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Callum Atkinson: 'You just can't take playing and coaching for granted. I can't wait to get back'



Callum Atkinson

Callum Atkinson

Matt Mackey

Callum Atkinson in action

Callum Atkinson in action

Ian Johnston/CricketEurope

Callum Atkinson

We are asking our sporting personalities how they are dealing with action coming to a halt because of the coronavirus pandemic and how it has affected their daily lives.

Today we talk to the NCU's Club and Workforce officer and Lisburn cricketer Callum Atkinson.

Q: How are you keeping?

A: I think like most people in the cricket community, it has been a frustrating two or three months without any cricket activity. However I'm trying to stay as positive as possible and looking forward to starting back up again, whenever that might be. The weather's been brilliant which has been good and bad. It is nice to do some exercise and enjoy the sun although I can't stop thinking how good a season we would be having if clubs could reap the benefits of this weather.

Q: How have you been affected?

A: 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 we've had to adapt and we'll 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.

Q: How are you keeping fit?

A: I'm not usually the fittest player in the team or the first to do any extra fitness after practice and I'm sure my Lisburn team-mates would vouch for that. However with little else to do I've been running and cycling. I've also been working with Shane Getkate (SG Coaching) who has provided me with a Strength and Conditioning programme to complete during lockdown. So, ironically, I have probably had my best pre-season without any cricket to play.

Q: How are you maintaining morale, yours and the team?

A: I'm lucky that I'm 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.

Q: Where are you drawing your personal strength from now?

A: 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.

Q: Can you recommend a book, film or box set you think stay at home sports fans might enjoy?

A: I'm sure a lot of sports people will give you the same answer, but The Last Dance docu-series on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls is one to watch. More specific to cricket, The Test docu-series that followed the Australian team post the ball tampering scandal is another great watch. Both series give an insight into what it takes to become an elite player or coach.

Q: What life lessons are you learning from this?

A: Don't take playing and coaching cricket for granted. Like everyone, I can't 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.

Q: What is the first thing you will do when all this is over?

A: Go to Wallace Park for a net followed by refreshments with the team and the LCC Ultras in the clubhouse.

Q: And your message to cricket followers?

A: 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 let's make the most of cricket when it returns.

Belfast Telegraph