We want as many kids to experience cricket as possible and, ultimately, go on play cricket as adults.
In between, that means we have to develop a culture of excellence in building participation through mass outreach, working with local schools and the community, inspiring a lifelong love of cricket by identifying and nurturing talents and enabling the kids to develop as far as they can. By enjoying what they do and having fun.
We have a track record of doing that over 15 years at Staplehurst Cricket & Tennis Club. Now, as Weald Coaching, we are commiting all our time and energies to building on it. We are intent on creating a series of programmes that cater appropriately for every child, whatever their current level of cricket capability, from complete beginner to high performance athlete. And attracting the dedicated resources and coaching capacity for that to happen.
But it also means doing some things differently. Our approach pre-dated the development of ECB national programmes and we think we have more experience and knowledge to deliver an all round offer to kids at the youngest ages without the constraints of weekly coaching schedules and some session plans which ignore the kids’ levels of awareness of what cricket is.
Similarly, we have created a competitive cricket offer at ages 8 through to 16 which accommodates the kids’ capabilities, not simply their age. Where the emphasis is on participation and development and not the strongest cricketers or simply winning. Yet, we intend delivering more appropriate playing opportunities, week-on-week, than has been possible previously.
And at older ages – 15, 16 and above – where we have always achieved higher retention rates than other comparable providers, the new set up will be a signal of our commitment to creating segmented delivery for those who enjoy the social and team aspects of cricket alongside those who want to develop their individual skills and performance. And recognise that not all will be ready at 17 or 18 to consider playing adult cricket.
Of course, within all of this, and central to delivering on our ethos is creating a culture of excellence in inclusivity and diversity. We have long recognised we are not doing enough for the 50% of the population that has not traditionally thought of any sport, and cricket in particular, as being for them. Especially beyond the ages of 12 and 13 when needs begin to diversify. The new set-up will allow us to focus on that more rigorously.