To celebrate Black History Month, we are taking a look at those within Middlesex Cricket that are making a difference today to create tomorrow’s history.
Throughout the month, we are hearing from members of our Participation Team who are out there making a positive change within our local communities.
Next up in our series is ACE Development Officer, Garfield Struthers.
“That’s the ultimate dream for me – to find someone and train them, and then to see them play for Middlesex. To see someone from the likes of Hackney or Tottenham represent the county would be incredible.”
Those were the words of Garfield Struthers – Middlesex’s ACE Development Officer – when asked what it would mean to him to see someone from the African Caribbean Engagement (ACE) programme represent the men’s first team in years to come.
ACE was founded in 2020 by Ebony Rainford-Brent in response to the decline of black British professional cricketers – which fell by 75% – and after finding out that less than 1% of the recreational game was represented by black cricketers.
It became its own standalone charity in October of that year after receiving £540,000 from Sport England and now has hubs across London as well as Bristol, Birmingham, with funding available to expand to Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds.
Garfield’s job is to find children from an African-Caribbean background, introduce them to cricket and let them know that cricket is an option as a career.
This is easier said than done, however, as Garfield explains that there are other career paths that are proving to be more attractive to young children across north London.
“Because a number of kids are gravitating towards football, we find that the kids want to go down that route,” he explained. “Therefore, we must catch them early enough to try and let them know that there’s a pathway into cricket.
“There is some talent being unearthed, but they don’t necessarily have the clubs to go to in the area and they may be too far away to travel.
“It’s my job to point them in the right direction and help find a way to support them on their cricketing journey.”
So, what are his plans to get young people from non-traditional cricketing backgrounds into the game?
“I am going into schools and am hoping to create a hub from six or seven schools,” he said.
“Once players visit that hub then hopefully there will be a pathway or academy that they can go on to. I will look to steer them to clubs and keep an eye on their progress.”
With the lure of lucrative contracts in football, worth hundreds of thousands of pounds in some cases – something which professional cricket doesn’t have until the top level – how does Garfield sell the dream of becoming a professional cricketer?
“I make them think about the pathway.
“In regard to football, there would be so many people you have to compete with, whereas in cricket the pool may be smaller and there might be a better break.
“Cricket can be a great game at any level, you can meet friends for life and it takes you places. It’s a good team building game too and it gives you an opportunity to get involved in your community.”
Garfield was born and raised in Guyana, where he lived until the age of 15. He has been around the game since the age of five or six having followed his uncle around.
He started his playing career at Georgetown Cricket Club – a former international cricket venue, which hosted 30 Test matches and 10 One-Day Internationals between 1930 and 2005.
Growing up, his heroes were fellow clubmen Carl Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul – who, by the time his international career had ended, had amassed over 20,000 runs for West Indies. He also told us that Brian Lara and Sir Vivian Richards were two players that he tried to model his game on.
Having had his own heroes growing up, Garfield doesn’t underestimate the power that role models can play in helping young people envisage themselves in their icon’s shoes in the future.
Seeing Jofra Archer shine in the 50-over World Cup four years ago and the impact that Chris Jordan has had in helping England win their second T20 title on the global stage last year, can only be a good thing in helping Garfield achieve what he wants to achieve.
“That’s the whole thing. Having that identity and someone to look up to in these teams and to have aspirations to become the fastest bowler to help their country,” he said. “They want to bowl fast and hit the ball far – hopefully that will inspire them.”
“The World Cup of 2019 has had something to do with it. T20 has played a massive part of it and whenever you go into schools now, kids just want to whack it from a young age as that’s what they’re seeing on TV right now.
“To have seen that they can one day be the face of the game and to help the country succeed and have it as a long-term goal is great.”
To find out more about the ACE programme, click here.
CREATING TOMORROW'S HISTORY SERIES: