ActivePost National Schools Programme
Cricket development is about “getting individuals to play and stay in the game.” New Zealand Cricket had this in mind in 1998 when it launched its NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME. Since then initiatives have been designed, implemented and delivered at all levels of the game – primary, secondary and club – to achieve this objective. These initiatives are underpinned by clearly defined and closely aligned player and coach development pathways, and an integrated delivery structure.
The initial thrust of the ActivePost National Schools Programme has been at the primary level. The objective is to provide more opportunities for children to participate, have fun and learn the fundamental skills of cricket and at the same time to involve their parents and teachers in the game and train them as coaches as a prerequisite to creating a strong foundation on which to build other initiatives directed at the secondary school and club levels.
The INITIATIVES consist of the:
- Summer Squad of cricket development personnel
- Cricket Skills Awareness Lessons which are delivered in primary schools
- New Zealand Cricket Skills Challenge
- ActivePost Have-A-Go Cricket
- ActivePost Kiwi Cricket
- National Primary Schools’ Cricket Competitions – Cup [boys] and Shield [girls]
The initiatives are delivered by the ACTIVEPOST SUMMER SQUAD – a team of cricket development officers employed through the six major cricket associations – who conduct holiday clinics and visit primary schools to run ACTIVEPOST CRICKET SKILLS AWARENESS LESSONS for years 1-6 and offer schools the opportunity to introduce the New Zealand ActivePost Cricket Skills Challenge for their year 7 and 8 students. These provide the opportunity for the Summer Squad to invite aspiring cricketers to join ActivePost Have-A-Go Cricket or ActivePost Kiwi Cricket centres, and to encourage their primary schools to enter their teams in the ActivePost Cup or ActivePost Shield competitions.
The ACTIVEPOST CRICKET SKILLS CHALLENGE is a structured series of lessons which allows Year 7 and 8 students to test themselves in a number of fundamental cricket skill areas against a set of easily measurable standards and achieve a bronze, silver or gold skill award in recognition of their level of performance. The Challenge is an effective, fun way to promote the game of cricket in schools.
The key focus of the programme is to increase the number of 6-10 year old boys and girls playing cricket, mainly through the introduction of ActivePost Have-A-Go Cricket and the revitalisation of ActivePost Kiwi Cricket.
ActivePost HAVE-A-GO Cricket is an introductory programme for 5-8 year old boys and girls entering the game for the first time. It comprises 12 ninety minute sessions in which beginner cricketers learn the rudiments of batting, bowling and fielding, with the emphasis on skill development, fun and participation. The programme also includes an array of giveaways to excite young cricketers such as an ActivePost Have-A-Go Cricket cap, posters, player cards, sipper bottle, ball, sticker, certificate and sample.
ActivePost Have-A-Go Cricket leads into ActivePost KIWI CRICKET, the already popular children’s version of cricket played by 7-10 year olds. ActivePost Kiwi Cricket is both a modified game and a skill development programme. It incorporates high participation with the first experience of competition, and provides an opportunity to have fun, learn and practice the essential skills of the game, and use them each week in a real game situation. Giveaways are also available for players including an ActivePost Kiwi Cricket cap, posters, pen, miniature autograph bat, sticker, certificate and sample.
Both the ActivePost Have-A-Go Cricket and ActivePost Kiwi Cricket programmes are designed to gain and train parents and teachers as coaches and provide them with the necessary resources to teach young cricketers the basic skills of the game. The Summer Squad organise and run coach education courses for teachers and parents to become ActivePost Have-A-Go Cricket and ActivePost Kiwi Cricket coaches – the first two steps on the New Zealand Cricket coach pathway.
To support the ActivePost Have-A-Go Cricket and ActivePost Kiwi Cricket initiatives coaching manuals and videos have been produced. The manuals are distributed free to primary schools visited by the Summer Squad and to coaches trained by them. The videos are also free to ActivePost Have-A-Go Cricket and ActivePost Kiwi Cricket Centres set up in schools and clubs, along with starter kit of ActivePost Kiwi Cricket equipment.
Recently, New Zealand Cricket has developed two CD-Roms ‘Cricket in the Classroom’ and ‘More Cricket in the Classroom’. Each CD-Rom comprises a series of carefully planned lessons on cricket covering all aspects of the curriculum. These are also available to primary schools visited by the Summer Squad.
