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On Saturday, June 7th, the three-year old NJ Youth Program relaunched its Under 13 component. Twelve U13 kids joined the Program over the weekend and more are expected to enlist once schools close in New Jersey on June 18th. For 2014, the Program's U13 season will feature an hour-long coaching session followed by match-play each Saturday. Activities for U13 kids will be held on most Saturdays until September.
Coach Earl Daley and Coach Malika Frank Daley conducted an evaluation session (picture at right) to determine whether the boys were ready for match-play with a 4.75 oz hard ball. Eashwar Erra supervised the match at the end of the coaching session. In the 15-over game, Blasters were beaten by the Strikers with five balls to spare.
For 11-year old Archie Debbage whose family moved from England last year, the program was an opportunity to reconnect with the sport he had played while in elementary school back in England.
Arvind Kumar, 13, was enrolled with an academy in Chennai before his family moved to the area last year.
Smeet Pundit, 11, trained at the Parle Tilak Cricket Academy in Mumbai last summer. Smeet was thrilled to get back to playing the game right here in the U.S.
Several of the remaining boys played indoors at the area's academies or in their backyards with their parents or friends. The weekend's match was the first outdoor age-group game for many of the participants.
The NJ Youth Program has had a series of firsts since it was first formed in 2012. The Program got a mention on the giant screen in Times Square when Anil Kumble rang the Nasdaq closing bell on August 18, 2012. In 2013, the Program's U15 boys won the gold medal at the first ever AAU Olympics to feature cricket.
Five boys from the NJ Youth Program's Under 15 team played as part of the Atlantic Region U15 team, which swept the 2014 Eastern Conference U15 tournament held over the Memorial Day. The boys will participate in the national championship in California at the end of June.
A full strength Colts squad will also participate in the NYCL tournament to be played in Dallas over the July 4 weekend.
The Program is coached by a team of coaches and volunteers including Earl Daley, Malika Frank Daley and Damion Morgan. Delkash Shahriarian, Stephen Rooke, Peter Della Penna and Eashwar Erra have all helped out as volunteers on the coaching front. This year, Mukunda Rao, a football coach who was with the US Army for eleven years, has volunteered to provide fitness training. Mukunda plays for the Mavericks in CLNJ.
Over the years, many cricketing legends including Stuart MacGill, Lance Gibbs, Alvin Kallicharran, Syed Kirmani, Balwinder Singh Sandhu, VVS Laxman and Sunil Gavaskar observed the boys in the nets and offered guidance. India's cricket captain MS Dhoni signed a handful of autograph bats in support of the program.
Support for the NJ Youth Program has grown by leaps and bounds. While the Program is autonomous, it benefits from its symbiotic relationship with the leagues including the Cricket League of New Jersey (CLNJ), Millennium Cricket League (MCL) and NJ Softball Cricket League (NJSBCL).
Pic (Right): Archie Debbage awaits his first ball stateside
CLNJ handles all necessary logistics and infrastructure from ground permits to 501c7 allowing the NJ Youth Program to focus on cricket development.
Several of the area's cricket clubs including the Viho NJ Sluggers CC, Edison CC, Club for Cricket, Mavericks CC, Amwell Valley CC and Freedom CC have helped the program over the last three years. Incredibles and Global CC have also offered monetary support.
The NJ Youth Program has had its share of reversals and difficulties. However, the Program has remained focused on its long-term goals of expanding playing opportunities and increasing the number of youth participants.
Corporate sponsorships can be hard to come by for a niche amateur sport. The NJ Youth Program has had reasonable success in this area and enjoys the support of an impressive and ever-growing list of sponsors.
Deloitte Consulting was the NJ Youth Program's biggest sponsor in 2013, and it has been joined by several new sponsors for 2014. That list includes Access Healthcare, Ceera Investments, Radiant Info, Collabera, Ampericon Energy Solutions, Cogent IBS, Indecomm Global, Docmation and Paradise Biryani Pointe. Several other individuals and cricket fans have also contributed to the program. DreamCricket.com is the NJ Youth Program's media partner.
The Program benefits from the involvement of a large number of volunteers. Following the AGM held on March 7th, the NJ Youth Program chose to retain its leadership for two more years. Vimal Rajamanur is the program's Treasurer, Arvindh Rajaraman is the Secretary and Venu Palaparthi is the program's coordinator. The Program's membership approved a proposal for the Program to seek USACA membership as an associate member. Accordingly, the NJ Youth Program paid membership dues to USACA ahead of the May deadline.
For more details, contact venu at dreamcricket . com