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Around the Leagues: Adel's thriving junior setup

— 23 May 2022

If you come up through the juniors at Airedale-Wharfedale club Adel, the chances are that you will have to be a good runner who can hit the ball a long way. A very long way, in fact!

In a bid to underpin a highly-respected junior section, and to keep the Leeds club thriving financially, they have been getting inventive down at Church Lane.

When talking about the impacts of Coronavirus on the club, which were thankfully far less than other places, club secretary Steve Ridgway explained: “I do think we’ve been very resilient through Covid. The sheer fact we were well set up before it helped us come out of it.

“But one of the things that did happen was, because we’re part of a multi-sports club, we couldn’t access any grants.

“So we did what we called the Sir Alastair Cook challenge last April.

“We recreated all of 12,472 runs, and we physically ran them all over the course of the Easter weekend.

“It was an idea by our junior chairman, Simon Griffin, who is amazing at coming up with these things.

“Basically, we did it on our astro pitch. Somebody ran one and others pledged to do some of his higher scores. His highest Test score was 294, and one lad pledged to run all of those. It raised in excess of £10,000.

“And we do have another pipeline, which is hitting a cricket ball to Lord’s. We’ll mark out a range and add them all up. Ultimately, we’ll hit the ball to Lord’s.”

As part of yorkshireccc.com’s series of articles from around the leagues in 2022, it was recommended to us that we speak to Adel CC due to their excellent reputation for developing junior cricketers.

“We’ve always had an emphasis on producing juniors, which obviously feeds into the seniors,” said Ridgway.

“We do the full range of juniors, from Under nines to Under 18s. Also, we’ve got the All Stars on a Saturday morning and have introduced our own programme, Cubs, which are sessions for five to eight-year-olds.

“We have a lot of older siblings who come down on a Friday night, so it’s about giving the little ones something to do as well.

“There is a reason why we concentrate on the juniors, and it does work. We’ve had good success, with a lot of those players feeding through into senior teams.

“A huge number of our senior players have come through the junior system. And that is our success story.”

Steve’s son, Daniel, has this year been appointed the club’s designated coach: “That brings a bit more structure to it,” said Ridgway senior.

“Daniel also works down at ProCoach. Part of his remit is to coach our coaches and managers.

“It’s trying to make sure that the kids are coached the proper way. It’s not just batting and bowling, there’s a big emphasis on fielding as well.

“We are fortunate that a lot of parents are cricketers themselves, which helps a lot, and we have a good level of volunteering as well. A big problem with junior cricket is not that kids don’t want to play, I believe they do. It’s just getting the adult back-up to ensure they can play.

“There’s no magic involved, just a desire to do it.

“The key is to get them involved when they’re young. The All Stars is a fantastic way to get them young.

“I was watching the All Stars session a week or so ago, and the kids were having a fantastic time.

“There’s this perception that kids would rather be sat at home playing on a Xbox, but I don’t think it’s true. I think they love being out in the fresh air with their mates chasing around after a ball.

“And, if you can keep the numbers up, a percentage of those will feed through to the senior teams.”

Reflecting on results and performances for the juniors, which is important but obviously far from the be all and end all, Ridgway said: “We’ve had a good start to the season, winning most of their games.

“We have quite a lot of lads going on to play in representative teams and in the Yorkshire age-groups.

“We do have decent results out of what we’re trying to do.

“A couple of our junior members also score for the senior teams.”

So, onto the seniors. Their first team play in Division Two of the Aire-Wharfe.

They have won three and lost three this season, including a 106-run reverse at home to Tong Park Esholt on Saturday.

Ridgway said: “We have three senior teams in the Aire-Wharfe. One of those is a Sunday comp, and we use that as a junior development team. We have lads in there from 13 onwards.

“We also have a third team on a Saturday we put out in the Dales Council competition. Again, a fair level of juniors will form part of that team.

“Our third team on a Sunday has been very successful. We’re reigning champions in that Aire-Wharfe league with an average age of 16.

“You do lose some kids when they go to University, but we do have a good track record of keeping them involved and getting them through to the seniors.

“We have nine at the moment in the first and second team whose dads have played for the club. It’s a big family club in that sense.

“Last year, one of the Saturdays when we put three teams out, 29 of the 33 players had all come up through our junior set-up – the oldest being a 50-year-old and youngest being 13.

“A couple of years ago, we had a father and three sons who all played in the same team together, the Harrisons. Paul is our cricket chairman, and his three sons played.”

As Ridgway says, “Success in league cricket is measured in many ways”.

“For me, you build something strong from the bottom up. And we want to be a club with strong foundations who is going to be here and thriving in 30 years’ time.

“We might not win the league every year, but we have a good crop of young players and seniors who pulling the shirt on really means something to.

“Success is also putting money back into the ground. We refurbed our nets last year, we’ve got projects ongoing to refurb the score box and build storage.

“We run events as well. The Adel beer festival, which is a huge community weekend in September, is one.”

And just a final thought, in five or even 10 years’ time, it may be worth considering the Joe Root challenge. Then you will have to run a long way.

“Yes,” laughed Ridgway. “That might be even worse. No, no, even better!”

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