Photo credit: Peter Della Penna
Following USA's 7th place finish at the Women's T20 World Cup Qualifier in Scotland, the USA Women's national team is in desperate need of a major revamp if they ever want to be seriously competitive going forward. In his tour review, Peter Della Penna lays out a roadmap for how to realistically make USA Women a competitive outfit on the international stage.
By Peter Della Penna (Twitter @PeterDellaPenna)
On the eve of the 2019 Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier in Scotland, USA Women’s head coach Julia Price made an eerily haunting comment regarding where USA’s team stood in relation to Thailand, who had just defeated USA by 58 runs in a final tune-up for the tournament.
“We’re probably where Thailand was 10 years ago,” Price said. A simple glance at the ICC history books shows anyone who cares to look that Thailand played their first match in 2007, and recorded their first win in 2009, while USA played their first match and recorded their first win in 2009 as well. By the end of the tournament, that statement took on an altogether different meaning.
In the space of 10 years since recording their first ever win, Thailand has now qualified for their first ever World Cup, whether it be men, women or U-19. If USA is 10 years behind Thailand, then basically the USA Women’s program has stood still at the starting blocks since 2009, not even getting down into a crouching position. It didn’t have to be this way, but a decade has now been wasted when the template for how to achieve success has been staring right in front of them this whole time.
The Thailand blueprint
Thailand Cricket’s administrators made the decision from day one that they would not find success depending on Commonwealth expats who are second-rate cricketers to lead them to glory. They committed to finding the first-rate athletic talent from other sports, predominantly softball as spelled out in this piece on Emerging Cricket by Nishadh Rego, and then set about teaching these elite athletes how to play cricket to become first-rate cricketers. The proof of concept was there for all to see this past week in Scotland.
Putting aside the Thai squad’s batting and bowling technical prowess, what stood out most was their world-class fielding: footspeed to the ball in the field, catching ability, throwing arm strength and accuracy from the circle and from the boundary, sliding and diving to stop runs in the circle and along the boundary, depth perception judging skied chances. Fielding and fitness have been the foundational pillars upon which Thailand built their game to be a competitive unit. Over time they have worked to close the talent and skill gaps in batting and bowling.
USA’s strategy has been a 180-degree flip from Thailand, mainly relying on anyone who knows something about cricket who has moved to the USA from a Commonwealth country and knows what a cricket bat looks like, but who is nowhere near an elite caliber athlete. Worse, these players have substandard fitness and fielding abilities. Yet, USA administrators expect a well-paid foreign coach to magically transform said players into an elite cricketer simply by pulling on a USA jersey.
Gary Kirsten, John Buchanan, Bill Belichick, Vince Lombardi, Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Pat Summitt, Geno Auriemma, Mike Krzyzewski, Scotty Bowman, Joe Torre, Alex Ferguson. Take your pick, cricket or non-cricket, of the greatest coaching minds in men’s or women’s sports that the world has ever seen. If you put them in charge of coaching this USA Women’s team, the results would not change because the talent pool is just plain rotten. USA’s fielding was the worst of any team in the tournament in Scotland, a handy indicator of their general lack of athleticism and fitness that holds everything else back.
However, Thailand has shown that it is extremely possible to take an elite athlete reared in their native domestic sporting environment, teach them cricket, and turn them into a very good cricketer capable of qualifying for the World Cup. It’s the strategy USA administrators should have been putting into action since 2009. As much as people may want to blame USACA, they have been gone in name since 2015 but recent events with the men’s team have been a handy reminder that certain characters haven’t changed. So it should be no surprise to see the results of the women’s team in Scotland.
Arguably USA’s most eye-catching athletes in Scotland were 14-year-old Lisa Ramjit and 15-year-old Geetika Kodali. Ramjit is the youngest player in the team but – in spite of her limited pace – was by far USA’s most consistent and accurate bowler, quickest to the ball in the field in terms of footspeed, quickest runner between the wickets, a sure-handed catching fielder, accurate and adequate arm strength and is a promising batter with solid hand-eye fundamentals and decent technique. Kodali is much quicker than Ramjit with the ball but has control issues, something which can be corrected with experience and good coaching. Like Ramjit, she also has good hand-eye fundamentals allowing her to strike the ball hard and clean and like Ramjit she is fit, runs well and has adequate but not exceptional arm strength and accuracy in the field.
