This month, Club Matters met with English cricketer Sam Northeast to hear about his involvement in grassroots sports and his desire to encourage more people to get involved in cricket.
How old where you when you joined your first Cricket club and what was it called?
I joined Sandwich Cricket Club which is local to me when I was probably about eight or nine, and it was one of those where I’d just been to loads of other clubs and tried sports such as rugby, and football, and other cricket clubs. I reckon it was just a really relaxed atmosphere and a really enjoyable one which made me tick there whereaswith other clubs, it felt quite intense and I think at that time when I was that young, all I wanted to do really was go out and have a bit of fun and enjoy being around people and not necessarily get ever too technical or anything like that. I just wanted to play a load of games and get involved in cricket that way and I think Sandwich was the perfect bit. It was just a really nice sort of family atmosphere, and that’s how I started out and that’s really how I enjoyed cricket. I think all youngsters really want to do is go out and play, and just have as much fun as possible, I think it’s when it gets sort of intense, then, and too technical is when I didn’t enjoy it and I know when I went to other clubs I didn’t really enjoy that, and I was quite stubborn. I was just like I don’t want to go to those clubs, but with Sandwich I think I just hit it off, and I think my character probably helped, as that was the kind of atmosphere that I wanted at that age and to really hit it off.
How important was this grassroots introduction to sport in your personal development and in becoming a professional athlete?
It’s huge really in a lot of ways, because with that first few years, you start playing a sport, you want to fall in love with it really, and as you say I went to a load of other sort of environments with football and rugby and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did with cricket, and that was why I found the love of the game, and then when you get older you get into academies and you get on a path, like with Kent Cricket Club and then went on to play in the England set up and that obviously gets very professional, but then you can always go back to your club and you’ve always got a home there, you’ve always got a coach you’ve worked with since the age of eight or nine, somebody who you enjoy and somebody you can just go and chat to and you have that love of the game, and that’s always going to be home in an odd way, where, when you get into professional sport, it’s very intense, the pressure’s on, where you can just go back to the club, there’s a great social atmosphere, you can just go and have chats with people and actually you take the whole stress of being a professional cricketer out, the pressure’s completely gone so, I think that’s why you build relationships and how you make friends for life even from that young age; you can always go back and you can always talk to the people who you’ve coached even from you know nine, ten or eleven, all the way up.
What do you remember about the club? (the atmosphere, culture, social aspects, how it was run, the people you met there?)
Kevin Beaumont was actually Tammy Beaumont’s father, so Tammy obviously now playing for England’s Women, she used to play with us, she used to train, and I remember Kevin (Tammy’s dad), he was the one who created this sort of fun, but hard-working atmosphere. At a young age all I wanted to do was win all the time, so we used to just go and play in all these comps, and all I wanted to do was get a trophy at the end of the day, that was my main goal, or to be top run scorer throughout the competition and Kevin, (Tammy’s dad), used to put in loads of hours and it would just be fun, so it was nothing really technical or anything like that, it was just ‘go out and have as much fun as you can’. He’d always tell me to keep the ball on the floor; I used to hit the ball too much in the air and he always used to say ‘keep the ball on the floor’ and ‘don’t get out’ and stuff like that. But it was great and he was a big part of me getting into cricket really.
What is your fondest memory of sport when you were younger?
I was very into cricket and sport, I loved it from a young age and I think just going out and playing your first tested matches as a team, you remember those and winning little competitions along the way, that’s just great fun and you have as much fun there as you probably ever do really, because then the pressure and everything ramps up as you get older. But you play with people there, who you know play Club Cricket Sandwich now and you can always go back and see them. So that’s the great thing about playing club cricket, you make friends for life there really.
Is there a particular volunteer/club member from anywhere along your incredible journey that made a real impact in your life? Is there anything you would like to say to them?
I mentioned Kevin Beaumont already and he was brilliant, he was fantastic and the number of hours he put in was great. You can see what Tammy’s doing now on the big stage, he knows his cricket really well and to have somebody at such a young age teach you about cricket, that was great. I had Tim Burley as well, he did a bit of work at Sandwich, but then he did a bit of work at my school as well, and again he was somebody who loved the game, a little bit old-school in his approach, he was very much four-day cricket-based so he used to always tell me not to go out and stuff like that. But these guys, they’ll probably go unnoticed and the amount of time and effort they put into not just me, but to the number of children who come through that system and I think it’s all credit to them that I really enjoyed that atmosphere and wanted to come back every single time, and just really enjoyed that family environment that they created so that’s all credit to them and they’re still doing it, they’ll do it forever and hopefully they’ll get the credit. I’m sure lots of people owe it to them for getting into cricket and being such a big part of their lives really.
Do you plan on volunteering your time and giving back to the sport that made you the man you are today?
Absolutely, I mean I do feel a bit worried at the moment that there’s not as many people playing cricket as there probably should be and how we get to that stage, do we make it more fun? That’s what I found when I was young, it was all very much game-based, and the pressure was completely off. We have to make cricket exciting, and hopefully with the new 100 competition and T20 taking off etcetera, we’re getting more and more kids getting involved in the game. I think that numbers are going down in cricket unfortunately and there’s so much competition from other sports, we’re going to have to make cricket fun. I think coaches are a huge part of that and I was very lucky to have two or three of the very best who really started me on the journey, and if anything I want to replicate what they did for me and to help people get into the game, to enjoy it and to really find that passion for playing, and it’s not necessarily all about going and playing professional sport, it’s just trying to get that love of the game and to play on weekends for your club team or wherever it is, that’s what you want. I’m doing a bit of work for a charity and going to Hong Kong and hopefully trying to help people out there but, wherever it is, just trying to get as many people back involved in the game. There’re so many different people I could thank in my career, but hopefully I could give that back at some stage and really try to grow the game.
Is there any message you’d like to give to the volunteers who help run thousands of sports clubs up and down the country?
As I’ve probably said, the work which a lot of people do in getting these sports clubs up and running is huge and probably goes unnoticed at times, and people probably don’t get the credit they deserve. But at such a young age it’s so important to get people involved and active, out and playing and enjoying. All we can say is thank you and all I can say is, when you get the atmosphere right at a sports club it is so much fun; you get memories forever and friendships for a long time as well.