By Peter Della Penna
For years, cricket has struggled to make its way into the mainstream of
the American consciousness. Despite being played all over the country,
the game is primarily sustained by the immigrant communities who settle
here. However, a chance idea that came about in a meeting of school
principals in Atlanta has provided a spark to ignite a flame of serious
ambition towards growing the sport on a broader scale in the southeast.
Picture: Sabbir Mahmud from CAUSA helps demonstrate proper batting technique to a few PE teachers. (Courtesy: Zahid Habib)
“I was in a meeting with principals and it was a principal at one of
our high schools that said the children at his school were interested
and he thought it would be a good idea to get the teachers some
training in the game of cricket and some information on the game of
cricket and to introduce that so that we could have a little more
multicultural and different sport perspective,” said Therese McGuire,
Coordinator of Health & Physical Education, Fulton County Schools
in Fulton County, Ga.
McGuire then found out about the Cricket Academy of USA, located in the
Atlanta suburb of Lawrenceville, and it wasn’t long before they
organized a workshop geared to teach high school PE teachers in the
county about the basics of cricket.
“I was amazed at the amount of, the kind of response we got and the
kind of feedback we’ve been getting from the PE teachers,” said Anand
Tummala, Head Coach of CAUSA. “It is very encouraging and they have
been very receptive and have been very much instrumental in making this
cricket development project a very huge success so far. In the
discussions we’ve been having with the PE teachers in between the
drills and after the session, they are very optimistic about this great
game of cricket being spread rapidly amongst the kids and the youth
here in Fulton County and also across the state of Georgia in various
The success of the first workshop paved the way for a second three-hour
session in which approximately 40 middle school teachers took part in a
cleared out cafeteria at Sandy Springs Middle School in Atlanta on
“I thought it was very informative,” said Amanda Candelario, a PE
teacher at Webb Bridge Middle School in Alpharetta, Ga. “I liked that
it was interactive, that we got to try all the skills, that they were
broken down one by one by one like we would teach the kids and that we
got to practice them with their providing us feedback and telling us
what maybe we could do differently in regards to the skills. We got
lots of practice which was good.”
The session started off with a brief introduction by McGuire and
members of CAUSA, including President Lada Bedi and Tummala, as a short
guide with visuals and diagrams on cricket was distributed to each
teacher. This was followed by a sequence of game footage shown on a
projection screen in the cafeteria, Yuvraj Singh’s six sixes in an over
off Stuart Broad from the 2007 World Twenty20, aimed at giving the
teachers present a glimpse of some of the more spectacular parts of the
game they were about to learn.
“Wow! It’s the first time I’ve ever seen cricket played,” said Jill
Robertson, a PE teacher at Autrey Mill Middle School in Alpharetta,
Ga., “and to see how one country can be so excited about a sport and
it’s just the bomb over [in India] and yet we’ve never heard of it
really except for in conversation but never played it, never seen it
played and so it’s really exciting to learn something new.”
Once the fireworks were complete, the teachers all got to pick up their
own blade of willow to learn proper batting technique followed by a
tutorial on bowling and fielding. The day was concluded with a short
game of indoor cricket to put into practice the skills they learned
over the course of the day.
“We are making them understand cricket with the same principles as any
other sport and applying the basics of cricket making it simple for
them to understand,” said Tummala. “Cricket has many more rules than
any other game but we are not trying to implement all those rules in
these brief sessions. We are trying to get the knack of the main three
aspects of cricket: batting, bowling and fielding.”
“I enjoyed trying the bowling because I used to coach the javelin when
I lived back up in New Jersey,” said Steve Kolkka, another PE teacher
at Webb Bridge Middle School. The javelin approach to fast bowling is
something that is espoused by Mavericks Cricket Institute founder Ian
Pont. “Some of those movements were very similar.”
The next workshop for Fulton County Schools by CAUSA is scheduled for early 2010, but don’t expect it to be the last one.
“If we can teach American teachers this great game of cricket, that is
the only way I think we can send the message close to America what
cricket is,” said Bedi. McGuire and CAUSA have calculated some
astounding numbers for the amount of students that can be reached in
Fulton County alone once more teachers are trained through more clinics.
“In the previous meeting we had with Ms. Therese McGuire… she was
mentioning that there are 90 schools in Fulton County and there is an
opportunity to reach out to 90,000 kids in just Fulton County,” said
Tummala. “So if we put all the figures on paper, you may be reaching
astronomical figures for the number of kids whom we can reach out to.
So if we just take the minimum, the base minimum figure of what we are
trying to reach out to, we plan in the next three to five years we
should have at least 10 to 20,000 kids playing cricket here in Atlanta,
and in the metro Atlanta area and the nearby counties.”
“An institution like Cricket Academy USA who is looking to try and
teach the game to tens if not hundreds of thousands of students in the
next few years is remarkable,” said USACA CEO Don Lockerbie. CAUSA made
an impressive presentation to Lockerbie and USACA board members at the
recent board meeting that took place during the National Championships
in Florida. The plans which were outlined gained a hearty approval from
Lockerbie with the hope that their model will succeed not just in
Atlanta but all over the country.
For now though, the focus is on Fulton County and whether or not the
kids will take the lead from their teachers to give cricket a go.
However, most of the teachers who attended November’s workshop are
confident that won’t be a problem.
“Just remembering that it’s so much fun to try something new,” said
Robertson. “It’s so much fun to learn a new sport and to teach kids. We
have kids from all over the country in our classes and I’m sure for
some of them they’ll be like, ‘Cricket! Yes I know this game because
I’m from India or I’ve seen it played somewhere else,’ and I just think
it’s gonna be fun.”
Picture: Therese McGuire (center standing) introduces the CAUSA
members (left) to the Fulton County PE teachers. (Courtesy: Peter
FCS Workshop Interview with Therese McGuire from Peter Della Penna on Vimeo.
FCS Workshop Interview with Amanda Candelario from Peter Della Penna on Vimeo.
FCS Workshop Interview with Steve Kolkka from Peter Della Penna on Vimeo.
FCS Workshop Interview with Lada Bedi & Anand Tummala
from Peter Della Penna
FCS Workshop Interview with Jill Robertson from Peter Della Penna on Vimeo.