Cricket camp lets youngsters shine

CRICKET is finally losing its elitist image according to one of Suffolk's leading youth development officers in the sport.

Stuart Watson

CRICKET is finally losing its elitist image according to one of Suffolk's leading youth development officers in the sport.

Rod Blackmore, who works with the junior players at St Margarets Cricket Club, once again helped to run the club's annual three-day junior summer camp at Ransomes Sports Club last week.

The camp is run in conjunction with 'Chance to Shine', an initiative run by the Cricket Foundation in order to bring more cricketing opportunities to children within state schools.

This is a subject Blackmore is particularly passionate about and one he has personally tried to address this year by providing coaching workshops at six of Ipswich's primary and secondary state schools.

“Cricket always used to be played in the parks and on the beaches by all sorts of children over the summer,” said Blackmore. “But about 15 years ago the sport started becoming a bit elitist and started to become played largely in the independent schools only.”

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That period has now passed though according to Blackmore who believes that the growth of the Twenty20 game and schemes such as Chance to Shine have started to make the sport much more accessible.

He said: “There is now once again an enormous demand for the game from youngsters in all backgrounds. Our junior membership at St Margarets is now over 60 and it is getting to the stage where we are having to limit how many we are taking on.

“I now go into the state schools and where we had 15 children coming to lunchtime clubs last year we have now got double that.

“The growth of the Twenty20 game has played a big part in that. It has brought a lot of colour and excitement to the game for youngsters. Evening matches and televised games have made cricket much more accessible and stars such as Kevin Pieterson and Freddy Flintoff have given them figures to idolise.

“I think there is a much more enlightened attitude amongst those running cricket now. There is an awareness now that the top players of the future have to be being attracted into the game now.”

Last week, over 20 children aged between nine and 15 were given three days of coaching by Blackmore and six other St Margarets club coaches.

Blackmore's chief coach Carl Fitch says he can already see the improvement in skill across pupils from the state schools. He said: “This year we have had to introduce three different levels of coaching for the youngsters - be-ginners, intermediate and advanced - because some of them have improved so much.

“Some of the children we had here two or three years ago had no bowling action at all. Now we have got some great little leg spinners, off spinners and even some chinamen.

“Three of our junior players are already playing for our senior third team so we are seeing massive progress.”