Do you remember the first game of adult cricket you played?
It’s quite a shock to the system. One day a youngster brought up on 20 over evening cricket against teenagers is asked to play for 50 or more overs in the afternoon sunshine. It takes time to adapt physically and mentally.
Often, players asked to make this jump take one look at the chasm (the time it takes, the snarling full grown men) and decide not to even try. They are lost to the game. It’s all the more sad when you see talented players fall by the wayside.
The system doesn’t work, and it’s costing clubs as they lose players.
That’s why I was delighted when I heard from a club who are taking a different approach and building a bridge between youth and senior cricket.
Harrow in north west London might be more famous for its school, but it’s also the location of Panyes Folly; home ground of Harrow Cricket Club.
The club has a thriving youth section. They spotted that it wasn’t always producing as many cricket-ready youngsters as it should. So the coaches developed a plan called the ‘Player Pathway’ to changes things.
Talented Player Programme - Not Just for Elite
The new system revolves around finding the best youngsters from every age group and putting them into a ‘talented player programme’ (TPP).
These players then get attention focused on moving them up to the next level as quickly as possible. This may be playing representative level cricket, or senior cricket, or even both.
The extra coaching is vital, but the real kicker is the games these players are asked to play in the summer. Players are selected on ability to play (not on age) and play 35 over cricket at the weekends.
These 35 over matches against good opponents serve as a confidence bridge to the adult game. In the past if a 15 year old was selected for an adult game he would be out of his depth, especially after 45 overs in the field! With TPP games the same boy can perform against boys 2 years older in a 35 over match. He will feel he has a chance in adult cricket.
Plus, TPP players are also given time to improve their fitness levels and become mentally tougher by learning how to deal with pressure and mistakes. These elements are ignored by coaches of young players at club level.
How to setup a TPP at your club
So what do you need to do to follow the example of Harrow and start a production line of talented, enthusiastic club cricketers?
Firstly, you need a large base of young players. If your club struggles to raise an under-15 side you can’t exactly select the best players for a TPP squad. I would suggest that you need 3-4 players per youth side aged 15-17 who you can select.
Some programmes keep players in the system after they finish youth cricket to top up numbers. You could have 18-21 year olds in the programme but without that base of talent you can’t separate out a talent programme.
Second, it takes time and passion yourself. A TPP coach needs to be well organised, knowledgeable and have plenty of time on his hands. You will be identifying talent, planning and coaching in the winter.
A typical week in the summer would include:
- 1-2 coaching sessions a week
- Organising and running the weekend match
- Learning ways to coach fitness, mental skills and tactical awareness as well as technical skills
It’s not a task to enter into lightly. The cost in time and effort is high, but the rewards are great.
Once you have decided you can create a programme you need to plan how, when and where you will put it into practice. Then with your players selected and plan in place you can get to action.
If you want to squeeze even more from the players you also need to learn how to coach physical and mental skills. Resources on this are light, but we do have sections on PitchVision Academy to help you improve your skills in this area:
Harrow CC coaches have used these courses to become better and I recommend you do as much as you can to get your knowledge up too.
How is your TPP going?
If you are a coach considering setting up your own TPP (or have done something similar already) I would love to hear from you. Get in touch and let me know your experiences.
And if you want to get more updates on how Harrow’s TPP is working, we will be staying in touch over the summer. Get the free newsletter to stay up to date.