Going to bat for girls in India.

Put me in, coach!

The great thing about sports is that it teaches you things you can’t learn from books alone: like sportsmanship, teamwork, leadership, integrity, and competitive zeal. Plus, it’s totally fun to go outside and hurl yourself around – particularly if you’re in middle school. So when Averil Spencer was tasked with developing extracurricular activities for 11 middle schools in Hyderabad, India, she decided to start a cricket league. A coed cricket league– with Muslim boys & girls playing on the field together.

All for one, and one for all.

Averil is a graduate of Dartmouth and an IDEX Fellow who’s spending 9 months working in India as part of an innovative post-grad program developed by Oglethorpe University & Gray Matters Capital. In its first year, these 11 Fellows will act as consultants in the affordable (less than $10/month) private schools: helping to improve academic quality, train teachers, digitize financial records, promote marketing, and develop new extracurricular programs. But nobody really anticipated that Averil’s “Beyond the Classroom” program would put girls up at bat…with boys.

A radical sight (and a whole lot of fun).

Girls are usually stuck on the sidelines, watching their brothers play, but Averil & the Fellows felt passionately that girls should be able to get in the game. So they convinced 9 of the 11 school owners to just give it a chance. By the end of the first tournament, even Reshma Lohia, the most outspoken opponent of the league, was cheering her heart out on the sidelines, buying new cricket equipment for her schools and planning for the next round. The kids were on fire to play, school spirit had never been higher, the students, teachers and community came out to watch the games on Sunday afternoons, and boys and girls were getting up at the crack of dawn to get to practice on time.

Averil’s radical idea paid off – and now the Fellows are bringing referees and professional women’s cricket players into the classroom to further mentor and inspire the kids. It’s so great to see these brilliant, capable IDEX Fellows taking all their talents and skills and putting them to work to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged Indian kids. And they’re having a blast doing it! “I get to do the most incredible things every day, I’m working to the full extent of my capabilities, and I can see the consequences of my actions in the lives of these kids,” says Averil. “That sure beats making coffee at an investment banking firm!”

My $100 today is going to fund the cost of a tournament for the 9th & 10th grade boys, who are total cricket fiends and helped coach the younger kids but didn’t get to play themselves in the last round. By late December, they’ll be relegated to studying full-time so this tourney (fields: $60, groundskeepers: $5, water: $10, refs: $20, police: $5) is their last chance at cutting loose – and I’m thrilled to be able to sponsor the entire thing, in my own personal Jerry Jones mode.

To join me in supporting the Coed Cricket League of GMC Schools of Hyderabad, drop me an email and I’ll hook you up!