Thursday, March 31, 2011

Matthew Salmon - Positive Cricket

Matt Salmon has a busy summer ahead of him, once getting past his college exams he will have sun filled days not just playing cricket, but coaching at his home club of Petersfield, Dorset County juniors as well as his involvement in the English Schools Cricket Association (ESCA) national finals. As he said to me he shall be “eating, sleeping and breathing cricket”

It has been a rapid rise for Matthew into the coaching ranks, having started his cricket playing at a late stage of colts in 2007 with Petersfield U15 in a familiar fashion to many of us being asked to help fill in for a side lacking in numbers, this helping hand led to a successful season with lot of wickets and runs.

Like many of us, Matt's first experience of cricket was enough to pull him deeper into the fabric of life at a vibrant cricket club, having suddenly found himself involved coaching U11’s at Petersfield, he was getting full use of his Level 1 Course. From this and a family connection between his father and Dorset Under 11’s Coach Don Crawford, Matt found himself putting in the early stages of a coaching apprenticeship under Don.

Matt described his first year at Dorset in 2009 as a chance to observe and be involved in small groups specializing in wicket-keeping, but also found himself coaching seam bowling and general batting technique. From this humble beginning of retrieving cricket balls and laying out markers Matt had shown a knack for getting the best from the young chargers in his command, and in January 2010 he was given the opportunity to be heavily involved in the pre-season preparations of the side until Easter, it was with his infectious enthusiasm that he was named as Assistant Coach of the U11 Dorset side.
It was around this time that Matt’s story takes a dramatic turn in events, with such a quick rise into the ranks of junior coaching, and having embarked on his Level 2 Course Matt found himself short of breathe and struggling to play cricket. On examination by a doctor he was diagnosed with a very rare form of lung & throat cancer. With the diagnosis of a damaged lung, a large tumour is his left lung and 7 weeks of intense radiotherapy scheduled, Matt was only able to find a small amount of time to return to the nets of Petersfield CC. It seemed that the fresh air , the friendly nature of a cricket club and the continued chasing of cricket balls was just the medicine for Matt as on his return to the doctor it seemed that his lung had almost fully healed itself. Some would call such an event a miracle, from talking to Matt it was clearly a result of a positive sense of being.

With the cancer setting him back a mere 2 weeks in hospital, a time he describes as a lonely moment when all he could think of was his friends, fellow team-mates and returning to cricket, Matt returned to coaching with Petersfield CC and Dorset in a bumper season for the youngsters as they went on to win all bar a single match against Somerset, including a memorial 9 wicket victory over Hampshire.

From his achievements with Dorset junior program Matt found himself invited to be involved in the National ESCA cricket finals being held at Derbyshire’s County Ground, being involved in both the ASDA QWIK finals and also the hard ball finals, whilst he was up there he had the opportunity to meet the English cricket team’s king of the lads Graeme Swann on the final day. Matt's 2010 was one of ups and downs and was to finish off with a surprised nomination and short list for Hampshire & IOW's Outstanding Personal Achievement to Sport, which he unfortunately did not go on to win.

2011 could well be Matt's last year with Dorset, as he is hoping to attend university in the Autumn, but despite his drive to attend Nottingham University to study physiotherapy, coaching will not be far from his mind, and he hopes to continue his involvement within a County set-up during or after his return. The way Matt speaks of coaching, is not of a career choice or opportunity to be famous, but is for the joy of helping others and the pleasure you can receive in return from seeing them do well.

It obvious that Matt's illness has changed his outlook on not just coaching, but life itself and it reflects in the way he talks of his philosophy of fun while learning and providing the players with a stress free platform from which to step towards success. An answer you don’t expect from a 19 year old.

**This article is part of an ongoing series for the Hampshire Cricket Board on people involved in grassroots cricket. If you know of any extraordinary people involved in the Hampshire Leagues, please get in contact with the Cricket Observer. All past and present articles can be found in the HCB Archive**

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