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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 May, 2003, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Spreading the cricket gospel
By James Standley

Former Warwickshire all-rounder Paul Smith is heading out to Los Angeles for three weeks in mid-June to spread the gospel of cricket in the USA.

Smith is hooking up with the Compton Cricket Club, which was founded by political activist Ted Hayes in California to help get gang members and homeless people back on the straight and narrow.

Ted Hayes and the Compton club on tour in England
Hayes (left) is the driving force behind the Compton club

Smith has launched a project in Birmingham, called Cricket Without Boundaries, which works with the unemployed, and he is hoping a transatlantic link-up can benefit both parties.

In the Birmingham project, which also utilises the skills of the Pertemps job agency, Smith works with groups of the long-term unemployed for two weeks at Edgbaston's state of the art indoor cricket school.

The project concentrates as much on working with the participants' outlook on life as it does their cricketing abilities, and Smith claims 40% of the people who take part in it go back into employment.

Smith was part of the Warwickshire side which won the treble in 1994 under the innovative leadership of Bob Woolmer and Dermot Reeve.

Paul Smith
Smith was part of the hugely successful Warwickshire side of the mid-90s

And in the winter of 1994/95 he went to the US where he became interested in the importance of communication in coaching, hence part his interest in going back out to the States.

He told the BBC Sport website: "The idea was to create long-term employment for people by using cricket, which I'd witnessed being used in prisons and young offenders' institutions in all parts of America.

"Two years down the road we've got a success rate that is far in excess of anyone else who tries to do anything similar."

Smith hopes his trip to LA will help him improve the work done in this country.

"The Compton Cricket Club works in an area - the east side of Los Angeles - which in many people's eyes is not desirable.

"But if you actually go and spend time there you will see the amazing work they do.

From bullets to balls
From gats [guns] to bats
From streets of concrete
To grass and mats
We're playin' cricket!

Compton CC team rap

"We can bring those ideas back to this country and we can make a difference on the streets we walk on a daily basis.

"I know what works, I know what doesn't work, but I'm still searching and that's what will keep it moving forward."

Although cricket may seem an unlikely medium for helping people, Smith thinks it is an ideal tool.

"I can take a group of complete strangers, spend three or four hours with them and put them through certain cricketing activities that aren't going to tax them physically and it will identify things in them that they take for granted.

Hugely positive

"Both things that they do, and things that they don't.

"We have had massive results and it is hugely positive."

The idea of an Englishman coaching cricket in the 'hood may seem bizarre, but Smith is convinced it makes sense.

And if he can convince just one gang member the only gat (slang for gun) worth knowing about is the former England captain, he will feel it is a job well done.

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