The recent success of the Scotland cricket team in defeating England with 3 Aberdonians in the team, opening batsman and wicketkeeper Mathew Cross came through the junior system at Mannofield, demonstrates that cricket clubs in the area have a legacy of providing opportunities for young players, that some of these players take their ability to the highest level is a fantastic achievement.
With the many sporting opportunities available to young children there is a real challenge to cricket clubs in attracting young players into the game, cricket clubs can no longer wait for young children to approach a club to learn about cricket we have to go outwith the club and engage the local community about the benefits of playing cricket.
Aberdeenshire Cricket Club celebrates three years working in partnership with Drum Property Group to deliver an in-school cricket programme, Redball Taking Cricket into the Community.
The Redball programme, based on Cricket Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence strategy is designed to allow maximum participation, assist teachers and pupils to achieve curriculum outcomes, and ensure cricket is delivered in a fun and engaging way.
The programme encourages children aged nine to eleven years to learn about and enjoy playing cricket, the 6 weeks of 1-hour sessions are designed to introduce cricket skills in a non-technical way where the emphasis is on pupil participation. For many who get involved it is their first experience of playing the game.
Since its launch, nearly 2,500 pupils across Aberdeen have taken part in Redball, during this school year, 260 coaching sessions have been delivered to 1171 children across fifteen schools: Kaimhill, Airyhall, Hazelhead, Mile End, Broomhill St Joseph’s, Culter, Milltimber, Cults, Fernilea, Holy Family, Cornhill, Kingsford, Ashley Road and Kingswells. It is expected that further schools will be added into the programme next year following health week cricket sessions at several schools.
As part of the Aberdeenshire’s link with active school’s co-ordinators the Redball coaches have additionally provided;
• an afterschool cricket club on Monday evenings
• support for a Cricket Scotland CPD cricket training day for primary school gym specialists
• cricket sessions to 800 pupils across P1 to P7 during health weeks at Cornhill, Holy Family, St Peters and Kittybrewster school
• session for 60 S1 pupils during activity week at Cults Academy
A celebration festival of cricket took place at Mannofield with festival days on 31st May and 14th June, the festival days are a culmination of the work over the school year and allow the children to put the skills they have learned into practice, 390 children came together and played 50 games of pairs cricket.
Drum Property Group Finance Director Stuart Oag attended this year’s Festival. He said:
“It was brilliant to attend this year’s festival. Cricket was always very popular in the north east, but we had seen a real decline in participation. Redball has been a fantastic antidote, delivering hundreds of superbly coached sessions to thousands of kids across the city.
“In doing so, the pupils are getting outside and active, learning about different sports, which for some will appeal more than those traditionally associated with Scotland such as football or rugby.
“As a major developer – and investor – in Aberdeen we’re proud to be able to make this community investment, and we’re delighted to see it’s delivering encouraging results.”
The support Aberdeenshire receive from Drum Property Group is key in making the programme a success they take an active interest in how the programme is working and are keen to support continued expansion, implementing their vision of providing as many children as possible with the opportunity to experience cricket has allowed Aberdeenshire to build a programme that schools are keen to be involved in either through a 6-week coaching block, health week support or sports day activities.
With 20 children from the Redball programme joining last year’s junior section softball sessions 3 have transitioned through to hardball cricket this year. This appears to be a low return for the effort expended but it is 3 children that would not have chosen cricket had it not been for the opportunity to experience cricket provided by the Redball programme. Hopefully they will go on to make the most of their abilities if it takes them to the highest level or enjoy club cricket then cricket is the winner.