This is a guest article from Darren Talbot of Darren Talbot Cricket Coaching and Head of Coach Mentoring at Surrey County Cricket Club.
It's never been more difficult to retain youngsters in cricket. The numbers leaving the game from ages 14-18 are increasing every year and club senior numbers are dwindling as a consequence.
Growing pressure on young people to pass exams is a factor, but clubs are often missing tricks to make that transition more attractive and keep some of these young players in the game.
So in this series of articles, I want to look at what we can do to help youngsters stay in the game.
And for me, that starts with deciding when is the best time to make the jump into senior cricket.
13 is the age when young cricketers are typically allowed to play in senior matches and it’s far from unusual to see players playing alongside their sons on a Sunday afternoon, or indeed on a Saturday when availability is tough!
But the big question to ask is; are they ready?
Too often young players pushed to play senior cricket too early due to over keen parents and coaches or - more likely - a need to get out 11 players on the park.
This is a very dangerous policy.
Just one game too early could end the chances of these young players playing in senior cricket for good. It's important the player is ready:
When is a player ready?
Take a look at his or her fielding. They are mostly likely going to be doing a lot of running around in the field. They need to be confident of fielding the ball.
If the ball was hit high into the air straight down the throat of this young cricketer, would you be 100% sure they will stand their ground and make a good attempt at the catch?
If the ball was drilled as hard as possible straight at this young player, along the ground, how sure are you that they'll get down confidently behind the ball and try to make the stop.
If you're less than 100% sure, then you shouldn't play them in senior cricket.
It's not worth the risk for safety or development.
Before we've even looked at them holding a bat or bowling a ball, you are already well on the road to making the correct decision about playing. It's often better to play with 10 then to ruin a future prospect by putting them off the game.
For more advice on improving your club player retention, download a copy of Darren Talbot's eBook, Better Senior Net Session.