Developing junior sections
A new junior section is likely to come about from interest expressed by several children in the same year group at Primary school, or by children playing together at their parents’ existing cricket club. Whether it is a whole new club that is being started (implying it lies in an area where no Colts club already exists), or a junior section of an adult club which has not run Colts cricket before, the task is extremely rewarding though not to be under-estimated.
The winning team is more than just the players
The group is likely to have started as an after-school club if Primary school interest is the catalyst, then progress to dedicated time in a sports hall – usually through a winter period. This establishes how many children are becoming committed to taking up cricket seriously, and will be led by a club player who might or might not be a teacher, or might have cricket coaching experience.
As soon as the group starts to meet as a club, various strands of organisation need to be put in place. The first and key position is that the leader of the group becomes the de facto Colts Manager, responsible for organising the children’s cricket activities. The second essential appointment is to recruit a Club Welfare Officer, who can ensure that the club as a whole takes on board the implications of Safeguarding and Child Protection in cricket, and implements the appropriate Safeguarding policies and procedures.
The Club Welfare Officer must attend a “Safeguarding and Protecting Children” workshop accredited by Sportscoach UK (3 hours) – this is the same course that all prospective coaches also attend. They must also have a Vetting Check (known as CRB in recent years) and attend the ECB Safe Hands Workshop advising on the role, requirements and responsibilities of child safeguarding in clubs.
The process is described in the Safe Hands section of the ECB website and from this page a further link is provided to documentation which can be downloaded on the Safe Hands Policy itself, which includes in Section 3 over 30 individual factsheets or guidance notes known as Safe Hands Kit Bag items. These address all the key issues which the Safeguarding policy is intended to cover and provide templates for working documents that the club will need to set up.
When building up a junior section it is always recommended that it starts with the youngest age groups, say 7-9 year olds playing softball cricket with Kwik cricket equipment. Children then progress to hardball cricket when they are ready, usually by the age of 10. This approach to building up year by year ensures that the extra helpers that will need to be recruited for a growing section can be identified, as once teams start playing matches there will be a need for managers, scorers, umpires, organisers of kit and transport, as well as coaches. Any parents or guardians of 7 year old children who can be persuaded to help might then be involved with the section for a number of years.
The prime requirement initially will be for more qualified coaches. A national scheme for Coach Education is in place for cricket as with other sports, and structured courses lead to nationally recognised qualifications. Courses at the first two levels are run by the Middlesex Cricket Board (MCB) during the winter months at various locations in the county. Details of this year’s programme together with a description of the course content are in the MCB pages of the MCCC website. Preliminary discussion of likely requirements for places should be arranged well in advance with the Coach Education course administrator.
Coaches are urged to join the ECB Coaches Association on qualifying to receive regular update information and take advantage of its dedicated insurance scheme.
As the section develops, it is recommended that the club registers for Clubmark, a national kite-mark scheme for amateur sports clubs that recognises safe, effective and child-friendly clubs. Cricket’s scheme incorporates all aspects of child safeguarding through ‘Safe Hands’, and provides templates for documentation that the club will want to use such as a membership form, codes of conduct, a risk assessment form, training programmes and model constitution. Full details of the subjects covered and the process itself are explained on this website link, but even if the club takes 2 or 3 years to complete its accreditation, using the documentation will ensure that it is operating to best practice standards.
Hardball junior cricket for boys in Middlesex is run by the Middlesex Colts Association (MCA), which operates through five geographical areas. Cups and leagues are staged at U10, U11, U13, U15 and U17 age groups, with matches played between clubs in an area to cut down travelling time. Area winners then play off against each other to find county winners. 20-over matches are arranged on midweek evenings or Sunday mornings from the end of April to mid-July, with county finals in late-July or August. A programme of indoor cricket competitions is also held in the winter.
Clubs are first encouraged to play some local friendly fixtures at their preferred age groups one summer, to ensure that they are able to field teams regularly, before joining the appropriate league fixtures the next year. Initial contact should be made with the Chairman, currently Peter Smyth, firstname.lastname@example.org or with the Chairman of Cricket, Tony Ward email@example.com to determine in which area a new section would belong. Thereafter that Area Chairman would ensure a new junior club was supported throughout the process of joining.
The MCA Handbook, published at the end of March each year, is the bible of junior cricket with competition draws and playing conditions, and a directory of all 70+ participating clubs and contacts across the county.
A similar network of clubs for girls cricket is growing fast, and details can also be found in this handbook. Anyone thinking of starting a new girls section should first contact the MCB Development team firstname.lastname@example.org who can give specific support and advice. Inter-club league competitions sponsored by the Seaxe Club are also held at several age groups, which, as with boys cricket, ultimately lead to players being selected for district and county representative teams – at every age group for boys, and U11-13-15 for girls.
Junior clubs should take advantage of the generous provision by the Lord’s Taverners of equipment bags for their teams; four sizes of bags are available with bats, pads, and gloves included for a contribution of only £25 per bag. A different size bag can be requested each year for new age groups as a section grows.
Further guidelines and directives from ECB concerning junior cricket can be found for: