All Stars Cricket takes off across the county

A new generation of children in Gloucestershire has been introduced to cricket following the launch of a new coaching programme for five to eight year olds.

More than 1350 kids are currently taking part in All Stars Cricket across 44 of the county’s clubs since it was launched two weeks ago.

Gloucestershire Cricket Board (GCB) projects and programmes manager Chris Munden said the uptake has been fantastic.

He said: “

It is the first time the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has looked to engage with children in this age group and the number that have signed up is better than we could have hoped for.

“The vast majority of these children wouldn’t be playing cricket if it wasn’t for All Stars and the long term impact for our clubs is potentially huge.

“It is revitalizing clubs with existing junior teams and helping others start up youth sections for the very first time. It has also helped put cricket clubs on the map within their local communities.” - Chris Munden

Gloucestershire currently has more youngsters involved in All Stars Cricket than any other county in the south west and boasts second highest average number of kids per club in the country. Downend currently leads the way with more than a hundred children attending their Friday night coaching sessions- making them one of the top clubs in the country.

For more information, including an interview with Downend activator Thom Manning at the club’s launch night, listen to BBC Radio Bristol’s Community Watch programme

The All Stars programme consists of eight coaching sessions designed to help children acquire basic cricket skills in a fun, friendly and inclusive environment. All the players involved also receive a backpack full of goodies including a bat, ball, drinks bottle and t-shirt.

And clubs are already reaping the benefits.

Uley Cricket Club has got 29 children after taking part after using All Stars as a way of starting their own youth section.

Uley activator Sean Sage said:  “We had no junior section and the committee realized that if we are going to get young players to the club we would have to bring them through ourselves.

“All Stars is the perfect platform to attract families and we have already picked up a couple of senior players off the back of it. Awareness-wise it has helped massively to raise the profile of the club in the village.

“One of the biggest things for the kids has been receiving their packs. My children signed up and they were so excited about them arriving. Kids have been taking their drinks bottles into schools and its almost been a case of bragging rights in the playground. It is great to see children so excited about cricket.”

Coopers Edge is another club that didn’t offer junior cricket prior to All Stars. Founded in 2011 by local residents many of their current players have young families and wanted to get their children involved. They now have 34 kids attending each week.

Youth coordinator Shaun Mellor said: “We all feel passionately about giving children the chance to begin their cricket journey and All Stars is giving us this opportunity.

“Our desire is to turn what is currently a team, into a club which creates opportunities for people of all standards to get involved, bringing neighbours, friends and family together.

“The children and their parents have enjoyed the first sessions and are looking forward to the next one.”

Despite being in an area with six other clubs in a 10 mile radius Newent Cricket Club has 16 children currently attending its All Stars programme. The sessions have been boosted by the help of the 14 young people that received Cricket Activator training through the GCB earlier this year.

Newent chairman Richard Martin said: “Not only have we recruited additional youngsters, the initiative has brought a whole new crop of parents into the club. The net result has been a substantial swelling of parents around the club. One new All Stars parent told me that, ‘Coming to the club on Friday evenings has transformed our family life,’ which is wonderful to hear.

“At the moment, it is too early to assess the impact of the All Stars programme on cricket, but it has certainly had an impact in terms of numbers and involvement from all sector of the club, and the children love the kit!”

Cheltenham Cricket Club has 50 children taking part in its All Stars training sessions.

Activator Steff Hunt said: “I think All Stars is a fantastic way of getting a new generation of youngsters excited about cricket. The enthusiasm of the children has been infectious and it has been wonderful to see their development each week. Hopefully by getting them into cricket at such a young age they will develop a lifelong love of the game and stay involved with the club as they get older.”