Saba Nasim - BEM/BCA - ECB Level 2 Cricket Coach/Essex Cricket and Chance to Shine, Solicitor
"There are not many instances where you will hear of a solicitor who loves cricket.
I initially did a tertiary degree in Science namely Physiology & Pharmacology. I went on to do my Masters degree at Kings College inPharmacology. Following that I worked for 2 years in a laboratory as a research assistant in the transplanting of islets. Due to a lack of funding, I was unable to obtain a full time PhD. After much thought, I decided that I needed a change in career and decided to study Law instead. Therefore, I did the conversion course followed by the Legal Practice Course (LPC) in 2014 and took two years of training as a Solicitor before qualifying in April of 2016.
Cricket was always something that stayed true with me. During primary school, I got my first chance to play the sport when I was about 10 years old. After this, I began playing cricket with my brother in the garden at first but we kept losing the tennis balls as we both hit sixes over the fence! We then moved outside and played the game with our neighbours using the long narrow footpath outside our house as the pitch. We used to wrap a tennis ball up in insulation tape to make it less bouncy so that we could bat easily. This is the same concept that the charity “Chance to Shine” Street now uses to make cricket accessible for all. We used milk crates as our stumps or any traffic cone we could find left on the street. I fell in love with the game playing it every evening after school with friends and family and this is where my cricketing journey began. In secondary school, at the age of 12, I had the option to choose cricket as my sport and with the assistance of my physical education teacher, I chose it as my summer sport. We had a teacher who also loved the game and some of her passion rubbed off on me. I became captain of my secondary school team for three consecutive years. In college, however, I stopped playing because there were no female teams and girls were not allowed to join with the boys team.
At around 20 years of age in 2008, after a five-year sabbatical, I recollected how much I loved playing the sport and I wondered if there were any clubs that I could join. This is when I searched on the internet and luckily found my local cricket club, which had started a Women's section a year ago. I joined the team in 2008 and have been playing cricket ever since. In 2011-2012 I began coaching the juniors at my club voluntarily on a Friday evening. Later on in 2012 one of the coaches at the club put me on a level 2 coaching course as I had been at the club since the start and they felt that I could contribute more if I became an independent coach myself. I completed the course with Essex county in 2013 whilst I was studying Law.
When I completed the course, I was notified by the head county coach that it was difficult to engage girls in cricket in the region of West Essex and specifically East London where cricket was neglected. This is when we decided to start a cricket project in East London known as the Chance to Shine Street project which is partly funded by the Chance to Shine charity and partly funded by the Essex County Cricket Board. We decided to set the project in the Borough of Redbridge. The project uses the same tennis ball wrapped in tape. We did not need the whole cricket pitch to play cricket. We used tennis courts and basketball courts. The idea is all about engagement and getting girls to attend at minimal to no cost at all. The coaches are paid by the County board and so the session is free to attend for the girls. Today it is the longest-running girls only project in England for Chance to Shine. From 2013 where we only had a handful of girls to now over 100 registered and that is in addition to the 1000+ girls that I have coached since I became a coach in the South of England.
Because I coach at the grassroots, my main aim is to get the girls to fall in love with the sport and to continue playing. I focus on making the sessions fun & enjoyable. It is not always about concentrating on the technical aspects of the game. I initially tell them to just hit the ball as far as they can or try and bowl it in between the cones. Therefore, I set them smaller targets so that they feel that they have achieved something in that session. Every session I build on their skills and now some of the girls want to take up hard-ball cricket. Since they have been seeing the English female cricketers on TV, they want to be like the Sarah Taylors or the Charlotte Edwards’ of English cricket. The media exposure has helped and some of the girls have reached the level of even being part of the county trials with Essex. Hopefully one day they can become international cricketers.
I have also been coaching the Fairbreak XI, an initiative to promote Gender Equality in cricket for two years now and it has been a fantastic experience. It was wonderful to see so many talented girls from different parts of the world and from countries that are not known for cricket. I did not know that they play cricket in Botswana! The girls have tremendous skill sets and could possibly play county cricket in England and match it up with international cricketers, which they did with Suzie Bates from New Zealand last year, Alex Blackwell from Australia, and Sana Mir from Pakistan, who were both present this year. It was great to see them perform at such a high level and encourage them that they can also compete at this level.
I believe that the sport of cricket can be a wonderful medium to drive change in the community. I hope to continually promote social cohesion and empower young people to become respectable role models and by setting up more of these community projects in the boroughs of London, with time & effort a positive change is inevitable."