HUNDREDS of aspiring young cricketers have applied to join Warwickshire’s Youth Pathway as the club expands an innovative new scheme to help youngsters realise their sporting dreams, in association with Birmingham City University.
Last year Warwickshire overhauled its selection process to make it easier for all children, irrespective of their background, to apply for its junior ranks.
Any child can now apply by submitting a video of them batting or bowling for assessment by coaches, whereas previously only local clubs, schools and cricket organisations could nominate players.
A total of 328 boys and 72 girls applied to join the 2024 Youth Pathway.
Some 72 boys and 48 girls have been invited back for a series of coaching sessions between October and December.
Warwickshire became the first professional cricket club to introduce such a system in 2022.
Warwickshire’s high performance manager, Paul Greetham said: “Applications increased 30 per cent on our first year with 76 more boys sending in footage.
“And it’s great that dozens of girls have also applied. Hopefully, there’s an Amy Jones or Issy Wong in the making. Our aim is to set the national standard for inclusivity in our pathway.
“Currently around 70 per cent of our pathway prospects are in state education and 57 per cent of boys and 40 per cent of girls are from diverse backgrounds.
“Most costs associated with our pathway have been removed and bursaries are available for children needing support, ensuring that money is not a barrier for a talented child.
“Some 13 of the men’s professional squad came through the pathway and academy and I’m confident with our new open system we’re finding more stars of the future that otherwise may have been missed.
“We’d like to thank Birmingham City University in their support to make this happen. It is a fantastic opportunity to work with them on an initiative that has really helped to drive accessibility.”
The club’s schools programme continues to expand – inspiring a new generation of cricket fans and engaging children new to the game – and last year reached more than 25,000 pupils across the region.
The vast majority of the sessions (99 per cent) are in state schools and range from weekly sessions over a half-term, to one-off cricket days, and focused activity in schools where more than 40 per cent of pupils qualify for free school meals.
Warwickshire developed their new Youth Pathway process in association with Birmingham City University (BCU) which co-funded research looking at how bias and a lack of objectivity can impact selection decisions.
Dr Adam Kelly, a senior lecturer in sports coaching and physical education at BCU and an expert in talent identification and development, is full of praise for the Youth Pathway scheme.
He said: “This initiative is fantastic because it creates more opportunities for young cricketers, including those from minority communities and state schools who may not have been exposed to Warwickshire’s Academy coaching and scouting staff previously.
“It also helps Warwickshire identify the most promising individuals in the region to nurture and develop towards expertise.
“BCU is delighted to play its part and is excited to see what can be achieved. We work with organisations and national governing bodies from across the sporting spectrum to open up talent pathways to everyone, so to see projects like this come to fruition is heartening.
“Warwickshire is a leader in this field and it’s wonderful to see them using innovative approaches to talent identification and development.
“This is something that is starting to be used by other clubs, which can only benefit young cricketers and the national talent pathways in England and Wales.”