But the majority of the squad is substandard in the field and few if any offer anything extraordinary on the batting or bowling side to justify their inclusion. Outside of Erica Rendler shouting all week from the boundary, there is little to no noise on the field to support their teammates. That includes but is not limited to the captain and wicketkeeper Sindhu Sriharsha. Despite holding two positions that require a player to be generally more vocal than most, she was eerily silent most of the week, whether it was general encouragement or a very passive approach to appealing for lbw. Beyond the general catch-all categories of batting, bowling and fielding, the cricketing acumen demonstrated by the squad in a series of areas was equally poor.
USA’s lack of game-awareness
A frequent sight while USA batted was seeing a non-striker “take a start” by walking two strides out of the crease as the ball was bowled, but then stand still afterward, negating any sort of body movement/momentum. It almost always eliminated the possibility of a sharp single. The ability to judge a run from the non-striker’s end was non-existent as a result. As a side note, change of direction agility from runners is poor to non-existent. This was best exemplified by the runouts of Onika Wallerson against Bangladesh and Uzma Iftikhar against Papua New Guinea.
Wallerson had turned for a second from the striker’s end that was never a possibility after Sugetha Chandhrasekar had edged to third man. There was not really any intent behind leaving the crease, almost as if turning for the second was something that other cricketers do on TV do so I’ll do it to look like a cricketer too. There was never ever a second run and she was not more than five yards out of the crease but even though she wasn’t moving that quickly to begin with, there was zero capacity to hustle back. The same was the case for Iftikhar’s runout. She took two to three strides out of the non-striker’s end and then stood still. The ball was driven along the ground straight back to the bowler, who fielded and turned around to underhand into the stumps. Iftikhar was only just beginning to get her feet moving again back toward the crease and was out by some distance. A different player with a reasonable standard of agility and athleticism would have been in no danger whatsoever of getting back to their crease.
USA’s fielders in the ring were generally a step slow reading the ball off the bat, but in particular fielders behind square of the wicket. They don’t seem to understand or recognize body cues offered by a striker to be alert and able to anticipate the ball coming their way well before the ball is actually played, i.e. watching trigger footwork to move onto the front or back foot, hip rotation to open or close the hips signaling if it’s going to be an off side or leg side stroke, or watching if a batter gets on a knee against a spinner to recognize a sweep is coming to the leg side. Instead, USA’s fielders look like they are A: watching the ball being delivered out of the bowler’s hand instead of watching the batter’s body movements to project where the ball may be hit; and B: waiting for the ball to come off the bat before making any trigger movement to generate momentum towards fielding the ball. The first step by the fielder was always late as a result.
With the exception of Shebani Bhaskar, few if any USA players are willing to get their uniforms dirty to stop a ball. Fielders were more likely to slap at or kick the ball to try to stop it from going over the rope rather than slide or dive, while some others struggled to bend down to field at times, more signs of their lack of athleticism and fitness.
USA’s general footspeed to the ball is poor. In fact, their general speed along the ground was the worst of any team in the tournament, compared to Thailand and Bangladesh who were arguably the two best. Surprise, surprise, they both are going to the T20 World Cup. The same was true of USA’s running between the wickets. Lisa Ramjit was the fastest in both facets – fielding footspeed and running between the wickets – offering a gigantic hint as to what the selection philosophy should be going forward, but more on that later.
USA’s catching was generally poor. Though few chances were offered due to USA’s limited time in the field against Scotland, Bangladesh and Netherlands in particular, several were missed through clumsy snatches at the ball or misjudgments reading the ball off the bat.
USA’s collective throwing arm strength is incredibly weak. A sizable number, but not all, of USA’s players throw with their arms only, again highlighting the general lack of athletic ability. There is little if any lower body technique employed by most, meaning: little to no stride with front foot/leg and no hip drive/rotation to generate momentum, power and accuracy into the throw. At best there might be some front arm balancing to help with throwing accuracy.
Not a single USA player demonstrated capability to reach the wicketkeeper with a throw from the boundary, though Nadia Gruny was closest. Most fielders were sending in three and four bounce relays that in some instances were disguised by having a cutoff relay fielder halfway between the boundary and the wicketkeeper, or by the keeper having to abandon the stumps to collect a throw. On the other hand the Thailand and Bangladesh fielders, even some PNG fielders, were capable of reaching the wicketkeeper from the boundary.
