National Youth Cricket Day is March 24, and hundreds of schools in the United States are now playing because the USYCA Schools Program.
USYCA promotes good health and an active lifestyle for children by donating cricket sets and instruction to local elementary and middle schools. Last summer, USYCA announced a partnership with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, and began working with schools in districts nationwide. The USYCA Schools Program donates cricket equipment and instruction to schools without condition or requirements. The only thing necessary is for a school, or school system, to simply request that they be included in the program. That’s it.
Cricket, the world’s second-most popular sport, has now become one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States, where it hasn’t experienced widespread popularity since the early 19th century. This resurgence is primarily due to an influx in immigration from cricket-playing regions such as India and the Caribbean; now the sport is spreading to the American mainstream.
This week, for example, sees the playing of the 3rd annual American College Cricket National Championship in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The city of Indianapolis is about to begin construction on a 40-acre cricket facility, and other communities are considering cricket facilities as well. USYCA has helped schools from over 25 states add cricket to their physical education curriculums. Cricket, it seems, is no longer a game of America’s past – it has now staked a firm claim to a place in America’s future.
Cricket, unlike most team sports I grew up with in America, rewards not only athleticism, but also ingenuity and intellect. Cricketers don't try to just "hit the ball hard somewhere," to paraphrase a well-worn baseball cliche. Cricketers look to play shots and to use their creativity and guile to systematically maneuver their opponent into making mistakes. The game is as much about intelligence as it is about physical attributes. For me, that's what makes it a thing of beauty.
Cricket is the perfect game for group instruction. It can be played indoors or outside, on a basketball court, asphalt or grass. It allows the instructor to observe students both as individual participants and as parts of a team. Cricket also possesses the unique potential to appeal to all athletes, not just those who are typically large, strong or fast. Cricket rewards patience, technique and intelligence; stature has very little to do with eventual greatness. This encourages all children to participate, and draws out those typically disaffected. Everyone wins.