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Simi Panesar is an ECB Level 2 coach at Chance to Shine Street evening sessions for girls in Birmingham. During the day, she’s a primary school teacher at Chilwell Croft School in Newtown, running cricket sessions for pupils after school. Simi has also just opened her own gym in Sparkhill offering individual 1:1 fitness programmes, mainly for women and girls.

Simi has also just opened her own gym in Sparkhill offering individual 1:1 fitness programmes, mainly for women and girls. Despite all these achievements by the age of 25, Simi says her 15-year-old self would not believe what she is doing now because she struggled with confidence issues as a teenager. Simi talks about her journey in our second case study as part of Women’s Big Cricket Month.

What inspired you to become a coach?

I want to inspire young people and to help give them the opportunities cricket has given me. I played age group cricket for Warwickshire but didn’t have the self-confidence to take my cricket any further at a higher level after U19s. I lost confidence, suffered from anxiety when I played, and didn’t believe in myself. I want the girls I coach to find their self-belief earlier than I did and to support them in their development as cricketers. I enjoyed playing club cricket at Five Ways Old Edwardians CC but I would have been a completely different player if I had found my confidence earlier. I want the girls I coach to take the opportunities I wasn’t able to take because I lacked confidence.

How would you describe your approach to coaching?

Many of the girls I coach at Chance to Shine Street are not as confident as they could be, so I am working on building their confidence. I can see them grow and improve with reassurance from the coaches. The words ‘I can’t do this’ are not allowed in my sessions. I want the girls to have the affirmation that they ‘CAN do this’.

The Chance to Shine Street girls are at senior school and many hadn’t played cricket before they started. Now some of them are progressing to hardball cricket and even going to county trials. It is great to see them develop. I want to inspire the girls to be their own heroes and that is what I try to do in my coaching sessions.

How did you overcome your own confidence issues?

An important part of my journey is related to my own fitness. Working to get fit and lose weight has given me more confidence. When I was 15, I was overweight and felt self-conscious when I played cricket. I was a good cricketer but I doubted my own abilities. Since I have worked on my fitness transformation I have gained much more confidence. I did a Sports and Exercise Science degree at Coventry University before I did my PGCE so that helped to give me much of the knowledge I am using in my cricket sessions.

How do you link fitness and cricket?

I incorporate fitness into my cricket sessions, whether it’s teenage girls in the Chance to Shine Street sessions or primary school children in the after-school club I run. Fitness is very important to me and I have just opened my own gym in Sparkhill called ‘Sim Strength’ where I offer 1:1 sessions related to improving strength, fitness and weight loss. My clients range in age from 14 to 64 years old. With cricketers, I work on the main muscle groups we use in cricket – quads for batting, deltoids and shoulder muscles for bowling and core muscles for both.

What would your 15 year old self say about you now?

I wouldn’t have believed what I am doing now. I lacked confidence and couldn’t have seen any of this coming. The change has come from believing and trusting myself. I am proud of what I have done but want to keep pushing and working hard to inspire the children I teach at school and the girls I coach at Chance to Shine cricket. I want them to take the opportunities cricket can provide.

What are your plans for the future?

I hope to keep developing as a teacher and a coach, and to continue inspiring young people. In the future I would like to enrol on a Level 3 coaching course. In the short term, however, I want to develop my gym as it has only been open for a few weeks, so I am working on growing the business. I am also talking to Mina Zahoor at the Warwickshire Cricket Board about running BollyCricket sessions in Birmingham.

Simi Panesar works incredibly hard and inspires many young people in Birmingham, especially girls, through cricket and fitness coaching. As we emerge from Covid 19 restrictions, Simi’s skills will be more valuable than ever in helping the young people she works with develop their physical and mental wellbeing in an enjoyable and fulfilling environment. ‘Sim Strength’ is an entirely appropriate name for Simi’s new venture, given the strength she has shown in her journey over the last 10 years and the strength she is now imparting to others.