The programme, which is funded in part by the Surrey Cricket Foundation (SCF), sees players take part in adapted training sessions, offering them detailed cricket coaching as well as match practice. The sessions give opportunities to the players to refine their technique, learn new skills, and execute their learnings in match settings.
One of the aims of the programme is to devise a format of cricket that maximises the enjoyability and competitiveness of the sport for wheelchair users. In this light, to efficiently score games, the programme is trialling various creative methods to work out relevant and appropriate ways of rewarding running between the wickets. During the sessions, it is also ensured that the game is played in an environment which allows players to wear appropriate protective equipment.
With his personal experience of being a wheelchair user, Russell brings a unique perspective and unwavering commitment to this growing initiative. His drive and passion for the programme have seen him being appointed as the Surrey Wheelchair Cricket Manager recently.
Having a rich cricketing background, spanning from his early days with Surrey’s youth programme to captaining league rep teams, Russell’s expertise extends beyond the playing field. He holds a Level 2 Core Cricket Coach certification and is currently undertaking a R66T Academy Level 3 Diploma.
In 2002, Russell was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) but, despite the challenges since, he continues to pursue his love for cricket. His MS journey took an unexpected turn in 2020 when he suffered a severe relapse, leading to limited mobility and the need for a wheelchair. This personal experience has fuelled his desire to make wheelchair cricket more accessible and inclusive.
His involvement with SCF’s wheelchair cricket initiative stems from a genuine desire to make the sport accessible to all. He acknowledges the lack of awareness surrounding disability-inclusive cricket and is inspired by the enthusiasm and commitment of wheelchair cricket participants. “I was unaware of what was available for people with disability and, seeing the wider picture throughout Surrey, have been truly inspired,” shares Russell.
Beyond his passion for the sport, Russell’s motivation stems from the positive impact wheelchair cricket has on individuals and families. He emphasises the importance of creating an inclusive environment where participants can focus on the joys of cricket, momentarily setting aside their disabilities and worries. “Each time I see them practice or play, they amaze me – not just the players, the families too are so fantastic,” says he. “I hope that we create an environment that makes all feel welcome.”
Russell’s dedication to wheelchair cricket is evident in his efforts to expand the programme and reach out to more individuals. He envisions a future where wheelchair cricket thrives alongside other cricket formats, offering a platform for individuals with disabilities to showcase their skills and passion for the sport.
The Wheelchair Cricket season started on Sunday, 11 February and the training sessions are open to wheelchair users of any ability. The second session will happen on Sunday, 18 February at YMCA East in Redhill. For more information about the session please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Regular training sessions are vital for Wheelchair Cricket to flourish. In such a new format, it allows everyone to learn from each other and also builds up the camaraderie and teamwork,’ says Lottie Chatfield, a qualified coach as well as a participant in the programme.
It is a key aim of the SCF to increase accessibility to cricket, offering physical and social benefits of playing the sport to as many people as possible. 2023 saw an increase in the number of young people who engaged with the Foundation’s disability programmes by nearly 20% than the previous year. There was also an 11% rise in the SEND schools/schools with a SEND department where cricket coaching was delivered by the SCF.