The DIY Cricket Academy: How a Mum Turned Her Backyard into a Respected Coaching School

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It used to be the case that great facilities and coaching was the domain of the professional game. That’s coming to an end, as the story of Marieta Pretorius’ backyard shows.

When Marieta’s son began showing a keen interest in cricket, she helped him with the right gear and a free taxi service to his coaching in Whiteriver, South Africa.

But something wasn’t right.

She wanted better for her son. She wasn’t satisfied with the level of coaching and availability of facilities.

The trouble was that she didn’t know much about cricket and she certainly didn’t have the space or finances to build a cricket ground to meet her requirements.

So Marieta used her smarts; a resource that wasn’t in short supply.

She built a cricket net in her driveway.

It was basic. The netting was strung between wooden posts set in concrete. She had to open her gate to allow the bowlers to run in from the road. It meant play was often delayed while cars went past.

It was about as grass-roots and low tech as you can get.

Then, as her driveway didn’t have a resident coach she started to learn the game. She quickly picked up methods from books and the PitchVision Academy newsletters. She passed on her advice.

She got so good she decided to formalise her skills and before she knew it she had reached Level 2 in the CSA structure. Her charges were improving fast and word was getting around.

As she learned, Marieta also expanded. Her son’s friends also wanted to use the net and the facility added a roof and enclosure.

More boys were added and Marieta grew things further with the income from boys coming from further afield: a bowling machine, strength and conditioning equipment and finally PitchVision installed under the floor permanently.

The backyard was now a fully fledged facility – Unique Cricket Academy – with over 70 kids aged up to 15 years old.

All built up in a little over 7 years as a side project to help her son play cricket.

It’s an inspiring story. It shows how with very little except willpower you can combine good coaching with technology like PitchVision to create a grass-roots facility that can match anything used by first-class teams.

This little backyard net has the same technology that is being used by IPL teams, the ICC and the ECB. With PitchVision on hand, players in Unique Cricket Academy are tracking their pace, line and length and getting instant coaching feedback from Marieta.

And they are improving fast as a result. Demand for the Academy has never been higher.

Especially as when the cricket work is done, there is plenty of time for a braai to refuel. Marieta is as good a hostess as she is a coach.

Expect to see this niche-academy model spring up more and more as facilities, coaching and technology is now so accessible. Great facilities are no longer the exclusive domain of the elite. Is your club, school or academy making the most of this revolution in cricket? 

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