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Cricket's Missing Millions Part Two – Keeping Club Coaching Relevant And Developing The Next Generation

Christiaan Partridge is a Family Doctor, Photographer, football coach and cricket coach. Having picked up a camera at a relatively late stage in life, Christiaan has recently achieved a First Class Honours degree in Photography via the University of Chester.

 
Executive Contributor Christiaan Partridge

Following on from my previous cricket article, I wish to discuss how and why we need to keep club youth cricket coaching relevant to current trends. In the immediate aftermath of a 4- 1 test series defeat in India, questions have once again been raised over the focus of English cricket. Such results always lead to discussions about team selections, style of play, and on-field decision-making. The "Bazball" approach to test cricket has undoubtedly sharpened the focus on this format, the pinnacle of skill and application. Having taken a considerable risk, in the same opinions, by taking three inexperienced spin bowlers on the tour, how will those who have succeeded fair in the summer, and how can we develop club coaching to produce more young cricket talent? 


People playing cricket

As ever, with any perceived sporting failure, there is much dissection of all the factors mentioned above and more. However, and for reasons highlighted in my previous article, are we starting to make incorrect comparisons? India has not lost a home test series for many years and has recently made further strides in winning a series in Australia in 2020-21. One must also consider that cricket is very much India's national sport. With a population of 1.4 billion and a younger demographic, they have a much larger talent pool from which to select. A visit to the Maidans in Mumbai, a mass of cricket activity, will testify to their love of the game.

 

Tape ball cricket is popular on the streets, and players such as Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli are considered superstars within the country. Compare this to the United Kingdom, which has a population of 67 million and an older demographic. Although considered a national sport, cricket is greatly overshadowed by football, whose season now overlaps. With the lack of opportunity at most state schools and the fact that a charity is required to promote the game in primary schools, it is understandable that England could not compete. The fixture planning of the summer cricket season must also be blamed. The focus on white-ball cricket at the height of summer reduces the opportunities for spin bowlers to hone their red-ball skills in favourable conditions.

 

Over the past few years, the ECB has adopted new programmes to introduce cricket to the younger generations. All Stars Cricket is aimed at 5–8-year-olds, and Dynamos Cricket is for 9-11-year-olds. These are run by cricket clubs nationwide following a set coaching programme. The emphasis is on creating a fun environment; both programmes are now adapting to introduce basic cricket skills. The sessions are also broken down into a warm-up, followed by a fielding, bowling and batting exercise. Having spent four years as an All-Stars Activator, I have found the structure of a coaching session particularly helpful moving forward with older age groups. Breaking down a session into warm-ups, fielding, bowling, and batting means the participants get to do everything in one session. As the age groups head towards more competitive cricket, wicketkeeping can also be added to the sessions. 

 

But what keeps the coaching relevant? Keeping up with the latest national team affairs and transferring that in a way that youth cricketers can understand is undoubtedly one aspect. Of course, sessions must be tailored to the age group they are delivered to and, on many occasions, to the individual's skill set. Basing drills on aspects from matches that require improvement is essential, but again, it needs to be fun and achievable for the individual. As children age, adding a degree of competition also increases engagement. As a coach, accentuating positive achievements is essential to maintain the child's engagement, but one must also balance that with addressing what requires improvement. Using reasonable and achievable goals is the only way to progress. Making adaptations to drills and sharing advice from other coaches will also help the coach develop, bringing further development to those being coached. One coaching gem I learnt was using a rubber shower mat in nets to aid spin bowling when practising on hard surfaces. I must be amenable to change and continue my education by identifying my learning needs.

 

As a person, I am highly driven to provide the best coaching experience that I can. If I can make a slight difference for the good of others, then I can feel that I have achieved something worthwhile. There is no better feeling as a coach than to see your team engage and execute their learning in matches and see their enjoyment of that success. With the ECB's current focus on Women and Girls Cricket and diversity, the need for more opportunities for state schoolboys remains. Working alongside the local cricket board, I go into two secondary schools to coach girls; the schools have only satisfactory provision for boys if they are involved at the club level. This adds to the challenges of engagement and participation, and if equity and diversity are the ECB priorities, then this situation must be urgently addressed. The UK government has now pledged £35m to improve cricket provision in state schools, but once it is distributed nationwide, I suspect it will not drive any significant changes.

 

My coaching journey is really in its infancy, but I have already been involved in coaching a wide range of age groups and abilities, from softball to hardball. Keeping up to date with world cricket, new practices, ongoing education, and peer support maintains relevance, but my drive and enthusiasm maintain engagement.


 

Christiaan Partridge, General Medical Practitioner

Christiaan Partridge is a Family Doctor, Photographer, football coach and cricket coach. Having picked up a camera at a relatively late stage in life, Christiaan has recently achieved a First Class Honours degree in Photography via the University of Chester. For the past 7 years, he has been a youth football coach and also an ECB Core Cricket Coach. Christiaan also has vast experience in running amateur sports clubs, specializes manly in Landscape Photography, with a particular interest in Therapeutic Photography to treat minor mental illness.


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