Entering the winter programme of 2023, the Under 15 Boys knew what was lying ahead for them, an exciting Tour of South Africa and then a Winter and Summer programme to build on previous successes and lay foundations for a National Competition next summer.
The Under 15 Boys is very much a two-year process, where in Year 1 it’s about finding suitable roles for players, a way of playing and gelling as a team. Year 2 is all about competing in the Under 16s National Competition and qualifying for a quarter-final.
At the start of the winter programme, the coaching team made up of myself, Paul Heard, Matt Cooke and Jim Parker had some clear values, strategies and techniques we wanted to instil into the players.
The aim was to provide all players with clear roles and responsibilities within the team, give them the confidence and attributes to go and compete and succeed in all matches, and to play hard and fair as a unit, not as individuals.
For some, this came easier than for others but heading into the summer I was quietly confident in what this group could achieve.
During the season, as with any season, there were some highs and lows, some moments of tension and some moments of anguish.
The side had the best start to the season possible, beating Somerset in two T20s which was very much dominated by the bat of Zach Vukusic (52 off 21) and Joe Gillett (54 off 29). This performance by the side definitely filled me and Jim Parker with a lot of optimism and equally showed the players what was possible.
The 50 Over block of games produced some tough fixtures in some challenging circumstances. A victory versus Wiltshire followed losses to Dorset and Cornwall.
The second half of the 50 Over block proved more productive: impressive victories against Dorset, Gloucestershire and Wales really demonstrated what this group of players can achieve.
The Under 15 Boys year is a really challenging year for all involved, with many different opportunities that arise throughout the season.
There is the opportunity to play multi-day cricket, which this season, when it didn’t rain produced some excellent cricket against Cornwall and Somerset.
There is the opportunity for the better-performing players to be selected for the Under 16 Boys side in the ECB Cup, well done to all the players who were duly selected to do this.
There is the Bunbury process, which is not only stressful for the players but time-consuming for those involved. A huge congratulations to Matt Whalley and Joe Gillett for their selection in the South and West side.
Even though these are all challenges, I also believe in the long run it will make this group of players stronger and better for it. Players had to play different roles in matches, had to stand up and lead from the front, and this only makes for a strong team and great development.
Jim and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the players who played a part in a successful Under 15 Boys season, where we finished the year winning 6 games out of 10 games and, more importantly in our opinion, all players contributing and developing throughout the 12 months.
I think this year is a great testament to the players and the way they applied themselves and bought into what was asked of them.
I would also like to thank the parents for their support and Jim, Paul Heard and Matt Cooke for their efforts as part of the coaching team.