How to Bridge the Gap Between Junior and Senior Cricket
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.
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Don't kids grow up playing 40 over cricket at schools? I started playing 30 over games when I was 10 and then 40 over games when I was 13. Then when you join a club, you start playing for the Sunday side when you're 14/15 (which generally comprises a couple of senior players, a handful of semi-retired players and the rest kids), then the lower saturday league teams when you're 16, then the senior team when you're 18. At least, that was the progression I made.
Not everyone is as lucky as that Jack.
It really depends on the school, and the club. I played all day cricket at school (i.e. 11am starts) but this is unusual these days. And the club I played at growing up didn't have a Sunday XI - my introduction to adult cricket was as a 13 year old playing 3rd XI league cricket. It was a hard learning ground, but made me mentally tough by the time I started playing 2nd XI/1st XI stuff.
I can see that people would drop out of the system though - the Talented Player Programme sounds a much more sympathetic way of introducing young players to longer forms of the game.
I think we have a pretty decent program here in Barbados although there is still need for a lot of work.
My 12 year old son plays in the school league. He plays under 13 which is 35 overs, under 15 which is a two day competition, under 19 which is 40 overs and under 19 which is a three day competion.
Of course only the younger ones who seem to have a bit more talent are slotted into all the competitions. So as a batsman he would open batting in the under 13 while in the older competitions he will bat lower in the order say number 6 or so.
This gives him a chance to play different roles and to gradually work his way into the different levels of competition.
The TPP is a really interesting idea. The Hertfordshire Saracen League runs the main Saturday leagues in the County but they also organise a Development League which is played on a Sunday and aims to encourage juniors to play senior cricket. It requires the sides have at least seven u18 players and is 40 over a side.
A few other factors worth considering in getting juniors to play senior cricket:
1. Often helps if you pick three or four from the same age group as it helps with the social aspect (us adults can seem like creatures from another planet) during and after the game.
2. Start them at 13/14. Hopefully you can get them playing regularly before Saturday jobs/other teenage distractions take hold.
3. We have a couple of guys that are great at making the kids feel welcome and part of the team. By the end of their first match they have nicknames and are involved in the banter of the side.
Most State schools only play 20 over cricket so club cricket has to provide this link to senior cricket. Our village Club is dependant on bringing through a steady stream of senior players and the TPP sounds like a great way to improve the standard.
I have a question about the amount of cricket teenagers (15-16) play.
A typical week for my son (aged 15)
Mon. (Under 17s) 20 Over
Tues. (Under 15s) 20 Over
Weds. Club Training Night (Junior)
Thurs. Club Training Night (Adult) Does not usually attend
Fri. No cricket, but football club training (not intense during summer)
Sat. Senior (usually 2nds) 46 Over
Sun. occasional senior game
Now, I think that him playing sport is fantastic and i would never stop him attending, but at this sort of age is this not too much ??
Are there any guidelines put out by any bodies on the amount of cricket that this age group should play ?
Thanks for any comment
Just for a comparison, when I was at school I played:
Mondays: 3 hours of nets, another 2 hours of coaching
Tuesdays: 3 hours of nets, 20 over game
Wednesdays: 50 over game
Thursdays: 3 hours of nets, 20 over game
Fridays: 3 hours of nets
Saturdays: 50 over game
Sundays: 40 over game
Nowadays I only have time to play 4 games of cricket a week
Generally speaking for a 15 year old who is fit and healthy, several games a week is no problem, especially if they are 20 overs.
Personally I would like to see more gym time and coaching time at that age but that is not always easy. Games can only teach you so much, you also need to get the other elements in place.
The only thing to watch out for is the number of overs he is bowling if he is a quickie.
I do agree that most youngsters have too many unfocused net sessions. More time should be spent working on technique.