Cricket now open for all

JASON Schmidt is more than just a typical father of three.

In addition to working night shifts in retail and part-time as a relief teacher’s aid, the 34-year-old is committed to using his love of cricket to help people with a disability boost their skills, confidence and social interaction.

To achieve this, Mr Schmidt established the Hurricane Inclusion Cup and the New Town Inclusion projects, giving people living with intellectual and physical disabilities the opportunity to feel a sense of belonging.

“It’s about giving these individuals the opportunity to learn to play cricket in a team environment,” Mr Schmidt said.

“My goal is to encourage people living with disability to come to a club and to play in a club environment – something they may not otherwise be able to do.”

With no cricket programs existing for people with disability in Tasmania, Mr Schmidt works alongside support services to help people aged from 14 to 50-years build skills and potentially join mainstream club teams.

“I decided to develop programs around disability because there is nothing out there,” Mr Schmidt said.

“The Hurricane Inclusion Cup has gone from playing a few games to creating a whole program.

“As such, I’ve now set up services so that coaches can continuously run their own sessions.”

Mr Schmidt said there were “tremendous benefits” for participants both on and off the field.

“Some of the kids I was working with always had support workers who did everything for them, but cricket was a great way for them to develop more independence,” he said.

“Even their parents said they are now more helpful around the house.”

In addition to Mr Schmidt’s dedication to promoting all-abilities sport, he also works as junior development officer at New Town Cricket Club, participation specialist at Cricket Tasmania and southern coordinator for the Special Olympics.

Mr Schmidt said one of the major struggles he encountered was funding shortages.

He said that to keep the initiatives going, he contributed a significant amount of his own time and money.

“There isn’t a lot of funding, so I do a lot of things in my own time – I volunteer about 15 to 20-hours a week,” he said.

Currently, there are between 30 and 40 people participating in the programs each week.

Mr Schmidt said he hoped to expand this number, as well as help a wider sector of the community by also getting blind and deaf people involved in cricket.

“I love doing what I am doing and want to keep it going to help participants feel that they are achieving something,” he said.

Mr Schmidt is part of Cricket Australia’s Community Champions Campaign.

This newly launched initiative highlights grassroots stories around Australia, where individuals are using cricket in a positive and inspiring way.

Caption: Jason Schmidt, pictured with his three children, is a big supporter of promoting pathways to cricket for people with a disability.