KINGSTON, Jamaica, CMC – West Indies batting star Chris Gayle on Thursday unveiled the Jamaica edition of his Academy, targeted at inner city communities with the hope of using cricket to address social ills among youth.
Administrators will focus on three specific programmes over the next three years – the Academy team, the Big Six School, and the Big Six Cub – in initiatives that combine sports and social outreach.
The Academy, the second of its kind to be launched by Gayle in as many years, was opened at the Lucas Cricket Club, the venue in East Kingston where the accomplished Test opener spent his boyhood learning the game.
“To be here today and witness myself setting up an academy for underprivileged youngsters to learn the game as well as life skills is indeed an honour and a privilege,” said an emotional Gayle, who is on the cusp of his 100th Test if he plays in the first Test against New Zealand starting at Sabina Park Sunday.
“Being here brings back memories of me as a youngster, who used to jump the walls of Lucas from my house across the street, and just wanting the opportunity to learn the sport of cricket and become a better person.
“To have come from that far, and being here now is quite moving, and the hope is that this academy will similarly open doors and opportunities for youngsters.”
The Academy team will be open to 16 players between ages 16 and 21 who come from inner city Kingston, and will contest fixtures against domestic and international youth teams. All players must undertake volunteer work in order to graduate.
Meanwhile, the Big Six school will be in the form of a three-month education and training programme while the Big Six club will concentrate on outreach in troubled communities.
Jamaica Cricket Association president, Wilford Heaven said the Academy was a transformational venture.
“The setting up of an academy like this speaks to the respect of human life, especially as it relates to the value of education,” he said. “It also has the potential to help identify and nurture young cricketing talents.”
Last year, Gayle launched the first Academy in London, in partnership with the United Kingdom-based sports charities Cricket for Change and Comic Relief, along with the Chris Gayle Foundation.
Thursday’s launch was attended by West Indies Cricket Board president Dave Cameron; West Indies Players Association head, Wavell Hinds; president of Lucas, Oneil Cruickshank and British High Commissioner to Jamaica, David Fitton.