Founded in 2005, the GCB is responsible for all recreational cricket across Gloucestershire, creating links between schools, clubs and the community. A new structure to the organisation was formed in 2013 which has seen the sport boom across the county.
The organisation has helped grow cricket on a huge scale throughout their area, coaching more than 10,000 kids across 200 schools at both primary and secondary level, as well as coaching nearly 1000 other young players within district teams and community programmes.We spoke to GCB Community Coach Ralph Hardwick to find out just how their success had come about.
‘During term time in the summer we run between 2-4 schools days, where we invite around 400 kids along to a day at the cricket and provide coaching and activities. We run these both in Bristol and in Cheltenham to try and reach more schools across the county.’
‘Outside of term time we run coaching camps. This summer we have a girls only camp and 2 day open camp where kids have been invited from all over the county and specifically from our community sessions which have a high percentage BME populations. The newest initiative we have been involved in this year is the new entry level programme for 5-8 yrs olds called All Stars Cricket. This was rolled out across the county and was a huge success, engaging with nearly 1400 budding new cricketers.’
Ralph sees their 3 prong attack at driving participation through promotion as the best way to publicise their events.
‘We’ve found that getting messages out to individual cricket clubs and using their database and word of mouth works very well. We have a strong social media presence which we use as an advertising tool and a way of promoting any news to the wider cricketing population. When we look to promote participation in young people such as All Stars then we use taster sessions and assemblies in schools along with promotional literature.’
But can the GCB’s success be replicated across other sports and clubs throughout the UK?
‘There are a couple of things that any club can do to make themselves sustainable and have an impact on the local area. Firstly I would try and create official links with a local school and try to offer them some sessions or some interaction. We have found this is a great way to get young people into the club. Arguably the best way to improve uptake or have an impact would be to make the club as family friendly as possible. It is great to get kids and young people to the club but it will be the parents that decide whether or not to come back. This can then have a knock on effect with the possibilities of new volunteers which help the club keep moving forward.’
As a foundation, Ralph feels pinpointing just one stand-out success story is just too hard!
‘We can’t really pick out one story as over the years across all our different programs we have had many success stories. These range from our county age group players going to gain professional contracts to integrating cricketers from our community projects successfully into clubs. Our biggest success story over the last 12 months is undoubtedly All Stars Cricket. We had over 40 clubs sign up to the project which then engaged nearly 1400 new cricketers and across the country we were second in terms of kids per club.’
Quite rightly, as Ralph explains, the GCB are highly positive about the future of cricket, something that bodes well for the long term ambition of the Club.
‘At the moment we feel that cricket has great opportunity to grow. The introduction of All Stars has been a great success and hopefully we can build on this initial success to continue growth within the sport. The Women and girls game is flourishing right now and with the success of the national side recently and the new super league I believe this will continue to grow. The introduction of the new T20 competition in 2020 will also hopefully provide a big boost when it is introduced along with the new groundbreaking tv deal that will see cricket back on the BBC again.’
We’d like to say a huge thank you to Ralph for taking the time to chat with us. If you’d like more information about the GCB’s brilliant work you can visit their website here.