USA’s batting pairs were regularly unable to identify weak fielders and capitalize on it for scoring runs. Conversely opposition teams were quick to realize that taking on a USA boundary fielder in many instances resulted in an automatic run for the throw. Within a few overs, every team had sized up who were USA’s strongest and weakest fielders in all facets: footspeed to the ball, arm strength, throwing accuracy. The most obvious instance was in the match against the Netherlands when Akshatha Rao and Mahika Kandanala were given ruthless treatment by the Dutch top three, who constantly and purposely altered their shot selection to target the pair no matter where they were placed on the field.
At least a quarter of the runs scored by Netherlands were targeted shots running the ball off an open face to third man or fine leg to pick on USA’s weakest fielders. The Dutch non-strikers were also exceptional at reading the USA fielder’s first step to instantly take on a run. If the first step by a fielder at short third man or short fine leg was a lateral foot or body movement, even if it was only taking two strides right or left, the non-striker bolted without hesitation for a run knowing full well that the fielder wasn’t agile enough to cut off the distance to the ball to deny the run. Only if the first step taken by the fielder was a forward motion would the opposition non-striker stay put.
Conversely, USA’s non-strikers steadfastly refused to take on short third man or fine leg, seemingly oblivious that most teams place their weakest fielders in these two positions. USA was the worst team at the tournament in picking up and recognizing these strategic clues. USA also regularly settled for one run on balls hit wide of fielders patrolling the boundary, refusing to take on a weak-armed fielder for a second. Only on the final day against Namibia did this show any sign of changing when Sriharsha and Gruny were together at the crease.
Runs inside the circle in front of square were also rarely taken by USA in stark contrast to their opponents. Despite USA possessing few hitters capable of striking forceful boundaries, they regularly tried to hit the ball as hard as they could. It almost always resulted in a hard-handed push to a fielder on the circle. There was rarely any finesse or touch in their strokeplay targeting placement. Despite opposition fielders regularly pinned to the edge of the ring, it was hard to recall any instance before the Namibia match of a USA batting pair attempting, let alone successfully completing, a tip and run single whereas their opponents attempted and completed tip and run singles almost at will.
Where is the talent coming from?
Though there was a “USA national team” on field in Scotland, the women’s national team program is more in line with a club team operation. The volume of registered senior players that USA is drawing from nationwide has hovered around 100 players since 2011 when USA last appeared in a World Cup Qualifier in Bangladesh. That’s representative of a large cricket club, not even close to the numbers representative of a standard city or state cricket league let alone a nationwide pipeline of talent. Aside from that, USA’s on-field activity more closely resembles what one would find at a local cricket club. There are a couple of good players, no world-beaters, and the majority are role players.
The athleticism and talent simply isn’t there in such a small talent pool. The USA Women’s cricket team does not draw from a top-tier or elite athletic base. Only three of the players in the team come from what could be characterized as a serious athletic background: Shebani Bhaskar (long-drive champion golfer), Nadia Gruny (former NCAA Division One soccer player at South Carolina State University), and Erica Rendler (former NCAA Division One field hockey player at University of California-Berkeley).
With the exception of Bhaskar, Gruny, and Rendler – as well as Kodali and Ramjit, who have only just started high school but have already shown immense promise and are still developing athletically – it’s hard to pick out anyone else who shows signs of being an elite athlete. It’s hard to imagine anyone from the rest of the squad playing for Team USA in a different sport had they not chosen cricket. There are no athletes playing for USA like like Marion Jones, who averaged 14.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 3.2 steals per game as an 18-year-old freshman for the NCAA National Champion North Carolina Tar Heel women’s basketball team before then opting to pursue a career in track & field, becoming a world champion 100-meter sprinter.
ICC Associate Development Census Data shows that as of 2017, Thailand was drawing from 1700 players from a program that started in 2007, Scotland 900, Netherlands 800, PNG 1200. Thailand administrators say that number is over 3000 as of 2019 and will only go bigger with their appearance in the World Cup next February.
USA’s strategic framework outline produced in 2015 coming out of an ICC town hall meeting listed several objectives for high performance for USA. They included making the 2020 Under-19 World Cup as well as the 2020 T20 World Cup for men and women. They have failed at all three, even though qualifying for the Women’s T20 World Cup was perhaps the most achievable if only the right plan had been implemented. There were reasonable ideas to fulfill that aim, on paper at least. But the “Participation” plans to achieve these goals were never implemented, a major failure of both the transitional “Project USA” administration and USA Cricket. Among the “Participation” plans that would lead to successful national teams qualifying for all three World Cups in 2020 were:
A: “Elite, well publicized national tournaments in place involving the best men, women and junior players.”
B: “Elite national tournaments continue to improve and are supplemented by the introduction of elite regional tournaments.”
