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Making Hey ahead of NatWest CricketForce

Posted in NatWest CricketForce 2012

When an ECB email popped up on my screen at work last year I read through it and noticed a link at the bottom.

Does your club want to be a national showcase club for NatWest CricketForce 2012?

Without much thought I followed the link to an application form, filled it in and thought that would be the last I heard of it. So it came as something of a surprise when our Cricket Development Manager at the Lancashire Cricket Board informed me that the ECB wanted to meet with the club to discuss our application.

Within what now seems like days we had visits and discussions and were very excited to be told that we would be one of the three showcase clubs for 2012.

Before this year we were perhaps typical of the majority of clubs in the country, especially when it came to NatWest CricketForce.

A few players, the groundsman and a couple of our loyal supporters would come down pre-season and paint the sightscreens, put the covers and nets together and do any odd jobs that needed doing. I would mostly supervise at these events.

Our immediate ambitions upon being selected as a showcase club were that we could get more people involved and that the pre-season day would be better attended and more jobs could be achieved. And that I would have more people to supervise.

However, in the two months since the announcement was made, the reality has been much much more than our first thoughts.

Having set a list of tasks that we wanted to achieve we then set about organising a public seminar to explain to all of our members and to the local community exactly what was going on at the club.

The response and attendance was amazing and we soon had offers of support from all sorts of places that we had never dreamed to even ask.

We discovered that existing members had hidden skills, that friends of friends suddenly came forward wanting to be part of it all and that local businesses saw the opportunity to help a great cause whilst attaching their name to something pretty special in the area.

In facts and figures, we have already had over £10,000 worth of materials, machinery and other donations in kind. We have also had a staggering £5,000 worth of man hours invested in the event already and there are still several weeks to go.

Perhaps, more importantly, we have had new faces at the club wanting to become members and help out, old faces have reappeared who had drifted away from the club, and we have gained some terrific support which will last well beyond the day itself.
One great boost for us has been that several of our neighbouring clubs have become interested in what has been happening.

Some have taken the ideas on board themselves and there is a lot of excitement within our league about the upcoming season and the prospect of travelling to grounds and seeing the improvements made.

There has been a real recognition in the area that this initiative works and that you don't need to be a showcase club to feel the benefits of it. Our league, the Central Lancashire League, has embraced our efforts and we know that some of the ideas and energy created will filter through at league level too.

In terms of our local area we are in difficult times as the effects of the last few years really hit home.

It has been noticeable, however, that those businesses that have already helped us have gained almost immediate benefit themselves.

As a great example we have had a landscape gardener volunteer his support. He has been down, become friends with a lot of the members and done more work with his machinery than we would ever have managed on our own (even with my supervision). On the back of this he has obtained at least two good jobs from members who want work doing at home. This thing works.

We are still two weeks away from the event but there has never been as good a feeling around the club - attendances at junior nets are up, more people are at the club for a drink at weekends, and the good news that keeps pouring in from local and national supporters has kept the excitement going on an almost daily basis.

The national partners have been terrific and we have already had support from Dulux Decorator Centres, Durant Cricket and Build Center. We have even had one member volunteer a Land's End - John O'Groats bike ride for the cause. It really has motivated people to go further than they normally would.

In finishing I would say that whilst we expected NatWest CricketForce to be a vehicle for improving facilities, which it clearly is doing, the bigger benefit will be in the long term running and participation in the cricket club.
When the email comes around next year, don't hesitate to apply to become a showcase club. Things have never been as good.