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By Peter Della Penna
DreamCricket.com is wrapping up the year in United States Cricket by recognizing USA’s standout performers at the international level. This year, DreamCricket.com is also taking an opportunity to commend individuals off the field who have made an outstanding contribution to the overall fabric of the cricket community in America. The recipient of the 2011 Shekhar Aravind Award for Spirit of Cricket is Jamie Harrison. The award is presented by the New Inning Foundation.
Thousands of cricketers across America pour plenty of sweat into playing club matches on weekends throughout the year. However, there are only a select few people who focus their time and energy on the development and sustainability of the sport in the USA.
Image (right) - Jamie Harrison [Courtesy: USYCA]
Such people are invaluable to cricket. While they may not score runs or take wickets, their spirit for the game does so much to create opportunities for others to cherish experiences out in the middle. Jamie Harrison’s spirit for the game is evident in his selfless mission as President of the United States Youth Cricket Association.
Cricket has a mystifying way of captivating people for all sorts of reasons. Harrison was not drawn to cricket because he wanted to hit sixes or bowl 150 kph. He was initially sucked into the sport out of a desire to support the wishes and interests of his history pupils at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Baltimore, Maryland. They came across cricket during a Civil War reenactment on a class trip to Richmond, Virginia in April of 2008. Harrison saw that his kids were more interested in talking about cricket than anything else that occurred on the trip and before long he helped his students form a team.
When Cardinal Gibbons closed in the spring of 2010, Harrison could very easily have walked away from cricket altogether. Instead, he committed himself to starting the Maryland Youth Cricket Association and not long after that, the USYCA. Harrison laid out a plan with remarkable vision to encourage other cricket administrators across the country to form state youth cricket associations and come together under the umbrella of the USYCA.
In less than two years, the USYCA has donated nearly 1000 cricket sets for use in schools all across America, creating an opportunity for hundreds of thousands of American children to have access to cricket. Harrison has cultivated positive relationships with local civic groups, school districts, physical education teachers and the media to help bring greater attention to his mission and opened the door for more cricket sets to come in and thus provide more opportunities for more kids to play.
More and more people believe in his vision and are willing to get behind it. Most recently, the Apple Pickers Foundation gave the USYCA a $22,000 grant. Such a donation for grassroots cricket in America was unfathomable before the USYCA came along.
Image (left) - Harrison gives a presentation on spreading cricket to the masses. [Courtesy: USYCA]
Harrison’s development vision extends to coaching as well. He was certified at an ICC coaching course in 2009 and then took the initiative to organize an ICC Level One coaching course this past October. If there are more kids wanting to learn how to play cricket, there must be more coaches to be able to teach them and Harrison is leaving no stone unturned to make sure that happens. His boundless spirit and enthusiasm for cricket is not only a source of guidance for others, but hope that the game will have a genuine opportunity to be spread to as much of the American population as possible.
This award is named in memory of Shekhar Aravind, who tragically passed away on August 2 at the age of 38 from injuries sustained in a boating accident on Lake Michigan. “Shekhs” served as the President of the Midwest Cricket Conference and hoped that the “promotion of youth cricket in academies, schools and districts will pique interest and help grow the crowds here in the Midwest and around the country.” It is fitting that the inaugural Shekhar Aravind Award for the Spirit of Cricket goes to someone who characterizes those very ideals.
Image (right) - Shekhar Aravind
"I know Shekhar would be honored and truly touched to know that this award is being given in his honor,” said Mini Nair, the widow of Shekhar Aravind. “Shekhar was very passionate and full of spirit for most things but cricket was his most cherished. Thank you all so much for your love, support, friendship, and for this honor."
In recognition of his contributions to the American cricket community, Harrison will receive a plaque as well as a $250 gift certificate sponsored by the New Inning Foundation and DreamCricket.com.