Participation in sport is at the heart of everything we do at BatFast. So earlier this year when we were asked to support King’s Rise Academy to break a Guinness World Record for the most number of people playing cricket at the same time – we just couldn’t say no!
We caught up with Gary Bryne, the Vice Principal of Kings Rise Academy, who masterminded the world record attempt, and Navdeep Sethi, COO BatFast to speak about how King’s Rise became Official World Record Holders, taking the record away from Chance to Shine at Lords – the home of cricket – and bringing it to a little primary school in the heart of Kingstanding!
What was the inspiration for the world record attempt?
Gary: The idea for the record attempt came about as a result of two entirely separate conversations. The first was with my amazing History lead at school, Kelly Dawes. In recent years Kelly has taken our curriculum to the point where we have now been recognized as a Gold Standard History school by the Historical Association and it was during her research for this quality mark that she happened upon a photograph of a Kings Rise Cricket team taken back in the 1950s if not earlier. It struck both of us as a stand-out photo as there has never ever been any talk or memory of cricket at our school amongst staff. But there they were, brilliant white kits, all the kits, looking proud and it is this sense of pride we hope to return to our community which obviously has cricket somewhere in its DNA.
The second conversation was with my Regional Director, Travis Latham. He is very keen to bring schools, kids, and staff together and to do things that are different. He had mentioned that he would love the West Midlands schools to collaborate on a sporting project. That got me thinking.
Who came up with to idea?
Gary: The original idea to do a World Record was mine although it simply leans into a very explicit vision that we have at Kings Rise to ‘Achieve Together’. To aspire for those who feel like they can’t and to show our kids that they can be seen, be valued, and do something great and that not only is this important for them but it’s essential for their community to show people that Kingstanding is more than bleak headlines.
My PE team then found the “largest single venue cricket lesson” as a challenging, but achievable world record and when I remembered the above picture… it just all made sense!
How much planning was needed to bring 600 kids together for the day?
Gary: There was definitely a lot of planning. Bringing the kids together wasn’t actually too challenging. The real challenge was having sporting expertise, resource infrastructure, and evidence capture. We knew that whilst achieving this was possible at our school, so we needed the help of Partners like Edgbaston & BatFast to ensure that not only did we have everything we needed but that we would also have a great experience too! In all, it took a year of planning, but it was so worth it.
How did the BatFast team get involved?
Gary: Initially, BatFast become involved as I was hunting down old cricket bats for a Commonwealth Games Festival-funded artistic project tying the Cricket World Record into the Commonwealth games, Birmingham, and the fact that women’s T20 had been included for the first time! I spoke to Sixes Cricket head office (who supplied some bats) and they put me in touch with BatFast. I spoke with Covette first who blew me away with how excited she sounded about what we were doing! Covette assured me that BatFast would have some old bats for us (which were much appreciated and now form part of the art!) but that also Navdeep and BatFast would be keen to support us more in the World Record Project. When a team from BatFast visited the school to drop the bats off, they mucked in with our Cricket Training session for staff in lieu of the Record Attempt. I was so impressed by this community-mindedness that I was keen to keep BatFast on board and therefore asked if Navdeep and his team would like to be stewards on the day of the attempt. They agreed, brought 100s of balls to help with the attempt, and helped us to break the record! It was great to meet them all and Navdeep has been so incredibly generous with his time. I’m looking forward to more projects together!
Navdeep why was it important for you that BatFast got involved?
Navdeep: Our mission at BatFast is to use technology to drive greater participation in sports. Building a company with a clear social purpose means our amazing team should live, breathe and enable this mission wherever we can. The impact of the work Gary and his team have achieved goes far beyond getting a nice certificate for the wall. It’s about inspiring young people. Encouraging them and giving them a positive memory that no one can ever take away.
What was the highlight of the day for you?
Gary: The highlight of the day for me was simply having so many of the kids and parents say a personal thank you to me and the other staff for organizing the event. They KNOW we see them, value them, and believe in them! Things like this make a difference.
Navdeep: Seeing the enjoyment from everyone taking part. It only takes one experience to fall in love with sports. Having 650 children try out cricket in a fun, vibrant, and inclusive environment will hopefully go a long way in breaking down the barriers to participation. That in itself is truly inspiring and something I hope BatFast shall continue to be part of.
What feedback have you had since the day?
Gary: Feedback has been profusely kind and encouraging. My favorite feedback though is shock and surprise. Doubt is the stuff that charges our batteries… we knew we would do this even when many people said it was too difficult. We’re now looking to what we can do next!
As a teacher, How important is participation in sport?
Gary: As I write this tonight I’m watching England’s Women’s team win the Euros against Germany. Sport changes things. It has the power to change people, places, and culture. Participation in sport as a discipline is crucial, especially in the formative years of childhood. We were asked by a lot of people whether it would be better to only bring the older children to the record. We said a firm no. We go as a family or not at all. The three-year-olds in nursery all the way up to the 11 years olds in year 6. Their participation matters in two ways – yes, it matters for living a healthy lifestyle and forging disciplined habits. However, there is a further often forgotten way. It can be such an identity-affirming and positive experience. We asked the parents of our youngest kids to join them for the attempt… this was such a great opportunity to help in building strong bonds of trusting attachment with adults of the sort that all too often are missed. Somebody told me something that really stuck… If you think about the amount of harm that an adult can inflict upon a child in 10 mins, imagine how much good you can do in the same time! Never take the time adults spend with kids for granted – it makes them who they are. For this reason too, participation in positive sporting experiences matters.
Any other comments or feedback regarding BatFast?
Gary: I would simply like to say thank you. That it has been such a humbling positive experience working with you guys. We all too often hear on the news about corporations and businesses and how exploitative they are. I have always, and I think rightly, been very fussy about the companies which we work with but I must say that BatFast has been an absolute dream to work with. Every member of the team has been so giving of time and thoughtful of our school for no other reason that I can determine than common human decency! It’s been an absolute pleasure and I genuinely hope we can work together again… I already have an idea, one which you won’t expect! I’m ready to talk about it when you are!!