C: “Have a women’s national team talent identification and preparation system in place (includes using the strength of the US college sports systems and ‘Title IX’.”
D: “College cricket has grown to x universities with scholarships in place.”
E: “Participation numbers will have increased from x to x.”
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why the USA U-19s, men and women all failed to make their respective World Cups when participation objectives A-E listed above never got off the ground. The easiest one to fix is in regards to the women’s program and yet hardly anybody has lifted a finger beyond the introduction of the “Girls Cricket League”, a junior girls event founded in 2018 by Gruny and USA selector Joan Alexander-Serrano that had three teams and roughly 40 girls participating last month in Florida.
The strategic philosophy for next year’s 50-over Women’s World Cup Qualifier needs to be one of development. Six Test nations are guaranteed to be there, plus Thailand. Anyone who believes USA can finish in the top three of a tournament that will include Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Thailand – and two more teams representing the lowest finishers in the ICC Women’s Championship among West Indies, Pakistan, India and South Africa – to be able to qualify for the 2021 Women’s World Cup is extremely delusional.
The reality is that USA will most likely lose every match, something that the coaching staff and administration need to come to grips with. When asked if the selection philosophy for USA needed to change based on the evidence of Ramjit and Kodali, USA Women’s coach Julia Price made a throwaway comment that she would pick the best players available regardless of age.
“I don’t mind how old they are. If they’re 50 and they can do that and compete well enough to be in this team, then that’s fine,” Price said. It may have been slightly tongue-in-cheek to hammer down her position that she just wants the “Best XI”, but USA has literally already gone down the 50-year-old player path of “picking the best players regardless of age” strategy when they selected 50-year-old Joan Alexander-Serrano and 54-year-old Grace Chadderton-Richards to the 2011 Women’s World Cup Qualifier in Bangladesh. USA beat Zimbabwe by one run in that tournament when Bhaskar, then a 17-year-old at the time, scored 72 and then threw down the stumps for the match-ending runout. Bhaskar finished the tournament as USA’s leading scorer while the team was hammered in all remaining matches to end in eighth place.
Having a 17-year-old be USA’s top performer was the selection strategy staring at them in the face that they needed to go with. Instead, eight years of Bhaskar’s career have been wasted by surrounding her with mostly older, unfit, unathletic players. 14-year-old Lisa Ramjit’s performance in Scotland is déjà vu. USA Cricket can’t afford to waste the next eight years for Ramjit like they have for Bhaskar. There is no room for sentimentality here either. As nice as some of the women’s players are, USA Cricket administrators may need to tell Julia Price to take a hardline, radical decision on cutting loose the majority of the squad and start over. Picking a string of 13 and 14-year-olds who are fit, hungry and can field to supplement the likes of skilled assets like Ramjit, Kodali, Bhaskar, Gruny, Rendler, Chandhrasekar and Sriharsha would be a more positive approach than taking the majority of this squad to Sri Lanka. No amount of fancy development tours to Australia will change that.
If USA is going to lose every match next year in Sri Lanka, better to do it with a young and athletic but inexperienced group who can accept losing and soak up their lessons like sponges rather than fooling oneself into picking “the best possible XI” that is comprised of mostly over-the-hill, unathletic players whose ceiling for growth maxed out a long time ago and which won’t produce any different results against vastly superior teams such as West Indies and perhaps even India. The philosophy of picking a squad for the qualifier in Sri Lanka has to be with a much longer-term vision in place. So what should that vision be?
Dual NCAA Female Athlete Pilot Recruitment Programs
USA’s athletic genepool has an Ellyse Perry and a Harmanpreet Kaur in every state in America just waiting to be shown the sport of cricket. It’s up to administrators to wake up and realize that the emphasis for the next five to ten years has to be on pounding the pavement to mine that athletic talent in the most efficient way possible. Erica Rendler and Nadia Gruny - who was USA's leading scorer on tour and the first USA Women's player to score a T20I half-century - are proof that there are ex-NCAA Division One female athletes interested and capable of playing cricket. But someone has to take the first step to put a bat and ball in their hands to introduce them to the opportunity to represent USA.
How can that be achieved? Starting two focused pilot programs, one on each coast that targets a high concentration of female university athletes in the 17-21-year-old range within a tight geographic zone.
Southern California: USC, UCLA, Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, UC-Riverside, Long Beach State, Cal State-Fullerton, UC-Irvine (with possible extension out to UC-Santa Barbara, San Diego State, UC-San Diego, University of San Diego).
