The story of the Reynella All Abilities program and its commitment to inclusiveness in cricket
When Callum watched his older brother play cricket in 2011, he said to his father James that he wanted to get involved. But after attending a training session, Callum, who has autism, found the training too difficult and too fast.
James and his wife Jenni from Reynella, SA took it upon themselves to find a suitable program for Callum, but to their surprise, found nothing in South Australia, which spurred them to create their own.
“Callum asked us why there wasn’t a cricket program designed for kids like him and when we couldn’t find one, we thought we’d start one ourselves,” said James.
Five years later, Reynella Cricket Club All Abilities program is an established program that has helped over 40 players with disabilities, including Callum, to pursue cricket in an inclusive environment, enabling players to try their hand with mainstream teams.
With the help of the program, Callum, now 20, has since gone on to represent South Australia in the Special Olympics cricket tournament alongside other Reynella All Abilities players.
James said the program provides an inclusive opportunity that allows kids of any ability to play cricket, all whilst forming friendships and bringing families together.
“We have so many stories of kids who have finished our program and have gone on to play a club sport that they perhaps would have otherwise not played.”
The volunteer-based program has attracted families from all over South Australia to get involved, with James and Jenni’s youngest son Josh, 18, also helping to run sessions.
Alongside providing kids with all abilities the opportunity to play cricket, the sessions also teach participants about teamwork and sharing.
“Most of the kids want to bat all the time and don’t always understand that they need to share and wait their turn, but we teach them that they need to line up and wait their turn as part of a team.
“We have parents that are on the field every week to reinforce these positive messages, while also helping out in general,” said James.
Callum has since moved on from the program but James and Jenni have no plans to slow down and hope to one day play against a team in another all abilities league.
“If even just one kid turns up, we will keep the program going for them,” said James.
Jenni and James’s story is part of Cricket Australia’s Community Champions initiative that aims to share the stories of local heroes making cricket a sport for all.