3 Jul 2020

Alarm bells sound over Black Caps breeding ground

8:54 am on 3 July 2020

Dire concerns are being raised about the main breeding ground for future Black Caps.

St Andrew's College and Hamilton Boys' High School do battle in the 2019 Gillette Cup final in Christchurch.

St Andrew's College and Hamilton Boys' High School do battle in the 2019 Gillette Cup final in Christchurch. Photo: Photosport

Alarm bells are ringing from within youth cricket about a lack of attention from the national body towards an under pressure secondary school coaching system.

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) agree a problem exists, and are confident it is being addressed but those involved at the coal face are not so satisfied.

Those like Mike Dormer, who for 25 years has hosted secondary school teams from around New Zealand at the Willows Cricket Club.

The private ground in North Canterbury is a picturesque setting.

But Dormer said all is far from rosey when it came to the secondary school game.

"We've got to get something going because unless we do something on getting coaches organised, cricket in the schools is going to die.

"There's no question about it."

Dormer had been emploring NZC to address the issue for at least five years, starting with a report sent in 2015 he said was never replied to.

He was not alone in his views.

Former Canterbury coach Garry MacDonald runs the cricket programme at Nelson College, and said secondary schools were being left on their own.

"If [schools] want to have quality coaching and if they want to have a cricket programme of any value, they have to do it all themselves, basically.

"There is no funding from the associations or from New Zealand Cricket either, directly."

The concern went right up to the top cricket schools in the country.

Michael Johnston is head of cricket at Christchurch's St Andrews College, the reigning national secondary school 1st XI champions.

Johnston said it was becoming gradually more difficult to get support from Canterbury Cricket.

"10 to 15 years ago, there was quite a few guys who were looking after junior cricket.

"Those guys were accessible to get to come out and coach a team or look at a young coach and help him out [but] we've lost that aspect a bit".

St Andrew's College celebrate being crowned 2019 national secondary school cricket champions.

St Andrew's College celebrate being crowned 2019 national secondary school cricket champions. Photo: Photosport

Johnston said much of the responsibility lay with the national body, who provided the country's six Major Associations with the money to fund community cricket.

"More funding and resources has got to go back to Canterbury Cricket, who can oversee a programme in each school so they've got the resources to make sure the kids are getting a good experience, and keeping them in the game."

NZC board director and former chief executive Martin Snedden began the "One Cricket" project in 2017, looking at leading the sport in this country into the future.

Soon after, his attention was drawn to the secondary school coaching issue by another letter from Dormer, this one of a more stern tone.

It led to the national body's admission a strong coach development programme, designed and implemented by former Development Manager Alec Astle, had been left to deteriorate into a significant problem after his departure from NZC in 2010.

Snedden said he and Dormer agreed five years was needed to properly address the issue, but differing views on the right approach had fuelled continued concern.

"Yes, I understand the frustrations and they are not unjustified in targeting a problem area.

"No, they probably don't know enough about what we are trying to do, so they tend to take a view that we're doing nothing, which is not the case."

Snedden said the area has been a "major strategic priority" at NZC for two years.

An online coach database and training platform was providing good progress, while some Major Association funding had been made dependent on boosting coach development as part of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) from NZC.

The focus thus far, though, had not been on secondary schools, but junior and youth club cricket.

Martin Snedden.

Martin Snedden. Photo: Photosport

Snedden said they opted for that approach because there were around twice as many club teams as school teams at those levels, while clubs were also more accessible to the national body.

"The thinking was that if we could start to comprehensively train junior coaches, over a period of time some of those coaches would remain in the system and go on to teach the kids as they got to youth age, including at secondary schools.

"It was really about establishing as strong a base as we could and building upwards."

With confidence instilled that had been done, a specific focus on secondary school coaching was underway.

Snedden said that was only happening now because their approach was about sustainable solutions, not a quick fix.

"That's why the coach development process, in my mind, is a five year process.

"We can't just suddenly jump into particular parts of that system and try and solve them in isolation. We actually have to try and solve the whole."

While the issue was a complex one, one thing was for sure.

Dormer's passion for secondary school cricket meant he wouldn't' rest until it was solved.

And he said the time had come for more serious action.

"We need a complete review of New Zealand Cricket and you've got to have it done practically, not by theoreticians.

"You've got to have it done practically by people who know cricket, know how it should be set up throughout the country and run it accordingly."

The national body, though, are committed to their approach to fixing the coach development problem.

Three years were left for that five-year plan to satisfy what remained a considerable level of concern.