Danny Hall Column: Saluting the unsung sporting heroes who keep our local clubs ticking

The scene at Thorpe Hesley High Green CC, where volunteers give so much of their time. Picture: www.ellylucas.co.uk

The scene at Thorpe Hesley High Green CC, where volunteers give so much of their time. Picture: www.ellylucas.co.uk

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They are the hidden heroes who do the jobs no-one else will; from painting and preparing pitches to making teas and organising kit, with everything inbetween.

We all know the type. If you’ve experienced any grass roots sporting event, ever, then they’ll have been there; a dad running the line at the football, or a daughter bringing out the drinks at the cricket while younger brothers fight over who bats next in the nets.

The Taylor family: Richard, Kelly, Jessica, Harry and Charlie

The Taylor family: Richard, Kelly, Jessica, Harry and Charlie

Financial recompense is rarely forthcoming, but the heroes turn up every week anyway. They coach our youngsters, pull our pints but, rarely, receive our gratitude.

Until now. Last week, two members of my cricket club were shortlisted for the Yorkshire Cricket Board’s Outstanding Service to Cricket Awards, cleverly known as the OSCAs.

One, Andy Fisher, is in the Clubman category and if there has ever been a more deserving recipient, I’m yet to see them. The Taylor family are up for the Brian Stone Award, hailing the Club Family of the Year, and again the title couldn’t be more fitting; dad Richard is first-team captain and head groundsman who built a bar in the clubhouse over the summer, mum Kelly is in charge of one of the best teas in the region amongst many other things while kids Jessica, Charlie and Harry help out, inbetween running breathlessly around the outfield for hours dreaming of their own sporting glory.

“It gives us a great feeling to actually have the efforts and work we’ve put in, before and during the season, recognised and appreciated by someone like the Yorkshire Cricket Board,” Richard said.

Charlie Taylor bowls at dad Richard in the nets. Picture: www.ellylucas.co.uk

Charlie Taylor bowls at dad Richard in the nets. Picture: www.ellylucas.co.uk

“And as a father I’m overwhelmed with pride with my family for it.

“As the old members of the club sadly left, year by year, it left gaps in the club that needed to be filled - like groundsman, captain, tea lady, cleaner, maintenance guy and general dogsbody!

“That’s where we had to step in for the sake of keeping the club going and then improving and moving forward in the right direction.”

They aren’t alone, of course, either at this club or any other around the region.

Andy Fisher

Andy Fisher

It isn’t specific to cricket, either. Nathan Batchelor, the secretary of the Sheffield & District Junior League, told me recently that he “easily” spends 40 hours a week on league admin duties - roughly the equivilent to a working week. The vindication for him is the smooth running of the largest football league in Europe, with over a thousand teams and 12,000 players.

A lot of kids, and a lot of opportunities to play the game.

“I feel very humbled and privileged to have been thought of in such a light by my fellow teammates and the club chairman, whom nominated me,” Fisher added.

“I’ve been playing almost 20 years now, and spent the last 13 combining playing roles in several different senior sides, alongside many of the admin roles involved in running a cricket club - inluding my current positions as a team captain, a junior team manager and club secretary, and just about everything else in between over the years.

“Cricket has been more than just a part of my life, most of the time it is my life.

“I feel a bit guilty almost that I have been singled out as an individual, for any successful club relies on so much more than one person.

“We have a minimum of 30 players for our senior sides, a minimum of 10 people to run our club fundraising car boot sales, people to do scoring, groundwork, junior coaching, making teas on match days... Those are all an integral part of why our club is running successfully, because we have these people volunteering.”

“It would be wrong to single out individuals in what is a team effort,” Fisher added, “but certainly I’d like to congratulate the Taylor family for their nomination too.

“It’s well deserved for the outstanding commitment and hard work that they put in continually, both as a family and as individuals to the club.

“Ashley Reynolds seems to spend every spare minute of his life doing groundwork, along with Richard and another “behind the scenes man” - my brother Chris Fisher - who has been responsible for the finance and money side of the club since day one, as well as Iain MacDonald for the nomination.

“Hopefully the award night will be a great evening at Yorkshire cricket’s HQ, one which I will remember for a long time!”

We saw a volunteering boom at the London 2012 Olympic Games, when men and women from all over the country booked holidays and leave to give up their time for nothing, apart from a few badges, a bit of kit and the knowledge that they had made a difference - no matter how small.

Many of us owe so much to so few and, tragically, this breed of selfless, willing volunteer is often only missed once they’re gone.