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By Jamie Harrison
“Stage 2 – Here children are formed
into community softball cricket leagues, where the fun can continue
outside of the limitations of gym class. By expanding the time when they
can play, we are allowed to do some rudimentary instruction and we can
devote more resources to nurturing not just their love for the game, but
also their understanding of it. It is in Stage 2 where some children
will begin to separate themselves from their peers, and many of these
children will yearn for something more challenging; these we will
channel toward local academies, indoor facilities and other
instructional programs.” - From the article, "Six Stages of US Youth Cricket Development" published by DreamCricket.com on May 16, 2010.
Over two years ago, I laid out the USYCA youth cricket development
program on this site amid the launch of what would quickly become the
nation’s youth cricket organization. Since then, USYCA has donated over
800 cricket sets to schools across the United States, brought
international coaches to camps, contributed to the construction of
cricket pitches and generally raised the volume and profile of youth
cricket in America.
these initial steps were ongoing, there have been naysayers who refused
to believe that our efforts would have a measurable impact. The chief
complaint of these “Negative Nancys” has been some variation of this:
“Sure, it’s easy to give away cricket sets, but you’ll never get
American kids to actually pay money to play junior cricket. Until that
happens, nothing you do means anything.”
Image (right) - Cricket program in Maryland. [Courtesy: USYCA]
Well, Nancy, just as we started our schools cricket in Maryland and
then replicated its success nationwide, this summer new junior cricket
programs, targeted at the children who’ve been introduced to the game in
their Physical Education classes, have been launched in Maryland. And
guess what? American children, some with ex-pat parents but mostly those
without, are coming out of school and paying to play in these nascent
junior cricket programs.
Is the level of play on par with established cricket academies? Of
course not. But we have to bring the game to children where they are
(developmentally), and that means low-cost programs that teach the
basics while keeping the emphasis squarely on fun. To pad these novices
up and push them into the nets would be self-defeating, and also
dangerous to the children.
The three Maryland programs will teach cricket to over one hundred
children this summer, and the lessons we learn as coaches and
administrators can then be used to help leagues, clubs and individuals
across the country to start their own programs next year and into the
future. The revolution is truly underway, and what’s going on at USYCA
today is a vision of a bright future for American cricket.
I’m sure that those who secretly wish us to fail will now move the
goal line again, and will do their best to downplay the success we have
so far experienced. No matter. The train is leaving the station, with or
without those who would seek to stop it. The only question now is which
individuals, leagues and clubs will be on the train, and which will
choose to be left behind.
For those of us at USYCA, though, it’s back to work.
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