Raleigh, North Carolina: UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, NC State, UNC-Greensboro, Elon, East Carolina, Campbell, North Carolina Central.
The choice of locations comes down to a couple of basic factors. Southern California’s warm-weather enables athletes to train and be exposed to outdoor coaching and playing opportunities year-round. It’s also home to some of the finest facilities and athletic talent anywhere in America. Whether that is on the aforementioned university campuses or in regards to cricket where four turf wickets are located nearby at Woodley Park in Van Nuys.
Raleigh makes sense due to the high concentration of athletes, the access to a turf wicket at Church Street Park in Morrisville, but perhaps most importantly the community support that has been on evidence from volunteers tied to the Triangle Cricket League. Nowhere else in the country have USA’s men and junior players been showered with as much love and support as they were in Raleigh over the past 12 months. If potential USA Women’s recruits experience the same atmosphere, that is just as important to recruit them to the sport as their ability to bat and bowl.
If you don’t believe that community support is a tangible asset, consider that Kodali was born and raised in northern California but her parents decided to move the entire family to Raleigh earlier this summer. Specifically, they claim it was because of the support the cricket community demonstrated it was willing to offer a player like the 15-year-old Kodali, something the family witnessed first hand while she was competing in the National Youth Cricket League tournament staged there. The Kodali family feels it is the best environment with which to have Geetika living in to enable her to further her cricket.
In terms of player recruitment within these two geographic zones, there has to be a multi-pronged approach. The first step is for USA Cricket to hire four members of coaching staff, two in each location. Price herself mentioned in an interview at the end of the tournament in Scotland that she would ideally like “satellite” coaches to be hired to the women’s team. There’s no better facility than to hire them as part of a pilot program like this.
One coach in each location should be an accredited coach with multiple years of experience coaching junior players. The reason is simple. Said coach will have to teach the game to people who have never played it before. Hiring a coach in each of these locations who has spent the majority of their time fine-tuning and polishing the techniques of adult cricketers will be a faulty strategy because such a coach may be completely disconnected from the mindset of what it takes to teach fundamental principles to new players before they can later be honed into more advanced skills. To put it a different way, there is no point attending or teaching a 401 level course on cricket for players who have not first completed 101: Introduction to Cricket.
The other coaching staff role in each location does not even really need to be a cricket coach at all but rather a sports coach who is experienced at identifying and recruiting talented athletes. This role is arguably even more important to be able to successfully execute the pilot program strategy. Think of this person as the lead assistant coach of a college basketball team, the one who is the head coach’s best recruiter and a trusted lieutenant. This person should have sports links to the local community, such as strong relationships with the athletic director or general athletic departments at the area’s universities that will be the focal point of the pilot program. Tapping into that relationship will provide the opportunity to meet face to face with the athletes that may become future USA Women’s cricketers.
Which athletes should be targeted?
The coaches can’t fall into the stereotypical trap of thinking only softball players would be suitable by virtue of it being a bat and ball sport. The net must be cast as wide as possible to find players with excellent hand-eye coordination, but more importantly fitness, agility and fielding assets – not just catching but footspeed to the ball and throwing arm strength and accuracy. It means recruiting players from other sports (golf, tennis, basketball, softball, field hockey) who are still maintaining excellent fitness but who heading into their junior or senior years at university are playing a sport which might not offer them a pathway toward a professional career upon graduation.
Recruitment can’t wait to begin on graduation day either. The relationship needs to begin during their junior and senior years. Get the word out that players are being recruited to play for a USA national team. Go on campus. Network with the athletic department. Find out who wants to remain involved in an athletic pursuit to play for USA even if it’s not their current sport of choice.
A great example of this is the story of Mason Cox. The 6’10” Cox was a walk-on bench player on the Oklahoma State basketball team. In his four-year career, he played a total of 57 minutes and scored 7 points. But the Australian Rules Football League had been conducting scouting research identifying players of his physical build with height and leaping ability who could potentially be coaxed into giving AFL a try once they graduated. Cox attended a trial in Los Angeles having never picked up an AFL ball in his life and knew nothing about the rules. Just four years later he was playing a starring role in the 2018 AFL Grand Final for Collingwood, the Notre Dame of AFL, and is a bona fide household name in Australia.
