How Berkshire’s Captain is keeping the spirit of cricket alive at Elstree School

Due to recent events, Berkshire County Cricket Club (CCC) have cancelled their early season matches. Aside from not being able to captain Berkshire for the time being, Senior Master at Elstree School Mr James Morris, is also disappointed not to be coaching the Elstree 1st XI.

His pupils at Elstree (and those Berkshire fans) needn’t worry though. Like other sports personalities who have turned to social media to encourage youngsters to remain active during lockdown, Mr Morris will be regularly contributing to Elstree’s YouTube channel to keep the spirit of cricket very much alive.

Here Mr Morris talks about his twenty-five-year cricketing career, how his Captaincy at Berkshire isn’t dissimilar to coaching at Elstree, and what he hopes to achieve from his newfound fame on YouTube.

Cricketing career

“I started playing for Berkshire County U11s when I was ten, having played for my Dad’s village team (Speen CC) and prep school beforehand. At Bradfield College, I was selected to play for the 1st X1 in my first year (aged 13). My younger brother, Richard, and I are the only people ever to have achieved that.”

Mr Morris is now in his seventh year of Captaincy for Berkshire CCC, who have won the County Championship four years in a row. He attributes much of the club’s success to attracting youth players, and having a clear ethos about how the team should play.

“Coach Tom Lambert and I decided it was time for the club to go down a different route seven years ago. Having stuck to our plan, we are now reaping the rewards, but it wasn’t all plain sailing. The decision to invest in youth players wasn’t welcomed by everyone, and sometimes friendships became frayed. Tom and I look back now and realise how much we’ve learnt.”

After Bradfield, Mr Morris spent a year playing cricket in South Africa, and then three years as part of the centre of excellence at Durham University under Head Coach Graham Fowler. Following Uni, he played for the A Grade cricket in Perth, Australia, still with the aim of becoming a professional cricketer.

“Having experienced playing a lot of cricket around the world, none of which I regret, the simple fact was, I didn’t quite make the grade to turn professional. I know that if I had broken through, my life would have taken a very different direction.”

Lucky for Berkshire County Cricket Club and Elstree School it did. After a chance opportunity to work-shadow a PE Teacher at Horris Hill, he soon discovered a passion and love for teaching sport. What’s more, having the long summer holidays that allowed him the freedom to continue playing non-professional cricket, teaching suddenly seemed like the perfect choice of career.

“After becoming qualified, I applied for a role as PE Teacher at Beaudesert School in the Cotswolds, where I worked for two years. It was a fantastic first teaching role, but being a Berkshire boy, I really missed home. It definitely felt like I’d struck gold when I was offered the role of Pre-Prep PE teacher at Elstree.”

Life at Elstree

Mr Morris is now in his tenth year at Elstree, and aside from being a PE teacher, he is one of the Senior Masters, and teaches French. It’ll also be no surprise to learn, that he co-coaches Elstree’s first cricket team with Head of Sport Mr Ben Champkin.

“I’ve learnt as Captain of Berkshire, and give the same advice to my Berkshire team, as I do to the Elstree firsts, that it’s all about keeping the game simple. My leadership role has helped enormously with man management, and how to handle difficult conversations with colleagues, parents, pupils and other schools.”

Move with Moz

In preparation for Elstree becoming a temporary virtual school, Mr Morris has created a series called “Move with Moz” for the Pre-Prep YouTube Channel. He is also filming bespoke cricket sessions explaining drills and activities that pupils can access online. Each session will cover anything from catching, to batting or fielding, all filmed in the extensive grounds of Elstree in rural Berkshire.

“Having seen the success of Joe Wicks’s online PE lessons, I thought I would give it a go and make the lessons more relatable to Elstree pupils. I am determined to turn this restrictive situation into a positive experience for our children. Hopefully, my virtual PE and cricketing sessions, will do just that.”

Although Mr Morris will desperately miss watching his team of pink capped players clocking up the runs and taking the wickets, he knows he can still provide fitness and coaching tips and show them how to keep active during these unprecedented times.

eBay auction supporting Dingley’s Promise

Mr Morris is auctioning a signed Berkshire CCC shirt to raise money for one of Elstree’s favourite charities – Dingley’s Promise. Dingley’s deliver life changing support to children under five with additional needs and disabilities, and to their families. Bids can be submitted on eBay until 13:00 on Friday 24th April here