The jump from junior to senior cricket is a big one. Many don’t make it and are lost to cricket; dropping out when they finish age-group cricket.
That’s why it’s so important for senior players in the lower teams to make the transition to adult games easy for the lads (it’s usually lads).
It’s all too simple to pick an enthusiastic – or bully a less enthusiastic – player and forget about him.
While some will keep coming back, some will decided standing in a field all day isn’t as much fun as playing the Nintendo or chasing girls.
That’s a tough battle to lose, so here are my tips from the experiences at my own club that has an excellent record of keeping kids playing into adulthood.
Pick him with a mate
The number one thing you can do is consider that youngsters come in pairs.
Having a friend to lean on during the long day makes a huge difference. Instead of feeling alone they can banter, mess around in the nets and swap Nintendo (and girl) advice.
As the player gets comfortable in the team, this gets less important. Until they settle it can make or break an afternoon, even if you follow none of the other tips.
Sneak him a few overs
Consider the typical 13 year old playing his first adult game.
He bats 11; he doesn’t bowl; he moves from mid on to mid on.
He gets bored and doesn’t want to play next week.
It makes all the difference if you can sneak him in with 4 or 5 overs in the middle of the innings.
And it’s easier than you think: Say you have 4 bowlers who could give you all your overs.
You will open with your best seamers of course and aim to finish with spin. That’s going to give you 10 or so overs in the middle free. Easy to sneak a youngster in with a well set field.
If it goes badly you can take him off, but there is also a chance he will bag you a wicket or 2!
Move him around the field
Youngsters are protected in the field at fine leg, mid on or square leg.
This is wise, especially for those who are not confident fielding a firmly struck ball, but you also want the player to get the ball so he can grow in confidence.
You can do this in a couple of ways;
• Give him a few overs in a more active position; mid on, cover or midwicket are all good options.
• Put him in a new position but keep him hidden.
Both work because at least you are keeping him thinking, looking for the ball and watching the game. It makes fielding more fun and that stands him in good stead as he progresses in the game.
Manage his expectations
Everyone likes to know what they are doing; it gives them a sense of control.
That feeling is even more important for a young player unfamiliar with the adult game.
So keep talking to your charge.
Let him know what you expect from him with bat and ball. Keep his role something challenging but realistic to his level and he will feel motivated enough to keep coming back.
This applies just as much to the precocious talent as it does to the unsure newbie. The role might be totally different but the key is to keep challenging him to achieve slightly more than his current level.
It’s a lot more fun that way.
Ask him to captain
Finally, you can get him really involved in the field by asking him to take over the captaincy.
Not for the whole innings and perhaps not even for real, but it makes a huge difference to a young lad to be approached by a senior player and asked, “what would you do here?”
Suddenly he starts thinking more about the tactics of the game and running ideas through his mind. Before you know it he is making suggestions to you.
And when that happens, you can quietly tell him that he is running the show for the next 5 overs. You can still have him put his decisions through you if you like but you do everything he says.
Any kid who is not a little scared and excited by those 5 overs is in the wrong game!
by David Hinchclife, PitchVision Academy
© 2012 miSport Ltd