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PUPILS from the Beech Academy enjoyed a day to remember last week as they were crowned national champions at the Lord's Taverners National Table Cricket Finals – while also meeting England wicketkeeper Ben Foakes writes Alec McQuarrie.
The Mansfield-based school's side were one of ten to compete at Lord's Cricket Ground and clinched the crown in style with a brilliant performance.
The Lord’s Taverners exists to positively impact the lives of young people facing the challenges of inequality.
The charity works across the UK and beyond to provide inclusive and impactful cricket programmes, empowering young people with disabilities and from disadvantaged communities to develop the knowledge, skills, capabilities and confidence required to overcome the challenges of inequality, raise their aspirations and reach their potential.
Teacher Georgia Baker, 27, loves how inclusive table cricket is for her students.
"For us, inclusivity is everything. It is one of our core values at school as well.
"To be able to include everyone at that table and allow them to be part of a team is great.
"We have got age ranges from 12 to 18 who have not had the opportunity to even see each other let alone play a sport together, so for us inclusivity is massive."
Over 100 schools and 1,000 young people with disabilities took part in the county and regional qualifiers to book their place for Finals Day of the competition, now into its 22nd year, which is made possible thanks to the support of Ford, players of the People’s Postcode Lottery and the England & Wales Cricket Board.
An adapted form of cricket played on table tennis table, table cricket takes all the aspects of mainstream cricket, providing a more inclusive and accessible form which allows young people with a wide range of disabilities to participate, meet new friends and have fun.
The game not only promotes teamwork and sportsmanship in an enjoyable environment, it also improves life skills such as self-confidence, independence and social integration.
Pupil Louise Morley, 18, was happy to get the chance to compete at a high level.
"I got involved with table cricket because I thought it would be exciting and competitive.
"It is just a great opportunity to compete against everyone.
"I enjoy working together with my teammates and just enjoying the experience while doing it.
"But also winning games as well.
"I'm also very happy to be representing the school."
Watching on at Lord's was England wicket-keeper Ben Foakes, as well as Sussex and Southern Vipers captain Georgia Adams.
And Foakes was delighted to see the sport bringing so many people together.
"I think, especially after what's been going on with COVID-19, this is just a great opportunity to get together,” said Foakes, speaking at the Lord’s Taverners National Table Cricket Finals where he watched nearly 70 young people with disabilities from 10 schools across the country represent their schools compete for the title of the National Table Cricket Champion 2022.
"I think some of these guys were probably hit the hardest in that isolation and in that lockdown period.
"So, I just think it's great, everyone being able to get out and enjoy it and enjoying that team aspect of sport that cricket provides.
"It's been fantastic to see it, and I think it looks like it's going from strength to strength.
"It's just been awesome."
The Lord’s Taverners impacts the lives of young people facing the challenges of inequality. The charity works across the UK and beyond to provide inclusive and impactful cricket programmes, empowering young people with disabilities and from disadvantaged communities – visit www.lordstaverners.org