Cricket saved my life: a story of sport, grief and PTSD

ELIZABETH BOTCHERBY: Gripped by PTSD following the sudden passing of his mother, George McMenemy contemplated suicide before finding an outlet for his grief in club cricket. And he's not looked back since


"Cricket opened the door and gave me some light in my life which I hadn’t experienced since the biggest influence on me passed away."

In September 2017, four days before he was due to start university, George McMenemy’s mother, Tracey, died suddenly in her sleep. In the months following her passing, the then-teenager deferred his undergraduate studies, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and contemplated taking his own life. But in his darkest period, he found hope from an unlikely source: the 2017/18 Ashes.

"It wasn’t pretty viewing," George recalls of England’s 4-0 drubbing in Australia, "but I remember watching it and feeling weird. Grief makes you reflective and a lot of my amazing memories were family holidays in Devon and Cornwall and listening to cricket in the car.

"I was six or seven years old during the 2005 Ashes and our cricket mad neighbours brought a portable TV with a tiny screen and I just got hooked. I was playing every day on the beach, I was watching every ball, it just really struck a chord with me.

"[The 2017/18 Ashes] gave me a real buzz that I hadn’t felt since my mum passed away. I felt numb to everything else, but with cricket, there was just something about it that was saying, 'this is you, George, this is what you love'."


George celebrating the end of his season as captain of University of Sussex's third XI [photo: George McMenemy]

Reminded of the joy brought to him by heroes Marcus Trescothick, Matthew Hoggard and Dimitri Mascarenhas, George travelled to every Hampshire and England game he could and immersed himself in cricket at every opportunity.

He was then invited to join Newport Inn CC in Braishfield, his local side and quite fittingly, the village where his mum is buried and his grandparents still reside. But as well as his grief, George had another hurdle to overcome.

"I have dyspraxia, so my hand-eye [coordination] is awful – not very conducive to cricket! I always had a passion for sport and desperately wanted to play, but I simply wasn’t good enough. When you go to secondary school, they want the side to start winning so they wouldn’t pick me.

"Joining a club, I was so nervous, but it seemed like the right thing and I’m so glad I bit the bullet! I’ve not really spoken to a counsellor since my mum died, cricket became that for me, it became my outlet."

Three-and-a-half years since taking his first adult steps onto the cricket field, George has become something of a club cricket sensation.

Bespectacled, bearded and twinning trouser braces with his whites, his first wicket – a looping moonball skewed to extra cover – became a viral hit; his services are in high demand, with clubs up and down the country inviting him for guest appearances; and he’s targeting a three-peat in his club’s most improved player category. And after belatedly starting his politics degree at Sussex, he even braved the notoriously exclusive world of university cricket.

"I was worried about being accepted but at Fresher’s fair, wearing my Hampshire shirt and big hat, the cricket guys made a beeline for me and said, 'You look like an absolute badger'," he explains. "I told them my story and they said, 'You have to come'. It’s been three years of them really embracing me – I’ve been vice-president and created a third team for people like me.

"People think cricket is cliquey but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I had a lot of struggles at university, dealing with my grief, and they were another outlet. I’ve never been part of a proper team and I’d reconciled with myself that I was never going to have that. But that changed at university.

"And cricket is so accepting of all shapes and sizes, it’s a team sport made of individuals. Everyone can come in with their own styles and I think sometimes the more unorthodox, the better! I struggle with my balance, so I look like a hopping Hampshire Morris dancer when I bowl. I hop on the spot until I get into a happy place and then the ball whooshes out, comes down with snow on it, and sometimes it comes off, half the time it doesn’t.

"My biggest strength is if I don’t know what I’m going to bowl, then the batsman probably doesn’t know either!"

Of course, it’s not always easy for the self-confessed "worst cricketer in the world" - "some people still find it hard to accept me being on a cricket pitch. People roll their eyes at my bowling and think, 'Who is this clown?'" -  but for George, cricket is not about winning or losing, taking wickets or boosting his average. It is, quite literally, the sport which saved his life.

"A month before I joined my cricket club, I was very close to not being here. The emotion and grief of my mum nearly came to an ending point, it was awful and without cricket, I wouldn’t be here, quite frankly.

"It doesn’t matter what sort of day I’ve had or anything, I just feel this thrill and a zest for life when I get on the cricket pitch. And it doesn’t matter how the game is going or if I make a mistake, which is invariably every game. I just get a sense of belonging that I don’t feel in any other place.

"It’s given me a community to help deal with my grief and the opportunity to be the person I always wanted to be, let my personality shine through and not be afraid of being eccentric. My mum always said, "A Georgie who believes in himself can achieve anything", and through cricket, I did believe in myself for the first time since I lost her.

"Even though I’m not the best, I do it for because she gave me the confidence to be myself and I’m her legacy now. I do it for my mum - I know it’s what she would have wanted - and to show people the power of sport. If I can help just one person who’s in a dark period look towards their passions for support, I’ve done my job. Cricket has changed my life."



STAY UP TO DATE Sign up to our newsletter...

Thank You! Thank you for subscribing!

Units 7-8, 35-37 High St, Barrow upon Soar, Loughborough, LE128PY

Welcome to - the online home of the world’s oldest cricket magazine. Breaking news, interviews, opinion and cricket goodness from every corner of our beautiful sport, from village green to national arena.