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By Peter Della Penna (on Twitter)
In part one of a two-part interview, USACA CEO Darren Beazley discusses his background coming from Western Australia where he was an administrator in several different sports including cricket, sailing and Australian Rules Football prior to taking on the position as the USA Cricket Association’s chief executive in February. Among other topics, Beazley also talks about how he hopes to rectify the lack of domestic women’s cricket tournaments since the team came back from the 2011 ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier in Bangladesh as well as how he hopes to recruit the 32 disenfranchised leagues from the 2012 USACA election back into the USACA fold.
The full episode can be accessed by clicking here and is also available for free download on iTunes. The following is a brief selection of quotes from part one of the interview.
Image (right) - USACA CEO Darren Beazley speaking at the tournament banquet following the 2013 ICC Americas Division One Twenty20 in Florida. [Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]
Peter Della Penna: One of the interesting things I found out about you is that way back when, you used to coach or teach lacrosse in Australia. Kind of similar in some ways to what you’re doing here, I can’t imagine lacrosse is a very popular sport in Australia. What was that experience like and what are some of the things you think you can take from that and some of the other jobs you’ve had - you’ve worked with development in the Australian Football League in South Africa, those kind of things. What are some of the things you learned from kind of developing a sport and teaching and spreading a sport where it’s not very popular in those territories that you think you can apply here?
Darren Beazley: My view when I was teaching – I used to be a phys ed teacher many moons ago and that’s where I taught the lacrosse – was that we have a responsibility to expose young people to all types of games. Now lacrosse was a game in Australia that not many of my students had ever played and the thing I liked about it, it was a really good leveling sport because all of a sudden they weren’t playing through the planes like a vertical plane with a cricket shot or a horizontal plane with a baseball shot because all of a sudden you’re catching and throwing from above the waist and there’s not many sports where you do that, particularly with an implement. So it was a great leveler to find out which were the good hand-eye, but also it’s a very fast running game so which were the good athletes who had the big tanks. I guess I took a lot of that knowledge into developing a niche sport in South Africa and I’m going to apply that knowledge here. What are the fundamentals? The fundamentals are that you need to make sure that the experience that you have is an excellent one because there’s too many reasons for young people who come and taste the sport to not play it. Football is very big here, baseball is very big here. So if they come down to cricket and they have a bad experience, the coach doesn’t make it fun or is too hard on the young person coming down, they’re not going to hang around. They’ll go whereas if you’re in an established sport like cricket is in Perth or in Australia, if the coach is a bit hard on you you’re more likely to keep coming back because it is the sport. I think that’s really important and our coaches need to understand no matter where they are in America, they’ve got a responsibility to give our kids a good experience the first time. The second thing in terms of high performance like my very brief involvement with the men’s national team, same thing. We’ve got to make sure that when they come into the national team that everything is done very professionally and very well so that they think they’re part of something very special because if you do it half-hearted, then they’ll go, ‘This sport’s not serious. This sport’s never going to make an impact on the landscape’ and therefore they’re going to go and choose something else. If I can take one lesson that I’ve learned from Major League Soccer, I think the work that they’ve done and I know it’s been a long time that they’ve been doing it, but from what I can see from the outside, they seem to have done a very very professionally run league and I think they’ve shown what can be done. I think cricket can learn a lot from Major League Soccer.
PDP: What do you see the state of cricket in this country at the moment? A lot of people like making the comparison to soccer and they say cricket is right now is where soccer was 30 years ago or 40 years ago and look where soccer is now. What do you see as the state of cricket and how far off cricket can be from becoming that status that soccer is enjoying now in this country?
DB: It’s the biggest challenge I think I face Peter because I’d like to first of all say to your listeners that the volunteers that have got US Cricket to the point that they have should be really proud of themselves. You think about 49 leagues, 1100 teams across the country, about 35,000 people playing the game, that’s a fantastic effort. But it’s all been done on the back of volunteers by and large. My sense is looking at this I don’t know how much further US Cricket could continue to grow on the basis of volunteerism and the reason for that is that our jobs are more and more demanding. Our appreciation of family time is becoming more apparent so people are less and less likely to give up huge amounts of times to go and try and keep things going… This is the big challenge I think for US Cricket to make that move from amateurism to professionalism. What that means is that there’s going to have to be a real delicate balance from my team at USACA to make sure that we completely respect the work that the volunteers have done to this point and to celebrate the great work that they’ve done and in the same time for the volunteers to understand that things have changed. They do need to let go and they do need to take a bit of advice from people who are doing this in a professional capacity. My sense is from the people I’ve met – and I haven’t been over to the west coast yet – but I’ve been in my seven or eight weeks I’ve been in the job, I’ve been around to a lot of places and I’ve met some really good people. I’m pretty confident that we can make a dent. Now further to your point, can we get as far as soccer has in that time? I’m not sure yet Peter. I haven’t seen enough of it to comment on that but I think we’ve got a good foundation.
