Two-time St Lucia volunteer sports coach, Manish Patel, shares his experience during his trips to St. Lucia and the lasting effect it has had on him and his career.
“Back in March 2013, I was looking for something to do in my Easter holidays, in particular something to do with cricket. I was browsing the internet and I came across Sporting Opportunities. They provided sports coaching trips to people in different countries. I saw one which was in the Caribbean, and jumped at the opportunity to be part of it.
I’d always wanted to go to the Caribbean. I’d heard the atmosphere was incredible; wherever you go the people are very friendly as well as very laid back which suits my personality well. Also heard the nightlife out there is amazing, which I can now definitely agree with!
At the time, I was in the middle of finishing my first year of university, studying Accounting and Finance. As well as this, I was also working part-time as a cricket coach, for a UK Charity called The Change Foundation and saw the trip as an interest-related break, both taking in my passion for sport, wanting to travel and doing something meaningful for another community.
On arrival in St. Lucia we were assigned to local schools and afterschool clubs, across the island. The aim would be to try and engage kids and help them improve upon their ability of cricket through structured sessions. Thanks to in-country manager, Joël Martin, we were also very fortunate in coaching some of the island’s most talented female cricketers, at The Darren Sammy Cricket Ground! The chance to coach at such an impressive venue was a great experience for me.
As well as coaching, we also had time to relax and enjoy the island’s popular excursions such as climbing Pigeon Point, going to the Pitons, countless number of nights out in Rodney Bay and my personal favourite, Rum Tasting! From the overall experience I have personally grown in confidence immensely. My coaching has improved dramatically, due to the limited coaching resources we had in the Caribbean; it made me think on the spot on how to structure sessions. I’m now able to construct and deliver coaching sessions, with minimal coaching resources and still be effective. The rapport I had with one particular school, SDA was something which was very special for me. With our help, they managed to reach the national schools final day, and it was fantastic to see the work you’ve done actually pays off. The atmosphere and passion the boys shared about cricket was amazing and they were very grateful for all the help we did with them, many of whom I am still in touch with.
Before the end of my first stint in St. Lucia I’d fallen in love with the island. I really didn’t want to leave after my first visit, so in January 2016, I decided to return. I also have to admit, I missed the nights out as well, in particular the street parties were incredible! I really do consider St Lucia to be my second home.
Personally, I believe the whole experience has shaped me in many ways. I’m now confident in presenting myself to people who I’ve not met before and taking the lead on challenging situations at work. I am also able to think outside the box and come up with quick and effective solutions to things.
Since my time in Saint Lucia, I have gone onto complete my degree in Accounting and Finance, graduating with a 2.1! I’ve completed 8/14 of my accounting exams, so 6 more away before I’m a fully qualified accountant. However, in light of my experiences on my travels, I have been looking towards an alternative career path and I’ve been working as a coach for Surrey County Cricket Club and Essex County Cricket Board. Currently working as a programme manager for Essex County Cricket Board, I’ve worked very hard to improve not only my coaching, as well as my personal skills as well. The hard work paid off, as I was named the 2016 ECB National Young Coach of The Year.
And all this can be attributed to a few weeks spent doing something constructive on a small island in the Caribbean, helping shape my passion for sport and young people which is now steering my career path in more ways than one.”