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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.
While 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.
[Views expressed in this article are those of the author. If you have differing views or opinions, we respect those views and urge you to provide your feedback - both positive and negative - in the comments section.]