PDP: A lot of womens players around the country are very frustrated at the lack of opportunities. USA qualified for the 2011 Women’s World Cup Qualifier. It was a big moment for development in US Cricket, in particular women’s development, and things have stalled since then. There was a great opportunity to sustain momentum and keep momentum going in the right direction but since the women have come back from Bangladesh, there has not been a single domestic tournament organized for them. There were some promises made in 2012 for a women’s tournament. Never happened. How do you get that momentum and that faith restored in the women’s program?
DB: I’ve spoken to two ladies, two women’s coordinators, one from New York and one from here in the South East Region. She’s based in Georgia. My first step is to actually get the women’s representatives from each of the eight regions. At the last USACA board meeting, all regional representatives were asked to put up the name of that person. We’ll speak in the next two weeks and I want to get a national view of this of what they’d like to see happen from that. We’ll then develop part of our overall strategy will be, a core pillar will be aimed at women’s cricket. We will devise some sort of a system for this year. I think it’s important. I don’t know how it looks Peter but I think it’s important. What you’re saying is right that our ladies get a chance to play together and have some sort of an opportunity this year because as I said if we’re going to undertake international duties in 2014, we need to start doing that now. I can’t say after eight weeks in the job exactly what that looks like, but I am firmly committed to making sure that there is some opportunity for the ladies to get together and play some sort of competitive cricket.
PDP: One of the things that has bothered a lot of stakeholders around the country is how that elections played out over the course of 2011 and 2012. Reintegration has been a buzzword in international cricket over the last year. Kevin Pietersen’s reintegration process, Ross Taylor’s reintegration process with New Zealand. What is the reintegration process for the 32 leagues that were disenfranchised and not allowed to vote in the last USACA election?
DB: I’m not really 100% sure about all the facts in that. Obviously I’ve spoken to a lot of stakeholders and they’ve certainly told me their view of it good and bad. What I’m here for, I’ve made a big commitment to come here. This is personally I guess for me terrific because my family is from the US but this is a really challenging job but I’m doing it for one reason because I was lucky enough to play cricket in Australia but also overseas and cricket’s been good to me. It’s my turn to put something back. So that’s my motivation. In terms of some of the things that have happened, what I’m hoping to do is I’ve now spoken to seven of the eight regions. Some people are pro-USACA and some are very vocally not pro-USACA but I’ve offered the olive branch. I’ve said I’m happy to talk to everybody. I’ve mapped out some of my ideas and some of my views and it’s resonated. We have got now some member leagues that have paid their dues, already become financial in the last few weeks that are saying, ‘You know what. I’m not happy with what necessarily happened last year but I’m prepared to be a big enough person to put it behind me and I’m gonna give this guy a go’ and I really appreciate that support. Peter, not everyone has done that and I respect that too. That’s fine. But you know what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing. I think that further to what I said previously that most people are not silly that are involved in cricket. They can see good administration when they see it. They recognize it. So my job over the next six to 12 months is to put in place a serious sustainable long-term cricket structure that will have people wanting to come back on board. To those that haven’t signed up again, I would ask you to reconsider. I would ask you please to give us a go, pay your USACA membership. There is a governance committee which is headed up by Shelton Glasgow. Once you’ve paid your USACA membership, they will come in contact with you and they will walk you through what needs to be done in order to address some of the issues. For those that say, ‘No. I don’t want to do that. I’m going to sit back for a year,’ I’ll respect that too. But you know what? I’ll work with anybody to do my very best for US Cricket. It’s not one that I’m going to be able to wave a magic wand Peter, as much as I’d like to, and pretend that some of the things in the past haven’t happened and I don’t want to make comment one way or the other. It’s not for me to do that. I can only look forward. I’m not trying to pretend that what happened in the past didn’t happen, but I can’t really change it and I don’t know enough about it so my sense is the best thing I can do is continue to try and make those offers and those that want to come with us will. Those that don’t? Well, they can make their own decision.