Worcestershire Academy Coach Elliot Wilson was amongst representatives the 18 first-class counties who gathered at the National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough as momentum gathers over new plans to support the County Talent Pathway.
The counties and the ECB united in their support of Cricket Unleashed on the crucial importance of developing home grown players for county and international cricket, using the network of 18 first-class counties, and 21 non-first class counties.
That led in the spring of 2017 to the appointment of Alun Powell, who had previously worked in both codes of rugby, as the ECB’s new National Talent Manager for men’s cricket.
Now, one year on, Powell assembled the Academy Directors from the first-class counties to outline details of the Talent Map, the ECB’s strategy to support the County Talent Pathway.
Wilson has been at the helm at Blackfinch New Road while a conveyor belt of talent has progressed from the Academy into the first team squad at New Road.
He said: “It is always good to get the people responsible for developing the next generation of thriving cricketers together – talking about what they do, how they do it, what we are actually teaching.
“We all managed to get together for the day and just talked about what has gone in over the last 12 months, what lies ahead of us.
“There was a performance review this year of, not just the academy, but the entire pathway in all 18 counties and all the non first counties.
“We shared some bits about how we run programmes, how we shape them. It was an opportunity for all of us, led by Alun Powell, to talk about where we are and share those ideas with each other.”
Nine of the side in action against Hampshire and Somerset in the opening two games of the campaign progressed through the County’s system.
Wilson said: We are producing players but I think now we are in a really challenging time here at Worcestershire.
“We have a new set-up, a new structure and I am desperate to make sure alongside a thriving professional environment, we maintain the good work we’ve been doing with our academy and pathway.
“With the change that has gone on, it is important that we maintain the stuff we are good at, that we continue to be good at it and sustain that.
“If in 12 months time, we are still doing a good job, I think with all the change that has gone on around the club, that will be one hell of an achievement.
“Ultimately it comes down to producing players and getting players not just going from our academy into the professional environment, which we do very well, but getting players into our first team – and thriving in first team cricket.
“I’m so impressed by what Surrey have done this week, with nine English players in their side, seven of which are a product of their own academy, and a number of those guys are thriving.
“My aspiration now is not just to produce players to get signed up but to produce players that are straight away thriving in first team cricket.”
Powell said: “It was a really significant and uplifting day for those of us at the ECB involved with the County Talent Pathway, and I hope the guys who made the effort to attend from the counties at such a busy time of year would agree.
“They have such important roles, back at their counties and therefore for us at the ECB. The great thing for me was to see their enthusiasm to enhance the system, and their desire to play a key part in the changes we’re making.
“I think there’s major value in them all getting together. We had formal sessions sharing best practice and talking about a wide variety of relevant areas, from player recruitment, programming of support for talented players, age-group competitions, and partnerships with key stakeholders such as non-first class counties and Higher Education.
“But it’s just as valuable for the 18 guys to have that time to talk informally. There’s a hell of a lot of experience and knowledge in the room – guys who will be familiar names from their own playing careers in county cricket, former teachers and coaches, and many of whom have a number of years in academy environments.
“The Academy Directors are doing great work, and we want to improve the support we provide to them. Through our Regional Talent Managers, we will have a much greater presence in the academies and will support the delivery of coach development, parent education, and the Academy Director with their planning and delivery of pathway programmes.
“We’re working towards 2025 as the stated goal to have established a game-wide, connected and world-renowned talent pathway. This 2018-20 period is all about establishing the foundations, as a key part of the new County Partnership Agreement – and taking in various key strands of Cricket Unleashed such as our South Asian Strategy to increase the reach of our counties.”
The day also included a presentation from Ben Jones from the Institute for the Psychology of Elite Performance at Bangor University in North Wales, outlining the findings of a project he has been working on with the ECB’s spin-bowling lead Peter Such investigating the characteristics of county and England spin bowlers.
The full list of 18 county representatives who attended was:
Derbyshire – Chris Guest – Academy Coach
Durham – John Windows – Academy Director
Essex – Tom Huggins – Talent Pathway Manager
Glamorga – Richard Almond – Head of Talent Development
Gloucestershire – Tim Hancock – Head of Talent Pathway
Hampshire – Charlie Freeston – Head of Player Development
Kent – Jason Weaver – High Performance Director
Lancashire – Gary Yates – Academy Director
Leicestershire – Andy Siddall – Performance Development Coach
Middlesex – Alan Coleman – Head of Youth Cricket
Northamptonshire – Kevin Innes – Performance Coach
Nottinghamshire – Matt Wood – Cricket Development Manager
Somerset – Steve Snell – Academy Director
Surrey – Matthew Spriegel, Performance Manager
Sussex – Keith Greenfield – Director of Cricket (before Richard Halsall takes over as Academy Director)
Warwickshire – Paul Greetham – Elite Cricket Development Manager
Worcestershire – Elliot Wilson – Academy Coach
Yorkshire – Richard Damms – Academy Coach