Back in 2017, 6 years ago, we set up and delivered the first ever All Stars programme at the club. You might be familiar with the concept, it’s cricket ‘coaching’ for age 4-8 year olds which includes your very own rucksack, plastic bat, soft ball and T-shirt with your name on it.
A very similar concept to Rugby Tots and Little Kickers, and in the first year, with support from Oxfordshire Cricket and the ECB, we had 45 signed up very quickly. This could have easily been 65 given the attractiveness of spending a Friday evening in the sunshine at one of Oxfordshire’s most picturesque grounds having a chat, drink and hot dog with friends – and that was just the parents! It’s worth noting that in 2023 we now have 130 All Stars and Dynamos.
Before we started the programme back in 2017, the Under 9’s was our youngest age group, which meant we were able to significantly extend the Junior section. But perhaps more importantly, it also kick started a fantastic resource pool of coaches and volunteers, many of which had never done any sports coaching before, not that the kids noticed, luckily.
The youngest All Stars Boys and Girls were aged 4, and when I say ‘coaching’ I really mean herding and crowd control (don’t forget your bat, where’s your ball, stop eating the grass…) but it taught them at an early age to pick up, catch and throw a ball, wave a bat and run around… or a mixture of all three.
Time catches up on you and when I look back at this programme, which we had little or no experience in ever doing before and took on with a mixture of dread and excitement, realise that we have made significant progress in what is now an even stronger junior cricket pathway at the club, not just for the kids but for the coaches and volunteers too.
Many of the ‘class of 2017’ have continued to play cricket at Thame and other clubs, while half of the Under 11’s squad this season is made up of the original All Stars batch. But now they have a much larger cricket bag which includes pads, gloves, helmet, abdominal guard, wooden bat and hard red ball, amongst other stuff. The emphasis now is much more on developing skills and playing cricket matches, as opposed to energetic childcare, but still focused around having fun and creating an environment in which the experience for them all is a positive one. They all want to be there, which is demonstrable by their regular attendance at practice each week and availability for matches at the weekend. They support each other as a team, improve their skills as individuals and compete against other clubs winning more games than losing.
All of the Thame U11s (not just the ones who did All Stars) have come a long way and are all developing as very decent little cricketers. So where might they be in another 6 years time? Inevitably as life becomes more complicated and other interests take a precedent, there will be a natural drop off but it will be interesting to see how many continue along the latter stages of the pathway that TTCC offers, through the U13s, U15s and open age (adult) cricket. The aim of the club and its coaches is to continue to create an environment which harnesses their interest (and indeed all age groups), such that they will eventually play league matches on a Saturday with a mixture of their mates and perhaps some of the Mums and Dads through the 4th, 3rd, 2nd and hopefully 1st XI teams, county and who knows maybe Country.
One thing is certain that the junior section at Thame is positive, vibrant and fun. Each season goes by and we are generating more cricketers, coaches and volunteers than ever before, making for a sustainable future for which the club and the Town should be very proud of. Long may it continue……..
If you would like to come on the journey with us and get involved in coaching, scoring, umpiring, first aiding, helping with the BBQ or Bar please get in touch via our contact page, the comments on the website or social media.
Written by Matt Swain (U11 Coach)
All Stars 2017
TTCC U11s 2023
Oxfordshire U11s Pool 4 Pairs 2023 https://thametown.play-cricket.com/website/division/113621