Forest Gate woman who coaches cricket up for national sporting award

Saba Nasim has been chosen as a finalist in the category of Local Hero of the Year for the Mirror's

Saba Nasim has been chosen as a finalist in the category of Local Hero of the Year for the Mirror's Pride of Sport Awards. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

A woman credited for introducing scores of girls to the game of cricket has been nominated for a national sporting gong.

Saba Nasim of Windsor Road, Forest Gate, is a finalist in the 2016 Pride of Sport Awards’ Local Hero category, which recognises an individual who has worked tirelessly to make an impact on sport in their local community.

The 28-year-old solicitor, who coaches girls’ team the Redbridge Rangers and teaches a weekly cricket session at Wanstead Cricket Club, said she was “surprised” but “delighted” by the nomination.

“I think it will be fantastic to show the work is being recognised at a national level and to show girls what they can achieve as well if they go into coaching,” she said.

Taking place on December 7, the national awards are by no means Saba’s first brush with recognition.

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She was presented with a Points of Light award by Samantha Cameron earlier this year after being nominated by cricket charity Chance to Shine, which helped her to achieve her Level 2 cricket coaching qualification in 2013.

She was also named England and Wales Cricket Board’s (ECB) Coach of the Year in 2015, and received the same accolade at the Chance to Shine annual awards last month, an amazing feat considering the significant setbacks she faced when she started coaching.

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Back in 2013, Essex Cricket Board and Chance to Shine wanted to get more girls playing the sport in east London.

“It was an area that wasn’t showing that much activity for sport,” Saba said, who now has 70 girls aged from eight to 18 under her wing, with 15-20 turning up to play on a weekly basis.

The ex-Plashet School pupil initially approached 15 to 20 schools in Newham and Redbridge in May 2013 to offer taster sessions.

“The schools were very reluctant to let us in because cricket wasn’t on the curriculum,” she said. “They were not willing to think about it and they said no.”

Despite this she persevered by speaking to girls during assemblies and offering after-school sessions, although she said no-one turned up for the first two classes.

In fact it wasn’t until the fourth week when Saba and one coach ensured the one participant who did come enjoyed herself so much that she brought along her friends the next time.

“It just grew from there,” said Saba, adding that at a beginners level it is vital to get girls to “enjoy” the sport.

“I try to make sure that fun is a big element of it,” she said.

Different skills such as bowling or fielding are tested each week and many of the girls, a majority of whom are from the Asian community, “enjoy it so much that they bring their sisters along”.

Collectively, Redbridge Rangers has won seven Chance to Shine competitions with three of the older participants finding the confidence and skills to join Wanstead Cricket Club.

As well as this, members can develop their social and life skills, from confidence and teamwork to CV-writing tips and first aid.

As for Saba, she has a passion for cricket that will always keep her playing.

“I just love the sport, I couldn’t live without it now,” she said.

Watch the Daily Mirror Pride of Sport awards show in Partnership with TSB through their official Youtube Channel on December 7.

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