All Stars Cricket: ECB's youth scheme attracts 35,000 before June expansion
The England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is on track to exceed its target of getting 50,000 more youngsters involved in the game this summer, through its All Stars Cricket programme.
The eight-week course for five- to eight-year-olds offers a first experience of the sport through local cricket clubs and centres.
More than 35,000 children have already taken part and that number will increase as 500 more centres kick-off their sessions throughout June.
Children who join the scheme receive a backpack of cricket gear, while participating clubs are given kit to deliver the programme and training for volunteers.
Each one of the eight weekly sessions focuses on a particular skill - catching, throwing, or communication, for example - with participants earning their skill-specific All Stars Cricket badge before moving on to the next challenge.
Parents can register their children to join the programme at their local club with the ECB's centre finder.
And the scheme has already drawn enthusiastic reaction from mums and dads:
- Hannah Willis: "First session today and my six-year-old had been a bit anxious prior to starting. As soon as we got there he got involved and was totally engaged from the start to finish. Excellent, enthusiastic coaches and a great way to see young children keeping fit, having fun and developing team spirit."
- James Kelly: "Great first session at Alleyn CC. Enthusiastic coaches, lots of different activities focusing on core skills; one very happy five-year-old!"
- Fran Stead: "My son started today in Lutterworth. The kit is great and the coaches were fantastic. He was unsure about cricket but is now buzzing about it!"
- Adam Sellick: "My five-year-old daughter had her first session at Plympton CC, she absolutely loved it and already can't wait for next Friday."
Matt Dwyer, the ECB's director of participation and growth, said All Stars Cricket has the potential to make a significant difference to the sport's youth base.
"It's all about putting a bat and ball in the hands of more children at an earlier age," he said. "We want to make playing cricket a fun and enjoyable experience for children and give them a passion for the game to last a lifetime."
Dwyer also noted that family participation is an vital element of the programme.
"We want to make sure parents have a great first experience at the club and give them the chance to have an hour back with their kids every week," he said.