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After the leading edge

As one who has worn many hats in Barbados' and West Indies' cricket, David Holford appreciates the importance of the junior coaching programmes at some of the island's clubs

Haydn Gill
As one who has worn many hats in Barbados' and West Indies' cricket, David Holford appreciates the importance of the junior coaching programmes at some of the island's clubs.
At the senior level we have to compete with people who are all coached, said the former Barbados captain, West Indies all-rounder, team manager and chief selector and current Spartan Club president and chairman of the Barbados Cricket Association's Cricket Development Committee.
In Australia, England, South Africa, the kids are coached from an early age and they become more technically proficient than our guys, who tend to be natural players.
They, through the well-structured coaching programmes, are able to develop players who don't have the natural talent that we do, but they end up with the discipline that comes from the coaching programme.
It is important for us, if we are going to compete at the highest level, to make sure that we equip our players technically to deal with all the different situations that they may encounter.
That's why clubs like Spartan are providing the opportunities for young children between ages five and 14 to have the benefit of quality coaching from some of the island's eminent coaches.
Alvin Greenidge, Ezra Moseley, Roddy Estwick, Dexter Toppin, all highly rated by many observers, are among those involved in Spartan's programme. Second vice-president Ron Greenidge, Teddy Foster and Sylvan Stoute also lend a hand and from time to time, there is assistance from Philo Wallace and Livy Puckerin, two of the club's current players.
But it was George Linton and Jeffrey Mascoll who were instrumental in getting things going in 1999.
Neither is available today because of other commitments, but they laid the groundwork for the success of the programme which was reorganised in 2000 to include the addition of the professional coaches.
Holford also mentioned two characteristics which were also spoken of when we featured Wanderers and Richard Straker's Northern Cricketers high interest in participation and lack of adequate facilities.
After about a year, we started getting a lot of kids, the Spartan president said.
From a start-up number of 50, the register rose to about 200 at one point. About 150 are now active, but the average session would have about 80 to 90 boys.
Like other programmes, Spartan have had to turn back people and inevitably, there are challenges in managing it.
It is fairly difficult. One of the things lacking in Barbados is cricket facilities. We do the best we can with what's available here in Queen's Park, Holford said.
The club, however, is trying to develop some practice pitches in the north-eastern corner of the ground.
We need some more facilities. There really is not enough room, not enough wickets to cater to that number of boys. They keep coming all the time and it's difficult to refuse them.
As Holford spoke, there were four sets in sessions taking place on the field. The one on the main pitch was supervised by Wallace.
A lot has been said about players not putting back anything into cricket, said the experienced Spartan and Barbados opening batsman. I am one of those players who is prepared once I have the time to come out and put in a big effort in terms of developing the cricket. There is no better age than to do it at this junior age.
Wallace also spoke of the enthusiasm he saw among the kids.
It's nice to see that you are asking players to do something and you can see them trying to do it. That is very pleasing, he said. People are saying that our cricket is dying and the talent is not there, but there is loads of talent at this junior level. All we need to do is harness it some more and try to develop that talent.
In the north-eastern corner, there was another group, under the guidance of Estwick. Among them were Jason Simmons and Shane Dowrich, two ten-year-olds from West Terrace Primary.
I love cricket, Simmons said when he was asked why he joined the programme. When I came here two years ago I was throwing, but now I can bowl.
The confident Dowrich, who claims to be a batsman, bowler and wicket-keeper, has big goals.
I want to be like Martin Nurse. I want to play cricket for Barbados at the age of 16, he said.
Holford has a suggestion that will help those like Simmons and Dowrich improve even more: a competition among those clubs with these programmes.
In the past, Spartan played matches against Wanderers and Windward on an informal basis.
What is lacking now is a competition for the youngsters. That is what we need to fit into the whole structure, Holford added.
It's one thing to show guys how to play and it's another to need a platform where they can go and exhibit what they have learnt and learn more from the game situation.