All Stars Summer – the good, the bad and the ugly

We finished our first All Stars Cricket programme at the Club last week.  A lot of fun, and a lot of learning, for All Stars, Activator and Centre Manager.

Did we get everything right, first time?

No…but there was more than enough that went well to make us want to run All Stars Cricket again in 2018.

So – how did we do?

The Good

Great engagement from our All Stars – lots of energy and enthusiasm, and they all played nicely (most of the time, at least).

The games were good (with a couple of exceptions, perhaps – see “The Bad”, below), if hardly ground-breaking.  But why try to reinvent the wheel?  So long as there is lots of hitting, lots of catching, lots of bowling and throwing,

On the practical aspects – the kit was very good.  Varied, robust (and the distinctive colours probably discouraged any “borrowing” from the All Stars kit) and enough of it that we never had to break into our existing Club kits.

We had only 10 All Stars, and they stayed together to  do each activity together.  A larger group might have needed some more kit, or at least to plan parallel activities that utilised different items e.g. having ten batters with a ball each for “The Space Race” at the same time as another group played “Clean Your Planet” might have used up all of the available balls.

Using the larger balls definitely helped some of the children to start bowling with a straight(er) arm – not a new idea, but who has a stock of size 1 balls in their kit?

Special kudos to whoever thought to put in the ropes – we used one or more in almost every game we played, as boundaries or starting lines or flight paths.  I have never had a rope in a my coaching kit bag before; now, I need to buy more rope!

We were fortunate enough to be able to offer a couple of lucky All Stars and their parents a ticket for the Women’s World Cup final – the seeds have been sown!

The Bad

It think it was brave of the ECB to launch nationally without a regional or multi-County pilot.  But hopefully the feedback (mostly positive, I expect) will help to iron out the few negative issues.

We had Activator training at the end of April, and our Club kit arrived after that.  If we had been trained earlier, we might have been able to promote All Stars more effectively, by getting out into local schools or running a taster session or two.

The training that I attended was very good, but I am a relatively experienced coach of children’s cricket (mostly working with the All Stars’ target age group, or even younger).  Whether the Activator training would really have enabled a new volunteer Activator to effectively and confidently lead a session, especially with a larger number of All Stars, I don’t know.

One potential kit deficiency – soft foam balls.  I know we are encouraged to go ahead with a session, regardless of the weather, but I won’t be taking the All Stars out when there is lightning around!  Having balls that can be safely used indoors on a rainy day would be useful.  And for the very young ones, a lighter ball (lighter even than the tennis balls) might be a better introduction to catching, indoors or out.

With hindsight, there were perhaps too many session options.  Having so many drills and games did give a lot of variety, but experience suggests that young players prefer to play a game until they understand it and (begin to) “master” it.  At least three times, in fact – once to learn the rules, once to work out how to win, once more to put the winning tactics into practice.  Yes, even the 5-year olds!

I would have had more game-like activities and fewer “drills” when the players line up and take a turn – difficult with bowling, perhaps (I have nothing better to offer, yet), but surely not impossible.

The age range caused us a few session management issues, but we had only a small group and couldn’t really “stream” the (large, energetic) 8-year olds separately from the (small, less coordinated) 5-year olds.  I would have been more comfortable with just three school years (years 1, 2 & 3) to avoid the wider mis-matches, with year 4s either accommodated into the Club u9 set-up or another soft ball activity.  But that, of course, assumes that there is somewhere else for the year 4s to go.

I have posted previously on some of the criticisms levelled at the All Stars programme, prior to launch.  I have not (yet) heard anything to change my opinions – not perfect, certainly; not for every Club or young player; not even for every County. But I do still think that the All Stars programme will work more often than not.

OK – there really wasn’t very much that I would have really labelled “bad”…but “the good, the not so good, and the ugly” isn’t such a snappy title.

The Ugly

You can see this, in the picture of our Activator…maybe I’ll remember to shave, next year!

Looking ahead – All Stars Cricket 2018

What would we do differently?

  • I would look to simplify the programmes (see above) – we possibly need only 3 each of batting, bowling and fielding games, and just one or two “match” options.
  • Definitely we need to promote the programme more effectively.
  • We need to get out into local Schools to show them what we have to offer – ideally in the spring term, before Easter.
  • It would be good to work with some of the other local All Stars Centres, certainly on pre-season promotion and by sharing “best practice” (maybe even sharing Activators), perhaps even looking at joint summer camps.
  • We need to get better at engaging the parents.  Perhaps with one Activator plus a couple of (junior Club member) assistants and only 10 All Stars, it might have looked as if we had everything under control – we need to encourage the parents to join in more.
  • Starting earlier in the summer (first week of May) and running up to the end of July to offer a 12 week programme.  Yes, some All Stars will miss a session or two, but they will (hopefully) get to attend more if we offer more.
  • Identify a suitable indoor venue – we were unlucky this summer, losing three Tuesday evenings to thunder storms (or very heavy rain), but if we do manage to start earlier in May we could be more exposed to adverse weather next summer.

On to 2018!

Published by Andrew Beaven

Cricket coach, fascinated by the possibilities offered by the game. More formally - ECB level 2 cricket coach; ECB National Programmes (All Stars & Dynamos Cricket) Activator Tutor; Chance to Shine & Team Up (cricket) deliverer; ECB ACO umpire.

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