Wednesday, June 1st, 2022

Worcestershire driving change with commitment to inclusive age-group pathway

Academy coach Elliot Wilson has highlighted the importance and continued growth of diversity and inclusivity within the Worcestershire pathway.

Wilson has been at the helm at New Road for nine years, replacing the late Damian D’Oliveira, and helped continue and develop the conveyor belt of young talent for the first-team squad.

It is commonplace within the current Worcestershire first team for seven or eight Academy products to be part of the LV=Insurance County Championship and Vitality Blast line-ups.

But the club have also made great strides to ensure their Academy and performance pathway is “very inclusive and very welcoming” for young talent from all backgrounds.

Over 300 boys and girls were included in the club’s 2022 Pathway winter training programme.

Senior Pathway coaches Wilson, Andy Sutton, and Ryan D’Oliveira, supported by the pathway coaching team including former players David Banks, Alexei Kervezee, and Shaftab Khalid, oversaw a 16-week winter programme based at venues across the region.

The 2022 intake, who made it through an intense four-week trial programme, includes young cricketers from over 120 schools and nearly 100 cricket clubs across the county, including a record 23 per cent from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Worcestershire are also committed to supporting all families who may endure any financial hardship by having players on the club’s pathway.

Worcestershire are also trying to help any youngsters who may not make the step up into the professional ranks at New Road by signposting them towards local counties Herefordshire and Shropshire.

“Over the last 12 months, the amount of challenges cricket has had to face is well known,” Wilson said.

“We’ve had to go to some lengths to freshen up our environment to make sure it is very welcoming, very inclusive and that everyone who comes into this environment feels like they are able to be themselves.

“They don’t have to try and act or behave in certain ways to fit in. We create an environment where we see the best of them because they can be themselves.

“That has not been a simple thing for us to do over the last 12 months. It has taken a lot of work, a lot of effort, and a lot of time, to work out how we could do it better.

“But we are making some massive strides in that area. We are proud to be a county which has a lot of ethnic and diverse players and, if we don’t take on every player, we have a process to ensure all players can stay in the game by signposting them to other counties where they can be involved in county and age-group cricket, It is a nice strand to what we do.”

Regarding the game being more accessible to everyone, Wilson said: “The club has made a significant commitment to supporting all families who have players on the Pathway if they have any financial hardship.

“We make sure for any player from any background in our programme that the costs of being involved should not be a barrier.

“They shouldn’t be wary of saying ‘yes’ to being involved because of the costs. The club has made a commitment so that every player involved knows they should never be financially challenged. ”

As regards the ECB plan regarding removing barriers on current pathways, Wilson said: “There are some significant barriers, and we need to be better at identifying talent.

“We need to be supporting and educating coaches more, and we need to deliver programmes to help players who aren’t as privileged to get regular coaching at private schools.

“All those things have started to happen and will continue to grow over the next three or four years, and it will make this pathway and this club very inclusive and accessible to all.”