Simon Willis: Academy Blog, January

Thursday 5th January 2012

Where has the time gone since the end of last season? It has proved to be one of the busiest periods ever in the High Performance department, with the Academy programme in full flow and the implementation of a new net based assessment process to identify the players that have been selected for our Boys Performance Squads winter training programme.

The long term aim of the Academy for me has always been to produce a wave of technically superior cricketers, who in time benefit Kent Cricket at senior level, with a number going on to gain international recognition. The intention is to nurture not only elite level players but more rounded respectful individuals that I call “Independent Thinking Cricketers” or “Students of the Game” who are proud to play for this club and have an affinity for it. We recognise as an Academy that today’s outlay on players requires more than just a playing recommendation. Players lifestyle, approach to training, what they eat or drink, family life and background are all aspects of a player that need to be considered when making the ultimate call as to whether a scholar can face the biggest challenge of becoming a professional player. Therefore, over the last few months a lot of work has gone in by the Academy staff to help assess each of our individual scholars. The need for accurate and reliable data and information; technical, physical, psychological and social is critical in helping us to develop these young scholars. The more we can learn about the person during a scholars time on the Academy as opposed to just the player is critical to help inform decisions and this is an area as a group we will be looking to develop further in the future.

The new net based assessments for our Boys Performance Squads took place over a six week period prior to Christmas. The U11 to U15 age groups were held at two venues; Kent Cricket Academy, Canterbury and Colfe’s School, London, due to the larger numbers of players involved while the U17 age group were just at Kent Cricket Academy, Canterbury. Nominations of players came from head coaches of county age group squads from last summer’s match programme, district coaches on the back of high quality performances last summer and school or club coaches on the same basis. The early feedback we have received from players, parents and coaches has been very positive about the new assessment processes that were implemented and this has helped in making the final selection decisions a little easier –and a more thorough process for all involved.

The financial implications of a modern day youth policy can initially look quite challenging, but a grow your own policy has proved successful through the history of the game and one that makes economic sense at this present time. The bulk of our budgets come from the club, and the Kent Cricket Board but we cannot see this as a glorified hole in the wall and must look to continue to work on raising money via our own efforts. The Kent Cricket Lottery was a new initiative introduced by the club last year and one that I am pleased to say our Academy and Performance Squads have benefited significantly in the region of £5,000. This is a great starting point and we are very grateful to Pat Mellsop and his team for their work in this area and to all those members, supporters and individuals who have so far signed up. However we have set ourselves the challenge of continually looking to increase this figure and therefore the more people we can encourage to sign up, the more our youth programmes will benefit in the future. If anyone may be interested to know the benefits of being involved details are available at please remember we very much appreciate your help in contributing to the development of the future stars of Kent Cricket.

On the announcementearlier this weekthat Jimmy Adams has been appointed as the new Head Coach at Kent –I would like to welcome Jimmy to the Club and say how much we are all looking forward to working with him to create the environment he has talked about, allowing our players to continue to develop and improve. Jimmy is a manwho is highly respected in the game and will bring a wealth of knowledge, experience and ideas to the Club that I know we will all benefit and learn from in some way.

Finally, I would like to wish everyone involved in Kent Cricket a very successful 2012 –there look to be some very exciting times ahead.

Happy New Year!

Simon Willis

High Performance Director