Because every child deserves a chance in life

Chance to Shine is a national charity that aims to give all children the chance develop and grow through playing cricket.

In their own words, they “use cricket to teach children important key life skills that will help them beyond the playground. Through the values of cricket, they teach children about respect and fair play and see cricket as an effective way to develop skills like communication, leadership and perseverance that will benefit them throughout their life.”

Here we catch up with their CEO, Laura Cordingley about the work Chance to Shine do, her own journey into the world of sport and how she copes with some of the more daunting elements of her role. Alternatively, you can read the full article in our SKQ: SPORTS Issue.

Tell us more about what you do.

I’m CEO at Chance to Shine, a national cricket charity. Our mission is to help children and young people play, learn and develop their wider wellbeing through cricket. We very much focus on ensuring they have fun, develop a positive association with sport and in doing so develop their personal and physical wellbeing in areas such as confidence, resilience, teamwork and leadership skills – all of which we know will help them well beyond cricket! We work with around 500,000 children a year in 5,000 state schools and 200 disadvantaged communities. Our programmes focus on removing barriers such as cost (everything is free), transport (on doorsteps) and apprehension (very welcoming and inclusive environments). As a medium-sized charity my work is very varied no two days are ever the same and a lot of my time is spent meeting with stakeholders, partners and government to help us achieve our aims and those of the people we work with.  

What was your first job?

I had a part-time job in McDonald’s when I was at school! It taught me a lot about customer service as I hated speaking to people I didn’t know before then. It also helped me to understand budgeting at a young age as I was able to save up to go on holiday with friends, while I was in sixth form, which felt like such an adult thing to do at the time.

How did you get into the world of sports?

LC: I got involved by chance, which I am grateful for, but part of the reason I’m so passionate about helping children access sport is exactly that – so many miss out on the positive benefits just because they haven’t been given an accessible opportunity to take part. My primary school secretary was a netball coach and her daughter played at a junior club. I was very tall as a child (still am!) and I think I was a logical spot for someone with a netball mind. I was also fortunate that my parents had a car so my Mam could drive me to training as it was about half an hour from where we lived.

You work with and pitch to an array of large companies. What do you enjoy about pitching and how do you prepare for pitches?

I really love talking to people about what we do, because I know it has a positive impact on young people’s lives. So, in that regard I enjoy informing others and hope to bring them on the journey with us. I want to convey our passion, our proven impact and ensure that we are clear about where the alignment sits with a company’s ESG or CSR focus. I prepare for pitching by understanding what that specific company’s focus and purpose is and by being clear about what our key messages are, which should therefore resonate. I then consider how I can speak about why we feel a relationship would work well and help to deliver a meaningful partnership.

Do you get nervous when you pitch or are you relaxed?

It depends, I realised when I was younger that I was always more nervous, if I was less prepared and inevitably I’d come away disappointed in myself. Now I do a fair amount of public speaking, so if I have an important speech to deliver or a pitch I’ll make sure I take the time to prepare. If it’s something I am delivering, where it’ll just be me speaking for a while rather than a conversation style pitch, I write my full speech out at least three days before – highlight keys words in paragraphs to help provide an anchor point for me – I never remember anything verbatim but if I can remember key words, I know I’ve got my messages across, and then I read and learn the speech the few nights before hand just before going to bed – a bit random I know but again over time I have learned that the last thing I read before bed, I always remember in the morning!

What are the qualities and skills that you have needed to work on to help you with your career?

Lots! I think you constantly need to work on people management – every new relationship teaches you something else and it’s never a one-size-fits-all model. I learned a lot in my mid 20s when I was managing people a lot older than me. Listening – I still think it’s one of the easiest to overlook and hardest to master and it’s so tempting to put thoughts into your own head, but I have learnt the power of taking the time to hear what, and crucially how, people are saying things to you. Lastly, financial literacy, I didn’t have any formal training and as such a few jobs back I identified with help from my boss at the time, that if I wanted to keep progressing in my career, having a better understanding of accounting principles and practices would stand me in good stead, so I undertook an evening course at London Business School, which really helped in my understanding and confidence in the subject. I still wouldn’t consider myself an expert – that’s why we have trained accountants – but I can look through a set of accounts/financial reports with confidence and ask relevant questions, which are needed.

What tips would you give to youngsters looking for work, either as an intern or a first job?

Following your passions is brilliant, but getting a foot in the door in the world of work is also very beneficial, so be open to considering all opportunities as you will always learn valuable skills that you can transfer into future roles. There’s plenty of time to shape your career and it’s fine to try different roles as you move along your career path. If you’re interested in certain industries take time to speak to people who work in them to find out what it’s really like. Think about the type of energy you will bring when you speak to people and attend an interview, a huge amount of first impressions will come from the energy you give. Lastly, and I would say this – sport is a great way to develop transferable skills for life, so if you already take part, think about the skills you have picked up, which can help in the world of work. If you are yet to get involved, there’s a sport or activity out there for everyone and I would urge you to give things a go – you won’t regret it!