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Post People: Dagenham teacher's national prize for boosting bat and ball

PUBLISHED: 12:12 11 November 2016

Lycamobile's Chris Tooley, Sky News presenter Sarah Jane-Mee and England cricketer present Paul Cook with his award Picture: Chance to Shine

Lycamobile's Chris Tooley, Sky News presenter Sarah Jane-Mee and England cricketer present Paul Cook with his award Picture: Chance to Shine

Archant

Robert Clack School PE teacher Paul Cook, 54, tells Seb Murphy-Bates how he rejuvenated cricket and won Chance to Shine’s Special Recognition Award

“I’ve been in charge of cricket at the school for about seven years and we’ve got all ages interested and have two girl groups.

“Before that I was a graphic artist at the Daily Mail for 28 years. But I had a reputation for coaching rugby so in 2002 the schools asked me to come and help part-time.

“When you’re teaching it’s a bit like being a stand-up comedian – you can go out there and just die but sometimes it’s the best thing in the world and it’s never boring. The school’s been excellent for me, they put me through my degree and I qualified as a PE teacher when I was 51.

“A decade ago cricket in state schools was languishing, probably because it gets squeezed between football seasons and it’s seen as elitist.

“I’d made my reputation through rugby but I also love cricket so I decided to do something about it.

“I couldn’t have done it without the charity Chance to Shine, which promotes cricket in state schools. They supplied Level Two coaches and I can’t speak too highly of them.

“A lot of kids don’t know cricket exists but when they play it they realise they like it. We’ve got kids playing it here even though their home countries don’t. There are Scandinavian and Nigerian girls playing – it’s excellent. And if you get involved now teams will snap you up because participation levels are so low.

“It’s a great game that can be played by all shapes and sizes – I’m a bit rotund and was once nominated the fattest PE teacher in the borough on some social media site. But I’ve been playing it since I was 14.

“The important thing for state schools is to get kids interested at the start of year instead of waiting till Easter, that’s helped us flourish.

“We’ve got facilities being built here that Essex Country Cricket want to use for training when they’re finished in Easter next year and we’re setting up and under-19s team for the first time.”

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