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 will hear from members of our Participation Team who are out there making a positive change within our local communities.
We begin by speaking to Disability Development Officer, Stefan McKenzie.
Stefan McKenzie has been working at Middlesex Cricket for nine years and is a Disability Development Officer at the Club.
The 34-year-old is a popular member of staff, who is extremely enthusiastic about his role.
Day-to-day, Stefan oversees all seven disability hubs within the county and helps to inspire youngsters to become the best people that they can, through the power of cricket.
Speaking about his job, Stefan explained that the best bit is “getting people playing cricket.
“I love meeting and getting to know new people in communities that I wouldn’t have necessarily come across before.
“I want to help people in the best way possible.”
In his role, he’s providing the pathway for young cricketers with a disability to progress towards the county’s disability setup, and has more than played his part in helping two players go on to play international cricket for England’s Disability sides.
Of this, Stefan modestly said: “I am only being me.
“I would never sit there and tell someone ‘yeah, I made you into what you are’, they are just really good people.
“When I first met both of them, I knew that they had potential as they were really good.
“Since then, I’ve played with both of them as well as worked with both of them and that’s pretty special for me.”
Ben Mason – one of those players who Stefan helped on their way to international honours – spoke extremely highly of his coach turned teammate, saying: “Without him I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“Stefan has had such a positive impact on my cricketing career.
“He came into my school as a Super 1s coach and helped us to progress as a team which resulted in us winning the Super 1s tournament for two consecutive years. His endless enthusiasm and love for the game shines through in everything he does.”
Meanwhile, Jai Charan’s father, Shanial, explained: “Jai’s first interaction with Stefan goes back to 2015.
“Stefan made Jai feel at ease at the session and made it fun to participate.
“Over the years Stefan has always supported and recognised Jai’s passion for cricket and helped him channel that into positive development. He has not only helped Jai but has always been friendly and warm towards the parents and encompasses them into the Middlesex family.”
Being part of any player’s journey from grassroots to the international arena is an amazing achievement for any coach, but for Stefan, there is another moment that stands out from his time in coaching…
“To see one of our Super 1s participants go on to become a coach with Middlesex in our community was an amazing moment.
“That is a highlight because I wanted something like that to happen for ages and when it finally did, I was like ‘yes!’ – and now we’re seeing more super 1s participants wanting to go down that path.”
Stefan is always encouraging colleagues to be the best version of themselves and often gives them advice.
“Enjoy it, have fun and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to give your opinion.“
For anyone reading this who has an interest in becoming a coach at any level in any sport, Stefan gives the following advice: “The way I see it is no matter what sport you coach, the same process and approach applies. If you are a young person or a young coach and you don’t know what career path you want to go down, try it and if you don’t like it there will be something else to suit you.
“Most importantly – enjoy it! If the kids are having fun, then you’re having fun. Make sure you’ve got good people around you that you can learn from.”
Stefan – whose grandfather came over from Jamaica as part of the Windrush generation – says that he wasn’t always destined for a career in the game, despite his grandfather playing minor counties cricket.
“It was an accident,” he explained.
“I’ve always loved sport, and first played cricket when Mikey Thompson (one of Middlesex’s Participation Coaches) was coaching in our school. When I left school, I lost contact with him for a couple of years. One of my old coaches contacted me and asked if I could look after one of his sessions.
“It was a training session at a London County team as it was known at the time, over in one of the Essex boroughs. A week after that, I was in the Isle of Wight playing in my first cricket match.
“One thing led to another and a few months later I became an apprentice. At the same time as all this I was in college studying sport – travelling all over London, learning from coaches.”
We at Middlesex Cricket are incredibly proud of the work Stefan does in our community and we look forward to seeing him continue to inspire in the future!
Earlier this year we joined Stefan at Middlesex’s Super 1s Hub at Vyners School in Hillingdon, to see him at work…
Click here to find out more about the disability programmes that are run in the community, with seven Super 1s disability hubs giving young people the chance to play regular cricket.