The junior competitions are contended on a knockout or round-robin basis within New Zealand's six major cricket associations. To reach the national finals, adjacent major cricket association winners playoff to find three of the four finalists. The other finalist is the winner of the association with the most entries. Draws for both contests are completed and distributed to schools in January and preliminary rounds are played throughout February and March. The association playoffs and inter-association matches occur in October and November, with the national finals being held in December.
ActivePost Community Cricket Initiatives
The initial focus of the national development programme at the primary level has seen the initiatives rekindle interest and participation, and increase player and coach numbers. This has provided a strong base of support for the next stage of implementing the Community Cricket initiatives aimed at revitalising and integrating the game at the secondary school and club levels.
At the secondary school and club levels several well established development initiatives were in existence prior to the start of the national development programme. These included the very successful national secondary schools’ cricket competitions – the GILLETTE CUP [boys] and the NEW ZEALAND COMMUNITY TRUST CUP [girls] - which have been contested since 1990 and 1994 respectively, and the NATIONAL CLUB COMPETITION which has been played since the 1994-1995 season. In 2003 another competition was introduced for year 9 and 10 boys' - it is known as the NEW ZEALAND COMMUNITY TRUST CUP for junior Secondary School boys.
Increasingly secondary school students are seeking to play some form of modified cricket. Many do so because they want to play a mid-week, shorter version game. To encourage their greater participation, New Zealand Cricket has designed two exciting modified versions of the game - QUIKHIT and SLOG SIXES. Quikhit is an 8 a-side, girls’ only, 12 over modified cricket game. It uses special, coloured, lightweight team equipment, which can be purchased from New Zealand Cricket, and has been devised for 11-15 year old girls to act as a transition between ActivePost Kiwi Cricket and hardball cricket. Slog Sixes is 6 a-side version of the game which can be used in physical education classes, or as a lunchtime competition. It is an action-packed game that can be played on any reasonably flat surface, in a limited time frame [30-60 minutes], with a minimum of equipment and only needs 6 players of any ability or skill level to make up a team.
The COMMUNITY CRICKET INITIATIVES were introduced in 2001 to address more fundamental issues facing secondary schools and clubs in terms of improving their structures, organisation, facilities and support if they hope to attract, develop and keep players, coaches and volunteers. To help secondary schools and clubs to identify their needs, enhance their structures and organisation, and better service the needs of their cricketers New Zealand Cricket has developed two interrelated Community Cricket initiatives – known as ‘SCHOOL SUPPORT’ and ‘CLUB ASSIST’.
To administer these ActivePost COMMUNITY CRICKET COORDINATORS have been appointed to deliver initially the Club Assist programme within either a metropolitan club[s] or the constituent clubs of a District Cricket Association, and subsequently the School Support programme within the contributing secondary schools of these clubs. Their key role has been to use the ‘School Support’ and ‘Club Assist’ packages to identify areas for improvement in their cluster of secondary schools and clubs and establish action plans to address their issues, and to build and maintain the links between clubs and secondary schools.
During 2001-2002 pilots were undertaken in select metropolitan club[s] and District Cricket Associations in the Major Cricket Associations to ascertain the impact of the Community Cricket initiatives and the effectiveness of the Community Cricket Coordinators. The success of the pilots has seen the programme expanded since 2002 to encompass a larger number of metropolitan clubs and all districts.
The ‘School Support’ and ‘Club Assist’ packages both comprise two main components: a ‘health check’, which is a checklist of best practice to be used by the Community Cricket Coordinators with secondary schools and clubs. It aims to help them analyse their policies, procedures and performance in terms of how they manage, organise and support the game on and off the field, and identify and prioritise areas needing development. It is designed to promote continuous improvement.
The second part, a ‘manual’, is a series of informative resource booklets produced for use by the Community Cricket Coordinators with secondary schools and clubs. They provide advice, guidance and information on how to make improvements in their cricket structures, organisation and facilities, give exemplars of best practice that can be adopted and adapted for their use, and offer funding assistance, where appropriate.
Most clubs are aware they have some problems, but do not always have the resources or personnel to solve them, which is why the Community Cricket Coordinators have been employed to provide the necessary operatives to identify the issues, implement solutions, and create links with contributing schools.
The beginnings of the ActivePost National Schools Programme have witnessed considerable success in the recruitment of players and coaches, particularly at the primary school level. The programme is now beginning to have a major impact on the structure and organisation of the game at the club and secondary school levels which is essential to the ongoing retention of players, coaches and the many volunteers, including administrators, who are critical to cricket’s future and the health and well-being of the game.