Chris Tolley is more excited than usual for the start of the season as he prepares a batch of youngsters from the Nottinghamshire Academy for Second XI cricket.
The Academy Director has nurtured the likes of Scott Elstone, Tom Oakes and Dan Mason through for the last four years and is keen to see if they are ready to make the step up.
He said: “The players that were first taken on as juniors are now playing Second XI cricket, so this season will be particularly interesting for me to see what stage they are at.
“There were five of them playing in a friendly at Lincolnshire recently and two more would have been involved but for their studies at Oakham School.
“I made a conscious decision a few years ago to pick players for the squad at a younger age, and select some true athletes rather than just cricketers with ability.
“Mark Footitt came onto the Academy at 15, while Scott Elstone was 13 and Sam Kelsall was 11. With more time spent working in an elite environment, I hope they will be better prepared to move into senior professional cricket.”
Since the Academy was established in 2001, Tolley has expanded the programme of coaching and education to include a diverse range of activities from ballet movement lessons to sports psychology sessions.
That has again been the case this winter, with 10 squad members heading to the World Cricket Academy in Mumbai for 10 days of coaching and training in some of the best facilities in India.
They also visited St Xavier’s School for slum children, which was in Tolley’s words ‘an eye-opening experience’ for the youngsters.
He added: “I think everyone who went to Mumbai will have taken something from the trip and I am keen to try and make it a regular biannual part of their programme.
“As a group, their dynamic has changed since the trip to India. They have gelled as a group and are working together better, which is why I was so keen to bring everyone into Trent Bridge for the Easter Excellence Camp.”
The three-day meet involved all members of the Academy apart from Karanjit Bansal and Ben Milnes, who were unable to make the trip, with the squad put through their paces on and off the field.
As well as getting a rare opportunity to net with the senior professionals, they also worked with a team psychologist on their goals for the season, had a performance lifestyle session and fitness and nutrition assessment.
Tolley also invited an aikido coach in to run a practical session in a bid to improve the squad’s fielding skills.
He explained: “I wanted everyone to try out aikido and learn how they can use some of the rolls and movement when diving around in the field.
“We had them picking up the ball, rolling and then throwing the ball into the wicketkeeper, and you could see that a few were picking up the principles quite quickly.”
Those kind of innovations keep training fresh during the off-season, which might otherwise turn into a cycle of nets and gym sessions.
The results have been positive and Tolley said: “Certain players have come on, both on and off the field, and a lot of them can be confident about the summer.
“I would like to see Nick Langford push into the England Under-15s squad, while Ian Saxelby still has a couple of years on his side for the England Under-19s.
“It’s particularly encouraging that he has been picked along with Antony Angove to play against the full Canada side for an ECB Select XI in May.
“I am looking forward to seeing how the squad progress with the season now underway.”