Finalists: York CC (Yorkshire), Southill Park CC (Bedfordshire), Parley CC (Dorset) and Guildford CC (Surrey).
It is safe to say Guildford’s decision to change their junior coaching structure last summer has more than paid off.
Junior section chairman Steve Willoughby led the restructuring that saw the under 9’s, 10’s & 11’s join together for coaching with the under 12’s, 13’s & 15’s following suit. And the results have been startling with the under 13’s and 15’s set to head to Oundle School next week for the finals days of the NatWest National Club Championship.
Guildford booked their place by winning the South East finals day – seeing off High Wycombe and Blackheath last week – and will face York, Southill Park from Bedfordshire, and Dorset’s Parley for the national title on Monday.
The under 15’s have been expertly guided by Mike Tilley and Nigel Thomas and Willoughby can scarcely believe the rapid results.
“It was a huge change to join the age groups up, and some people were against it, but it’s been a phenomenal success,” said Willoughby.
“It’s allowed us more time with the children individually and collectively and they’ve had maximum exposure to the great coaching team we’ve put together.
“Matt Teale, our overseas professional, has put a huge amount of time in and our professional from Surrey, Tom Jewell, has been first class as well.
“Our coaching has been a lot more structured and we’re seeing the results. To get to two national finals is an achievement we’re rightly proud of and the under 17’s are in their county cup final as well.”
The Surrey Championship club have a rich history of producing talent with former England spinner Ashley Giles, brothers Martin and Darren Bicknell, Rikki Clarke and Jade Dernbach all graduating from Woodbridge Road.
All of those names are fine examples for the current crop to follow but all Willoughby is concerned about is providing senior Guildford cricketers of the future.
They currently field seven senior teams over the course of a weekend and Willoughby is thrilled that a large majority of those teams feature a large proportion of the 200 youngsters they cater for through eight age groups.
“We’re very proud of the players we’ve produced in the past and hopefully more will go on to make it professionally but our main focus is on producing Guildford players of the future,” added Willoughby.
“A lot of our under 15’s have established themselves as senior cricketers already and some of the 13’s have stepped up this year as well.
“In the past, wrongly, we have been seen as a big club who only attracted players of a certain ability but we cater for all.
“That message has been getting through in the local area and to see the players come on the way they have done is wonderful.”