By CONRAD SUTCLIFEE
NORTH Devon CC captain Tom Popham is urging members and friends of the club to work together tackling a hidden side-effect of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mental health issues among the population at large have escalated since the first national lockdown in March last year.
Health professionals and charities devoted to mental health matters have reported an upsurge in referrals. MIND – one of the charities – recently reported that suicidal thoughts among men are at a ten-year high.
Cricket clubs normally start pre-season training around this time of year in readiness for the start of matches in April. Covid-19 restrictions mean there won’t be any practice sessions in the immediate future.
Rather than sit at home doing nothing when they should have been training, Popham has urged North Devon CC members and the wider cricket community to back the Century Challenge. The initial target set is to raise at least £2,000 by the beginning of April.
The Century Challenge is a fund-raiser for MIND Devon, an independent charity, and asks people to do something to get fit for cricket and raise sponsorship while they are doing it.
Popham said North Devon CC players and members have not been immune from mental health issues in the past, which makes the Century Challenge a relevant cause to support.
“Devon Mind is specifically important to North Devon CC and, as a club, we believe supporting the charity is particularly important in these challenging times,” said Popham.
The premise of the Century Challenge is that people taking park commit to repeating a sponsored fitness activity a hundred times.
Popham said there were no fixed activities, but plenty of suggestions.
“So far suggestions range from running, walking or cycling a hundred miles to completing a hundred sit-ups, push-ups or burpees,” said Popham.
“Another suggestion was to take the dog for a walk a hundred times.
“It is up to the individual what they do and hopefully it will help them get some pre-season fitness in place.
“All we ask is that anyone taking part adheres to the Government guidelines regarding Covid-10 and stays safe at all time.
“The Century Challenge is open to anyone, not just North Devon CC members.”
Mark Ansell, the North Devon chairman, has mail-shotted every member of the club urging them to support the Century Challenge.
Ansell has been club chairman since 2012 and over that time has seen members struggle with mental health issues, which is one of the reasons he is keen to gain maximum support for the Century Challenge.
“Young men are terrible at talking about their feelings and anything that helps them is a good idea,” said Ansell.
“Sometimes just having someone to talk to and an opportunity to gain confidence can be a massive step in the right direction. We have certainly seen that at the club.
“The idea of the Century Challenge is to do 100 of something physical – ideally outdoors – as we all know how physical wellbeing can help mental wellbeing.”
Ansell was among the first to supporttaking part in the Century Challenge. He has challenged sons Tom and Luke to complete 100 pull-ups in an hour – and has pledged £100 to the fund-raising effort if they do it.
North Devon CC’s initiative has been warmly welcomed by Andre Pusey, the fund-raising manager for Devon.
“We rely on the support of local individuals and organisations to help improve and increase our support services, so Century Challenge will be making a direct impact on mental health services in Devon,” said Pusey.
Details of how to take part or donate can be found on the NDCC Facebook page, or the newly created justgiving.com page.