A life in the week of James Leck, head of cricket at Reigate Grammar School in Surrey
Today the 1st XI are playing a T20 match against a Reigate Priory Cricket Club Development XI. The match signifies the beginning of a formalised and official relationship between the school and the club, sharing facilities and coaching. It also provides a good opportunity to prepare for the HMC T20 matches taking place on Sunday. The boys arrive at the idyllic Park Lane ground with a slightly overcast afternoon before them. With an hour before the scheduled start time of 2pm, the boys are put through their paces by our cricket professional former Surrey, Warwickshire and England fast-bowler Joey Benjamin. After a productive warm-up, our captain, decides to bat first having won the toss. As we discovered on our successful tour to Dubai, he has not been shy of leading from the front, contributing 65 off 51 balls, the mainstay of a modest total of 145. Despite a good start, the seam-attack do well to reign them in towards the back end of the match, resulting in a win by five runs. It’s always good to get over the line in a close one early in the season and provides some good momentum into what is going to be a busy week ahead.
A relatively quiet morning at school taking care of the necessary administration, ranging from contacting the relative heads of cricket for our opponents in the coming week to confirm the finer details for the upcoming matches, to ensuring that the transport, catering and grounds arrangements were all in place. Meetings with the director of sport Phil Mann and with Joey finalise all the coaching and staffing arrangements for the week. A slap-up lunch provided by the school provides the perfect end to an administrative morning. Then it’s games afternoon when our U13s come down to our magnificent Hartswood Sports Grounds. Following the warm-up, the boys rotate around fielding drills before heading over to the nets. Joey leads the bowling drills, whilst Tom Lister, the head cricket coach at Reigate Priory, runs a batting drill. The managers and coaches of the U13s age-group are freed up to take aside their wicket-keepers, captains or specific individuals they wish to do some 1-2-1 work with. Meanwhile, a number of boys who are just keen to play some cricket and have some fun, get involved in some diamond and baseball cricket games. After school, our exciting U12s team head down for their session, again rotating around fielding, batting and bowling stations for the duration of the session. I like to place a lot of emphasis on all participants being as active as possible throughout a session, whilst being given the opportunity to practise all aspects of the game and we really see the benefits in this session.
The morning starts with a tutor group meeting. I share a year 9 form with a fellow member of the sports department and Wednesday morning is quiz time. Who knows that teenagers have such a vast knowledge of countries in the world, their capitals and flags? I never fail to be impressed by their enthusiasm. A lively and energetic group, they always bring a smile to my face on a Wednesday morning. Finally it is down to some teaching - KS3 history with a 2nd form group – World War One, the Battle of the Somme – meaty stuff, ascertaining whether General Haig was a butcher using a kinaesthetic sources activity where the students rotated around in groups gathering information to form their own judgement. An A-level PE meeting follows, discussing the content to be covered before the sixth form head off for study leave. It’s a relatively pacey morning, transitioning from one thing to the next without let up, but that is exactly what I love about this role. After grabbing a quick bite to eat, it is off to Dulwich College for a 1st XI match. Navigating a minibus from Reigate to Dulwich is not the easiest of tasks, especially with the number of traffic lights en route. However, we make it in good time and, after a quick warm-up, the captain wins the toss and elects to bat. After a shaky start, 11-2 at one stage, two fantastic partnerships from the middle order propel us to 209-4 off our 35 overs, the captain contributing 76 not our off 62 balls. A strong start from Dulwich keeps them at the rate, something that they maintain throughout. Despite taking wickets at key times, their number six comes in and chances his arm to get them over the line with three overs to go. Despite being an encouraging performance against a strong side, there is a disappointed dressing-room to console afterwards and although there is plenty to work on, there are a considerable number of positives to take from the match.
A-Level PE starts the day - violence in sport - looking at causes and implications, strategies and solutions to prevent it, whilst working through examples and the impact on players, spectators and sport itself. A relatively quiet morning follows, mopping up bits of admin and planning that needs doing, before heading to Hartswood with the U15s for the afternoon. This is an age-group that have a lot of promise and potential, encouraging signs for the 1st XI over the next few years. The U13s follow after-school, then a relatively quiet evening with my wife – much needed, given the hectic weekend ahead.
I have also been an acting head of house since the new year, and leading an assembly for a quarter of the school can be a daunting task, particularly given the amount of organisation required on this occasion. With the seniors taking part in house sport after-school, we have cricket, rounders, tennis and Ultimate Frisbee teams to finalise, whilst the rest of the house have to sort out house swimming that will be taking place the following week. The morning contains some more history teaching, Henry VIII, with the 1st form, before meeting with Phil and Joey to ensure everything is planned for next week. Again, a relatively quiet morning before heading to Hartswood with the U12s. This is a lively session with over 70 boys playing cricket in lots of 6- a-side trial matches, our first proper look at the while cohort. A lot of fun is had by all. Usually the 1st XI would come down for training after school, but it is senior house sport this afternoon. Running the cricket and overseeing the other events in my head of house capacity ensures that the FitBit registers the usual 20,000 steps for the day. House events are always brilliant fun, with dressing up, house mascots, face paint, banners and chants. All the seniors get stuck in and enjoy a fun afternoon, especially with the cricket being decided on a super over, a first.
The day starts with the U12s playing against St John’s, Leatherhead - two comfortable wins and strong performances are an encouraging start to the season. The 1st XI arrive during the morning to have a hit and a bowl in the nets before we leave for our first block fixtures of the season against Sutton Valence. Although some weather in the morning threatens things, it soon clears up and once again the captain wins the toss and elects to bat. Fifties from the top three help us compile 226 from our 35 overs. The total is always beyond our opponent’s reach, particularly following some tight bowling upfront. A win by 51 runs, some good momentum going into the HMC T20 match tomorrow. Overall a cracking block against Sutton Valence, fantastic hospitality and a genuine pleasure to spend the afternoon with Vince Wells, their head of cricket. The block finishes 4-4 with a number of close matches, and a thoroughly worthwhile afternoon for all. After the long drive home and a lovely dinner cooked with my wife, it is off to bed with another long day ahead.
The big one. Having known for a good few months now that we would have to advance to the next round by getting past a strong Cranleigh side, the boys had prepared well and were all set in front of a big crowd at fortress Hartswood. Having won the toss and inserted the opposition, who were 30-2 after five and well set, the boys let things slip in the middle overs with a crucial dropped catch and some counter-attacking batting from Cranleigh. However, the boys reign it in towards the back end with only three boundaries conceded in the last ten overs. We know that chasing 175, everything will have to go our way. However, our boys cannot compete against our opponent’s intensity, something that we learn a considerable amount from. It’s a dignified and concerted effort from the boys, who ultimately are out of their depth against a far stronger Cranleigh opposition. But I am immensely proud of their attitude and determination throughout the game. They are unfailing in their composure and work rate. In the final game of the day we take on St Lawrence, and enjoy a comfortable victory by 41 runs, capping off a great week with plenty of highs and just a couple of lows.
A LIFE IN THE WEEK OF