Grooming the next generation of players

Strandfontein Cricket Clubs junior side have always been competitive in the events they have taken part in. Pictured is the under-15 side that won the 2017 Primrose T20 tournament.

Strandfontein Cricket Club has overcome challenges caused by unfavourable conditions in their homeground, to produce an
impressive start to the 2018/2019 Western Province Cricket Association (WPCA) season.

While the first team is doing well in the First Division A, the club’s members are working hard behind the scenes to ensure that their junior structures continue to be a feeder to the first team.

There were some concerns in recent seasons regarding the deteriorating numbers of juniors coming to the club.

Club member Mark Bense noted before the start of the current campaign that poor facilites at the Strandfontein sports field resulted in the number of their junior players decreasing over the years.

“For the past three seasons we could only use one of the three synthetic wickets for the older age groups (of the juniors) due to wickets becoming too dangerous,” he said.

The long term impact of this, he said, was that without a properly functioning junior set up, the senior team would suffer in the long run.

“As a club we decided to take matters into our own hands and started a process to rebuild two of the synthetic wickets. During the December and January season break we started the project with our club members doing the manual labour, ” said Bense.

He said they managed to complete that project at the end of January this year, which was on time for the second leg of last season.

That season was cut short due to the water restrictions that were a result of the drought that hit the city.

Bense said healthy junior structures were important to the success of any senior team.

He has a point, and one needs to look no further than their own senior team to see the importance of solid junior structures.

Having been established in 1981, the club has always been able to be “self-sustainable”, with a bulk of first team players coming from their junior ranks.

The fact that the club’s first team, according to player and coach Keanan Mitchell, haven’t lost a home match in the past three seasons is a direct result of them having solid junior structures in the past.

Mitchell says what has worked for them was the fact that they have been playing together for a good few years now.

“We know each other very well because, we have come through the club’s structures. We’ve been playing together since under-11,” he said.

Despite that success, the club has identified some concerns.

But Noel Mitchell, head of the juniors at the club, assured everyone that everything was on track.

“Things are looking good. We have been able to attract new members to our junior structures, in addition to the exicting ones.

Our senior players have been there, taking these youngsters through their paces and giving them quality coaching,” he said.“That is important for us because we understand that healthy junior structures are a lifeblood of our club,” he said.

He also noted that, despite some of the challenges they have faced, the club was able to promote about five players to their first and second teams, over the past two seasons. “That is a sign that we are on the right track. We just need to continue working hard,” he said.

Strandfontein have five junior teams – mini cricket, under-12, under-14, under-15 and under-17.

Training sessions are held at Strandfontein sportsfield, at 5pm on Fridays. Call Noel Mitchell on 071 333 4314. for more information.