With the summer sun having well and truly set, the Nottinghamshire cricket community has the chance to reflect on yet another successful year within its ranks over the course of 2021.
In all, over 1000 children took to their local clubs, schools and community centres, donning the sky blue All Stars T-shirts now synonymous with grassroots cricket.
Over 800 more created history as the first cohort of Dynamos - the bridging programme offering cricket to 8-11-year-olds in a countdown format.
All this, and more, would, of course, not be possible without the vital contribution of coaches.
Encouraging, developing and stretching players of all ages and abilities - coaches are the engine room of the cricketing machine.
This is a notion expressed by John Neal, Head of Coach Development at the ECB, in his latest blog post in which he calls for more individuals from diverse communities to step forward into the coaching mantle.
Becoming a cricket coach is open to anyone – that is the one key message I’d love you to take away from reading this blog. If you’re interested in coaching, you should apply, no matter your level of experience, where you live, your gender or your background.
At its most basic level, coaching is very simple – if you stand by the side of a pitch and offer some encouragement to someone who is playing, then you’re coaching.
We have a tendency to over complicate coaching but really it is just about enabling those who are playing… and at the ECB we’re really focusing on getting more people to want to do that in the right way, so that more players enjoy playing the game.
Creating coaches who are role models is a big part of this, particularly for kids. We say that ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’, so creating male and female coaches who are role models for diverse communities is critical, and we’re making huge progress to diversify our pool of coaches across cricket.
We know there is more to do and there aren’t currently enough female and ethnically diverse coaches at the moment, particularly at elite levels but this is an area we’re focused on tackling.
This year we’ve seen more applicants than ever before across the game, with over 4,000 people enrolling in our Foundation courses. This is fantastic news for the sport and means that the record numbers of participants this summer are more likely to be getting coaching from qualified people.
This also means that we’re building a stronger pipeline of coaches who want to progress their coaching skills to provide higher quality, advanced coaching.
To become an Advanced or Specialist Coach, you first need to complete the Core Coaching qualifications, and this year, applications for our Advanced and Specialist programmes are at unprecedented levels as well. We’ve made a few key changes in our processes to make cricket coaching more accessible, no matter your level.
Firstly, Advanced and Specialist coaches don’t need to be coaching in the professional game. People can complete these courses whilst coaching in recreational cricket.
The coaches choose where they deploy their skills and that could be with an Under 12s team, it could be in men’s or women’s cricket, or with a disability team. The point is that these courses aren’t just for ex-pros - they’re open to all.
Secondly, applications for the Advanced programmes are blind-assessed. What I mean by this is that each application is anonymised through our BeApplied system and judged on the quality of the application, not the individual or their background.
This is helping to drive the diversity in our coaching community, with 32% of our latest intake on the Advanced programme being from ethnically diverse backgrounds, and 35% on the latest Specialist programme cohort.
In addition, 52% of our latest Scholarship intakes are women. We can see improvements, but we know we have much more to do. Removing the opportunity for bias in the process is a key step, so that coaches, no matter their gender or their background, get an equal opportunity.
Lastly, we’ve made a change to ensure that our Foundation programmes are offered at cost price, to encourage more coaches to enrol. Starting from £50 for the Support programme through to £300 for the Core programme, these courses offer a route to becoming a qualified coach at a consistent price no matter where you live in the country.
We’re seeing big demand for our coaching programmes and we’re working hard to create more capacity and have more availability for Advanced and Specialist applications. This will help to improve the standards of cricket across the game, from grassroots through to elite levels.
To go one step further in making our courses accessible, we provide bursaries to help those who may not otherwise be able to get into coaching, and, this year, we have launched the Derek Gift Simms Scholarship to support three coaches from an under-privileged background.
Derek Gift Simms was a champion of coaching at all levels in south-west London and was Secretary of the African Caribbean Cricket Association before he sadly died earlier this year. It was his wish that a bursary was made available to create opportunities for coaches from under-privileged backgrounds to help fulfil their ambitions.
As such the Derek Gift Simms Scholarship was formally announced and the search for the first recipients of the bursary has begun. The scholarship will provide support for qualification development, paying for expenses and clothing in addition to establishing coaching opportunities for as long as four years.
We have also launched a Coach Development Scholarship, which will provide up to 400 opportunities for female, ethnically diverse and disabled coaches to develop their coaching skills over a four-year period.
Scholars will receive personally designed mentoring and support across development or programme-related scholarships. The scholarships are for a two-year period with as many as 100 new scholars to be selected annually.
Coaches play such a pivotal role in providing the opportunity for people to ‘see it and be it’ and 2022 will continue our journey to inspire more people from more communities to play, at all levels of the game.