This month, the Club Spotlight falls on Locks Heath CC. We caught up with Justin Cousins, a senior player and junior coordinator, who along with his team of coaches has been instrumental in creating a vibrant junior cricket section in South Hampshire.
Locks Heath CC profile:
League: Hampshire Cricket League
Bio: A Clubmark-accredited club since 2010, Locks Heath CC form part of Locks Heath sports and social club. They have an adult membership of 67 and a junior membership of 125.
How have you built up the junior section in recent years?
In 2014, a couple of members of our senior team decided to get involved in the colts section, as we all had young children who we wanted to involve in the game. Locks Heath have always had a reputation of having a strong colts section with the current first XI captain coming through the system. However, it had reduced in numbers to around 25 children who trained on a Saturday morning with teams starting at under 11s. Locks Heath now have 14 coaches, many of whom are parents, helping to engage over 125 children in cricket activities each week.
How did you grow the section so quickly?
We are close to six primary schools, so we asked to put flyers in children’s book bags. This started to attract new kids but we also started running assemblies in the local schools to stimulate interest. The heart of the strategy is to provide cricket for everybody, regardless of ability, and encouraging children to be active. The best quote we’ve had from a parent was: “I had to bring my child here as all of the friends he plays PlayStation with are here. There was no one left for him to play with!”
Was price also a factor?
Yes. We’ve worked very hard to ensure we keep it affordable, with our sessions only costing £45 for 14 two-hour sessions. Children also get a free shirt, cap and water bottles. We have encouraged parents to get involved and the club offers to pay for their coaching qualifications. Furthermore, our coaches offer free sessions in after-school clubs to get the children on board.
How successful have your junior teams been this season?
Although we offer cricket for everyone, we have also built competitive league teams. We now have two under 9s and two under 11s teams, as well as an under 13s and 15s team. The under 9s and under 11s both won their leagues last year. The under 9s A team are currently joint top, the under 11 A team, under 13 A team and the under 15s are also top at time of writing. The club also reached its first ever County Cup final in the under 11 age group. We’ve also had a record number of children picked to represent South East Hampshire this season.
You must have had to raise funds to achieve all this?
We run fundraising events such as the annual six-a-side tournaments, hamper raffles and now bacon baps cooked on the BBQ every Saturday. The profits made have contributed to a new electronic scoreboard and bowling machine. We are now fundraising for bespoke T20 shirts for all children.
How are the older juniors transitioning into the senior XIs?
Each week we have members of our under 15s sides playing in the senior sides. In 2014, we added a fourth team to our senior section to help with the transition from colts cricket to senior cricket. We have now started talking about starting a fifth team, long-term, to ensure we can offer cricket to all our colts as they grow up. We have also been campaigning to get the bottom adult league to reduce their matches to 35 overs to help with the transition, but there is some resistance from older members of the league. The colts that we do lose during the transition have suggested that the adult game is too long.
So, Justin, what are your top tips?
Our top tips would be:
1. Engage with local schools
2. Keep it affordable
3. Encourage participation, not ability
4. Create a community spirit
5. There are lots of grants available, apply for as many as possible
6. Get parents involved
7. Find the balance between offering cricket for those who just want to play for fun and those who want to progress and develop through available pathways
All images used are with permission from Locks Heath CC.
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