While the sporting world has been captivated by England’s renaissance in the latest Ashes series, the town of Donaghadee have welcomed their own revival of youth cricket brought back after an absence of over 15 years. For the last 13 weeks Donaghadee Cricket Club have been running a Friday Night Youth Cricket scheme for children aged 6-11. What started out as an introduction into cricket for a lot of the children has developed into a real enthusiasm for the game as they have been taught how to bat, bowl, throw, catch and field by the clubs coaches.
Planning for the scheme started way back in January when the club met with Cricket Ireland to look to ways in which they could become sustainable and grow. It was evident very early on that for the club to progress they needed to implement an effective youth structure. A number of the clubs senior players then obtained their coaching badges and provided free coaching sessions to the towns Primary Schools and a local Beaver Troop in the lead up to the schemes introduction. Still it was a leap of faith for the club as they really had no idea how many people would take part in their scheme. It seems though that the town really threw their support behind the club and nearly 60 boys and girls ended up registering for the scheme. It was tremendous for the club and those numbers have remained fairly consistent throughout the summer.
The soft ball Kwik Cricket scheme was based primarily around fun and keeping the players active for the full session. The days of cricket being seen as a slow paced game with not much activity are a distant memory as the new breed of 20/20 all action player has taken over the game. And it was this type of dynamic, fast paced approach that the coaches based their sessions around. The players swiftly moved through batting and catching and bowling each Friday night. The aim was to improve throwing and catching skills and work on hand eye co-ordination in a fun, safe environment.
One of the coaches Richard Carson said “We had no youth players in the club before this year and we needed to change that. The scheme was all about getting people through the door, to introduce them to the great sport of cricket and for them to hopefully learn a few new things and most importantly have a bit of fun. The cost was deliberately kept low and most of the money raised went into buying all the kit that the players ended up using.” The club, dont forget, were starting from scratch. They initially had no equipment at all that could be used by the children. They invested heavily into buying quality bats, balls, fielding equipment and nets to ensure that the children had the very best kit to use.
The scheme was split into 3 age groups. Ages 6-7’s led by Richard, 8-9’s by Chris Walton and the 10-11’s by Gavin Fraser. Along with the main coaches there were a number of club helpers Michael Martin, Luke Husson, Rodger Stubbings and Freddie Gilroy who came down to help out each week. Richard paid tribute to those club men who helped out throughout the summer. “All of the coaches and helpers were giving up their free time, free of charge to put this scheme on. Giving up every Friday in the summer was a big commitment but the coaches were all playing members of the club and they knew that the future of the club depended on this scheme so it was vital that it was successful.”
And successful it has been. Even a few weeks of rain could not dampen the fun around Northfield on Friday nights. In previous years the ground would have been empty on Friday Nights but this summer it was a hub of activity with children taking wickets, making catches and hitting sixes. Word has clearly been spreading around the town and the local area as each week the club is still being contacted to see if spaces are available or if any further schemes are being run. “Unfortunately we reached the limit of children that we could take this summer. There is a specific coach to player ratio that we abide by. Next year however, the good news is we have some more senor players who want to become coaches to help out and we will therefore be able to open up the scheme to even more players”
Planning for next year has already started. The club will be running a similar Kwik Cricket scheme next year using the experience and lessons learnt from this season. The coaches really have appreciated the fantastic support that they have had from all the parents of the scheme. This was the first time the club had run something in a very long time and they know that there are some improvements they can make. The club also intend to hopefully run something over the October/Easter holidays and further news will be coming out soon.
With the senior sides doing very well in their leagues and this new influx of junior players the outlook for the club has not been as bright in many years. The future looks very bright at Northfield. To continue to grow the club also want to get junior youth teams playing in the NCU youth leagues. Early this year after discussions with Cricket Ireland and the Northern Cricket Union, Donaghadee CC had aspirations of having 2 teams enter into the NCU youth leagues by 2017. However given the response to our summer scheme the club may be able to do that next season. “There is clearly a call for youth cricket in the town and local area. People want to get involved in the sport of cricket so there is a real possibility of entering teams into the 2016 NCU leagues which would be great for the youth of the town and the local area.” Again the club will keep the cost of joining these teams as low as possible and would really encourage any parents whose children have an interest in cricket, no matter if they have never played, to contact us for further information. The club will also still run a summer Kwik Cricket Scheme alongside these “red ball” playing teams so hopefully no-one will be left out.
The club wishes to thank everyone who took part in the scheme this summer, hope you have a great winter and hopefully we see you all again next year. Should anyone be interested in their child taking part in the future and want to be kept up to date with any developments please contact the club through firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07540073845.