Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
Today we talk to the NCU's Club and Workforce officer and Lisburn cricketer Callum Atkinson
How are you keeping?
I think like most people in the cricket community, it has been a frustrating two or three months without any cricket activity, however Iím trying to stay as positive as possible and looking forward to starting back up again, whenever that might be. The weatherís been brilliant which has been good and bad. It is nice to do some exercise and enjoy the sun although I canít stop thinking how good a season we would be having if clubs could reap the benefits of this weather.
How is the virus affecting you?
I have been lucky to continue my work with the NCU during COVID-19. Work has changed a lot. The other team members and I are used to working and supporting clubs at this time of year with their school and club programmes but weíve had to adapt and weíll take plenty of learning during this time into our work post COVID-19.
The team were challenged by the Chairman and our General Manager at the start of lockdown to find ways to continue our engagement with schools, clubs, and the general cricket community. Our online learning platform, NCU Google Classroom, has helped us engage with cricketers to continue their development at home and, much like other organisations, we are delivering a lot of webinars, zoom calls and taking this time to plan for the future.
In terms of my own club, Lisburn CC, Adam Berry (the captain) and everyone at the club was very much looking forward to this season after a few new recruits and I know the LCC supporters were excited to see the likes of Josh Manley and Boyd Rankin bowling at the Park. However, this time has given our committee an opportunity to plan and organise. Much like other clubs during this time, we are trying to complete our Sport NI Clubmark award which we hope to complete by the end of this summer.
How are you keeping fit?
Iím not usually the fittest player in the team or the first to do any extra fitness after practice and Iím sure my Lisburn teammates would vouch for that, however with little else to do Iíve been running and cycling. Iíve also been working with Shane Getkate (SG Coaching) who has provided me with an S&C programme to complete during lockdown. So, ironically, I have probably had my best preseason without any cricket to play.
How are you keeping morale up and how is the team bonding?
Iím lucky that Iím part of a strong team both in work and at my club. We have been engaging through WhatsApp, zoom calls and quizzes etc. which helps keep morale up by staying in contact with people. Other than that, my morale is fairly high due to looking forward to cricket returning in whatever shape that may be.
And where are you drawing your personal strength from now?
Exercising has been a great tool to stay motivated. Other than the physical benefits of running and cycling it has given me something to look forward to each day and challenge myself during COVID-19.
Sports fans are staying at home too Ė recommend a book/film and box set please.
Iím sure a lot of sports people will give you the same answer, but The Last Dance docuseries on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls is one to watch. More specifically to cricket The Test docuseries that followed the Australian team post the ball tampering scandal is another great watch. Both series give an insight to what it takes to become an elite player or coach.
What life lessons are you learning from this crisis?
Donít take playing and coaching cricket for granted. Like everyone, I canít wait to get back and I think we need to look for ways to offer more playing opportunities all year round. We are currently planning an indoor cricket programme for schools and clubs during the winter months and hopefully this will help to sustain cricket going forward.
When this is all over, whatís the first thing youíll do?
Go to Wallace Park for a net followed by refreshments with the team and the LCC Ultras in the clubhouse.
Message to supporters?
Make sure you wait until we get the all clear to play cricket, make sure you follow all the correct protocols at your club and letís make the most of cricket when it returns.