environment around the team is positive and enjoyment is a big factor, as well as participation.

When I first came along to meet everyone, I felt I was already part of the group. Coaches Andy Wyles, Chris Kenny, Martyn Collis and all the players have been very welcoming. Everyone has their own disability but what we all have in common is that we all have a disability, so we are all here in the team for the same reason. Since joining the team, I have definitely been more active and I am committed to continuing with the team alongside my degree, playing during my summer holidays. We are all adapting to our disabilities, and we all help each other with different aspects of our game.

How would you describe the effect of your injuries in your own words, and how do they affect you playing cricket?

I would definitely describe my injuries as life changing. My day to day life is very different now. Before, I would just do things – now I need to write a list for everything I do as my short term memory has suffered. I also see a physiotherapist every week because I have significant balance and coordination issues, as well as a strength imbalance between my right and left sides. I have noticed in training that I need to lead with my right leg when I start my bowling run up, as a result of my body imbalance.

I’m a fast bowler, so with a longer run up I also have to remember that I now have depth perception issues. On some grounds, where the pitch is uneven, I have to alter my run up to accommodate dips in the pitch which I can find hard to negotiate.

I want to work on getting better at cricket and in particular my batting. I have lost the peripheral vision on my left side, so a traditional batting stance won’t work for me. Martin Collis, who coaches the Access Cricket Team, has suggested to me that I try a different batting stance so I can see the ball earlier and that is working well.

How did you feel when you were nominated for a CBIT Diamond Award?

I was speechless – and I’m not often speechless!

How has the Child Brain Injury Trust has helped you since your accident?

The Trust has been amazing helping me and my family – particularly when I returned to school after the accident. I went back to school during my GCSE courses, so it was very important to have the right support in place. Sharon Machin, the ABI Coordinator (West Midlands) at CBIT, came into my secondary school and spoke to my teachers about how they should teach me and manage my situation.

CBIT has been a tremendous help in signposting us as a family, informing us so that we could understand what was happening. The biggest help has been in my education, explaining the effects of my injuries on performance and fatigue. We have also been able to attend CBIT events as a family, where we have been able to meet other families in similar circumstances. One event was a rock climbing day where we could integrate with other children and families, and also included a speaker called Charlie Fogarty MBE who talked to us about his Brain Injury experience and journey.

What advice would you give to other people who have sustained similar injuries and want to take up or return to cricket?

Definitely, give it a go. It’s important to be resilient and adapt to fit your new circumstances. Whether it’s cricket, athletics, or another sport – if you really like it and are passionate about it, then you will find a way.