Shenfield High School

Shenfield High School’s Cricket Academy embarked on a trip which on paper promised to be spectacular. The result however was beyond all expectations. It was a life changing experience that those involved would surely never forget. From the moment we touched down, greeted by 25 degree heat and crystal clear blue skies, to our last fixture at the Jacques Kallis oval. Everything in between was just as impressive; Newlands Cricket Ground, Table Mountain, Robben Island, Camps Bay, Bishops High School, Bergvliet T20 tournament, Stellenberg and their incredible hospitality to name just a few.

                       

 A fabulous country that proved the perfect host; delicious food, breath-taking scenery, outstanding hospitality, quality Cricket and striking facilities. We first must pay huge thanks to the superb 'Smile Group travel' that provided us with the 'perfect' itinerary. Our tour included nine matches at some of the best Cricketing schools in South Africa. We were involved in the prestigious Bergvliet High School T20 tournament that was sponsored by the equally as impressive 'Footprint Sports Travel'. We travelled to Stellenberg, Bishops and finally Wynberg High School, each with their own prestigious history.

 Such venues that schooled the likes of Jacques Kallis, Herschelle Gibbs and Craig Kieswetter provided the squad with the toughest of opposition. These mouth-watering fixtures certainly ensured that our squad were fully focussed and desperate to prove their worth. We were victorious in three games in total, beating competition holders and hosts Bergvliet 1st Xl as well as Milnerton High School who ran out deserved winners of this year’s competition. We also beat Westerford High School and ran Wynberg High School close in the final fixture.

 

 If not for a few mid tour muscle injuries and notable absentees, we could have caused more momentous scalps. Nevertheless these injuries provided more opportunities to the junior members of the party and these students made huge progress. The tour was not about 'winning' every game; it was designed as a learning environment that would enable the Academy players to become better Cricketers. It certainly did this, especially in the fielding department where we learnt from the excellent standard of the South African opposition.

This tour has given us all huge insight as to what is possible with hard work and dedication. Sport is high on every schools agenda and the pupils don't just play Cricket. Most are multi-talented and this was highlighted by the coaches who had all played 1st X1 Cricket, Hockey, Rugby and Water Polo. This emphasis was further embedded by the outstanding facilities on offer, each school provided the pupils with everything they needed all nestled in the backdrop of a crystal blue sky and endless mountain ranges. You couldn't fail to be inspired. As for our squad, they were exceptional and this is no exaggeration. Polite, well mannered, thankful, exuberant and curious. All of which contributed to a fantastic team spirit, we really were #teamshenners only 6,000 miles from base camp! Many passers-by complemented the squad throughout the tour. Onlookers wished us well and random locals congratulated us on our performances, our first game win certainly had them talking!

 

 In all this incredible experience will live long in the memory and will no doubt be repeated in two years’ time with a new cohort of budding young cricketers. Such opportunities are not afforded to many and we are proud to be in a position to provide such a life changing experience. The Cricket Academy is now in its second year and its reputation for excellence continues to grow. The link with Essex CCC is ever growing with off-season training including a 6 six week programme led by lead strength and conditioning coach Conner Browne. Monthly training sessions at the county ground are supplemented by regular first team visits to the weekly school sessions. Our season starts with a pre-season tour of Eastbourne and personalised visit around the University of Brighton, which holds one of the best reputations in the country for sport. Fixtures include many prestigious private school including; Eastbourne College, Bancrofts, Felsted, New Hall, St Josephs and Ipswich School. We also compete in the U'19 and U'17 National Cups as well as the St Albans T20 Cricket festival. Those players that show exceptional promise will be put forward to County trials, or as in a case this year, get spotted at one of our county ground sessions.

 

 As the programme draws to a close in its second year, players are guided through the next steps in their career. University applications are overseen and those who are particularly talented will be helped to gain a place on the prestigious MCCU programmes. This year will hopefully see Jack Potticary follow in Matthew Salisbury's footsteps as he hopes to join Leeds MCCU we certainly think he has the talent to make it. If you are a keen cricketer that would like to supplement your studies with a year round Cricket programme, then get in touch (r.bennett@shenfield.essex.sch.uk). Trials and interviews will be held within the coming months for prospective Cricket Academy students looking to start in September 2015.

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