Ted Hayes wondered what would keep young people in one of America’s most violent ghettos away from drugs and crime? Cricket of course!
WHO? Ted Hayes WHAT? Compton Cricket Club, for young people from the ghetto WHERE? Compton, California, United States WHEN? 1996 WHY? In deprived black neighbourhoods, a civilising, edifying alternative was desperately needed
There’s nothing special about Ted Hayes, a 53-year-old social activist from Los Angeles. He has dreadlocks, is an outspoken advocate of the homeless and was once shot by the police. Yet he regularly attends meetings of the Republican Party and leaves messages on conservative websites. Most surprisingly of all, he set up a cricket team in Compton California, one of the most dangerous, violent cities in America.
Cricket is a sport for the elite, where players are dressed in white flannel suits and take breaks for cucumber sandwiches. At first glance, it’s the last sport that would attract young men in this predominately African-American community where gangsta rap was born. But Hayes, who has voluntarily spent the better part of the past 20 years living on the street, has the feeling that kids really need the sport’s intricate rules and genteel tradition to separate themselves from the violence of the street gangs and drugs.
In 1996, when he founded the Compton Cricket Club, he put his theory in practice. The results were remarkable. These disadvantaged kids, several of whom had been gang members, became enthusiastic about the game and were so good at it they toured England. The tour included a visit to Buckingham Palace and tea with Prince Edward.
Even more impressive was what happened to the players themselves. Eric McKee, a school principal in Compton remarked: “I see their personalities change. They seem more lively, there’s a lot of joy, they’re making more of an effort in school. Their marks have improved.” Hayes isn’t surprised. “Cricket is a civilising – even edifying – force in the local community.”
Hollywood producers are currently preparing to make a film about the Compton Cricket Club.