Other recent examples include USA Olympic Track & Field sprinter Lolo Jones, who after failing to win a gold medal in her preferred summer discipline was recruited to join USA’s bobsled team for the Winter Olympics. Even in the NFL there is the recent example of Antonio Gates, who played basketball at Kent State for two seasons as an undersized 6'4" power forward from 2001-2003. Gates never played a single down of college football and his size was not appealing enough to realistically turn pro in basketball at his position. But after a tryout with the San Diego Chargers, he was signed as an undrafted free agent. His physicality and height from basketball transferred into football where he will likely be voted into the Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in five years as one of the best receiving tight ends ever.
The point is that there are plenty of NCAA athletes out there who may be at the end of the rope in one sport but could be superstars if exposed to another. Or they may not even be on an NCAA scholarship at all. By going into the athletic department at these universities, a cricket recruiting coach has access to the intramural sports programs as well, which are typically flooded with former all-state, all-sectional or all-district level ex-high school athletes that were not offered a scholarship or just decided to take up a more appealing academic opportunity at a more prestigious school instead of a scholarship at a low level Division One program.
Again, there are young females who have athletic gifts, are aged 17-21, still have a sufficient level of fitness and have plenty of time on their hands to be exposed to and learn a new sport that offers them a low barrier to entry to represent USA. If Erica Rendler was good enough to make USA’s Women’s cricket team after learning to play the sport more than a decade removed from her last time playing NCAA field hockey for the California Bears, just imagine how easy it might be for a current NCAA Division One athlete who is age 20 or 21 and only a few months removed from their final college game in whatever sport to transition quickly into playing for USA Women’s cricket squad.
After gauging their interest following initial scouting evaluations from attending their current sport’s team’s matches or practice sessions, bring them out to trials alongside other current players like Gruny and Rendler in particular, ones who have been through the NCAA Division One athlete experience and have a shared bond in that regard to further explore what it’s like to switch sports at a post-graduate age. Bring Ramjit and Kodali around too to see what they can learn from being exposed to the athleticism and agility of an NCAA Division One level athlete. There don’t need to be any organized games and teaching such athletes the rules of cricket is not necessary. Rendler herself admitted to not even knowing with the DLS Method was in USA’s loss to PNG, but that didn’t stop her from hitting three fours and the only two sixes struck by USA in Scotland.
Simply get these athletes in southern California and Raleigh to leave their college campus for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. Have them show up to Woodley Park or Church Street Park, put a bat in their hands and see how hard and how long they can hit a cricket ball. See how delicately they can control and place a cricket ball. Ask them to chase down a ball and hit the stumps from 20 yards from various angles around the infield ring. Ask them to chase down and throw the ball from the boundary to the stumps. There’s no need to overload them with strategic points and technical skill points tied to cricket. Just round up the best athletes pure and simple, tell them there is an opportunity to represent USA and leave the cricket laws and match strategies to the end until after they’ve been around for a few months and have demonstrated that they’re not here today, gone tomorrow. But the overall objective of the pilot program needs to be efficiently growing the playing pool to choose from by recruiting pure athletes, plain and simple.
Often times, administrators excuse away the inability to find talent by bemoaning how large the USA is and how difficult it is to scout out talent across all 50 states. So then don’t bother with all 50 states. Don’t be overwhelmed thinking you need to care about even 48 of the 50 states. The majority of ice hockey talent in America comes from Massachusetts and Minnesota. If a kid grows up in a warm-weather state, the roadmap is laid out that he or she has to move to a school where the heartbeat of ice hockey is if they want to become an elite prospect. USA Cricket needs to wrap their heads around the same philosophy.
Start in two cities in two states and focus your funding and manpower support in the most efficient manner possible in those two areas. Let other states be inspired by a pilot program out of California and North Carolina and then the competition will naturally grow. There is more athletic talent in southern California than in all of Thailand. The same is arguably true for the Raleigh-Durham triangle area of North Carolina. USA Cricket can’t sit on their hands preoccupied with appeasing every single constituent. They have to start somewhere.
USA Cricket can blame USACA for past failures and inactivity but this current result in Scotland, finishing a distant seventh out of eight teams, is on them because they have had complete control over USA Women’s team affairs ever since the wildcard spot was offered to the USA Women in the summer of 2017. USA Cricket also has the power to change the mentality and the philosophy going forward. It’s their choice whether or not they want to make it happen.
[Views expressed in this article are those of the author, who was present at all of the team’s matches on tour in Scotland, and do not necessarily represent the views of DreamCricket management. If you have different views or opinions, we respect those views and urge you to provide your feedback, both positive and negative. Feel free to respond to the author via Twitter @PeterDellaPenna.]