Roll on 2009
Posted in Disability Cricket
While the rest of the cricketing world was watching the Stanford Super Series, those of us involved in disability cricket were reflecting on our busiest ever year.
And it is not over yet. As I write, our blind team are preparing for the Ashes Series for Blind Cricketers which takes place in Australia in December.
The squad are meeting up for the final time at The Rosebowl on 22nd and 23rd November when there will also be a major development event for visually impaired (VI) cricketers in Hampshire to coincide with the visit of the national squad.
While in Australia the team will play a series of ODIs in the Sydney area before returning home on 19th December.
Since my last blog the two domestic finals in the physical and learning disability County Championship were scheduled to take place.
I say 'scheduled' because the Incrediball final between Wales and Yorkshire was washed out after heavy rain at Leamington. That game will now be next season's opener.
In the hardball final, Cheshire defeated Hampshire in a wonderful game of cricket that took place at Walmley in the West Midlands. The match was a great advert for disability cricket in terms of the standard of play. Some of the fielding was excellent and I must also comment on the batting of Gavin Randall of Hampshire who batted very well for 80-odd.
The ECB were pleased to be able to recognise some of the coaches who have worked so hard in disability cricket over the years by inviting them to the Sky Sports Coach of the Year Dinner in the Long Room at Lord's at the beginning of September.
There are never enough available places to invite everybody but I hope that Ian Powell (Yorkshire), Ian Leather (Cheshire), Ron Young (Durham), Paul Roe (Derbyshire), Richard Hill (Hertfordshire), Andy Dalby Welsh, Adam Hall (Cricket 4 Change), Neil Bradshaw and Jonathan Caldicott (Shropshire) enjoyed their evening. Judging by some of the sore heads the next morning I think a good night was had by all.
It was particularly pleasing to see Keith Beggs of Cheshire collect the runners-up award for Outstanding Coaching Achievement on the night for his work with the Cheshire Disability Squad.
More success for disability cricket came last month when Shaun Rigby of Shropshire won the Energise Sportsperson of the Year award for 2008. Shaun was described as an inspiration by his team-mates and received his award from Dame Mary Peters.
In September Nick Marriner of ECB and myself attended the EFDS Regional Managers' National Seminar and were invited to give a presentation on disability cricket and ECB’s vision for the development of the sport. Our presentation was well received and as one of our key partners in the delivery of disability cricket, I think EFDS were impressed by our commitment and determination to raise the profile of cricket as a disability sport.
The presentation we delivered was the disability component part of the Whole Sport Plan submission to Sport England that needed to be delivered by the end of October.
The WSP has been the major piece of work that the development team at ECB have been focussed on for the last few months or more. The disability element of the bid focuses on increasing participation but also on areas such as facilities and publicity. We expect to find out in December whether our plans have been accepted but we can expect an increased investment over the next four years.
Coach education within disability is also a major piece of work being looked into at present. A group comprising of myself, Will Kitchen from coach education, Bobby Denning, Ron Young and Blyth Duncan from deaf and Ian Leather and Jason Bowen from VI met at Headingley to discuss how ECB approaches coach education for candidate coaches with a disability and how the existing coach workforce is supported when working with a cricketer with a disability.
We were also joined by John Biddulph, an autism expert who gave a fascinating insight into how an individual with autism reacts to certain situations and how best to work with them. I hope that we will be able to use John's expertise as we go forward. I hope that 2009 will see improved resources for both tutors and candidate coaches as well as support resources for existing coaches.
The disability development forums I have mentioned in previous blogs are continuing to grow. Over the last few weeks I have attended development group meetings in Cheshire, London & East, Durham and Essex. The enthusiasm and commitment to developing opportunities for people with a disability is there and I would urge you to get in touch with your county board if you think you have got something to offer our great sport. Cricket development managers cannot do it on their own and it is unrealistic to expect them to.
I genuinely believe that this is an exciting time to be involved in disability cricket. Who knows what is around the corner but our game will evolve more in the next two or three years than it has in the previous ten or 15. Players, managers, coaches and administrators should be ready.
As part of the TASS scholarships that some of our disabled players receive, ECB were able to put on a management development weekend in September. I invited some players, national squad coaches, league administrators and physios to Edgbaston where they were able to listen to sessions on a variety of subjects such as media, hydration, brand and licensing, coach education and protection of vulnerable adults. In the evening we were entertained by David Graveney who answered questions on his career within the sport.
Perhaps the most interesting and poignant discussion at the weekend was around the profile and perceptions of our sport. As we work hard to raise the profile of our game, more and more spotlight will fall on us and therefore disability cricket should be seen as our 'product'. It doesn’t take a marketing genius to tell you that if the product isn’t right then it won’t sell.
I am spending more and more time telling anyone who will listen that we must continually strive to improve the appearance of our 'product' and how it is perceived by those who we are now attracting to it for the first time. First impressions take a second to create but a lot longer to change - we need to remember this as the disabled game is beginning to attract more and more interest from the mainstream cricket media and potential sponsors.
I’ll be away with our blind squad for their Ashes series and will be meeting with Cricket Australia to discuss disability cricket development. I hope to be able to send reports back from Oz as our VI guys attempt to retain the urn, so watch this space.
In the meantime, enjoy the build up to Christmas - only four months until pre-season starts!