Earlier this week we sat down with ECB head of women’s cricket Clare Connor to discuss the new KSL Regional Development Centres, which will replace the existing England Women’s Development Programme for Under 15s, and are set to launch this autumn. She answers all our questions below:
When and why was it decided to open these new Regional Development Centres?
The ECB’s High Performance Manager for women’s and girls’ cricket Jonathan Finch, and everyone he consulted with, decided to decommission the EWDP Under 15s programme last September. That came about because we realised that to identify from county age group cricket 20 cricketers, roughly, to be the EWDP Under 15s squad, and to traipse them up to Loughborough, was a big investment in players that we weren’t massively sure about. We were rewarding performance at that stage rather than looking at development potential.
We then worked out that with the new Sport England funding we have received, we could create these Regional Centres, to reach 120 girls on a much more localised scale, connecting them and giving them the aspiration of their Super League team to look up to.
Can you provide more details about the Sport England funding?
We’ve received talent funding for the 2013-17 funding cycle from Sport England. That talent funding has mainly gone into the Academy programme each year (home and away), the EWDP Under 19s and the EWDP Under 15s. Last year we were then awarded some extra “Reward and Incentive Funding” because we had done everything that Sport England had tasked us to do with that original pot of money. We then worked with Sport England to decide how best to spend the extra money, and the decision to go ahead with the Regional Centres came out of that conversation.
We’ve got that extra funding to run for 2 years, and we’re in the process with Sport England at the moment of putting together our submission for the next funding cycle. The current funding cycle ends on 30 March 2017.
How will the players be selected to train at these Centres?
The counties have continued doing their talent ID system, as before, to create a long-list of talented age group cricketers, based on what the counties have seen them do in county age group cricket but also the potential that they see in them. That long-list has been split into KSL regions, and in mid to late September those players will be attending talent identification days. Based on that, players will then be allocated to the Regional Centres.
What age range will the new Centres cater for?
It’ll be fairly open-age. The broad age range will be 13-16. The EWDP Under 19s will still run as a squad of about 20, because we do want to focus in on them and give them some central Loughborough time. I am envisaging 70% of the girls at the new Centres being 13 or 14. I doubt we’ll go much lower than that.
What will the programme look like at the new Centres, and where will they be based?
I don’t know yet. I am presuming that the Vipers, for example, will be at the Ageas Bowl – they’ve got such an amazing facility there – but there’s nothing to stop the training being at Sussex sometimes.
We’re splitting the funding from Sport England between the 6 KSL hosts, and they will each be presenting us with their plan as to where things will be based and what their programme entails. Jonathan Finch as our High Performance Manager will make sure he believes that is a good use of public funding.
By October half-term all six will have started their programmes. All six will deliver about 12 days between October half-term and the end of the year, and that will be a mixture of skills development and assessment and education type stuff that we would previously have done centrally through the EWDP 15s. And then we’ll continue from there.
Will the new Regional Centres be in competition with each other?
No – it’s really important to get that across. These Centres are purely about how to reach more players on a more local level, to give more players more opportunity to have an equitable route into the elite end of the game.
How do these new Regional Centres fit in with existing county girls age-group / club cricket?
It’s important to stress that competitive cricket for the selected players will still be for their county age group teams. These Centres are about development programmes in the off-season, which lots of counties do not give their girls.
The key in all of this is the connection and relationship with those people working hard in counties, with their county age group girls, to make sure that if they are selected onto a regional centre, there is communication. The regional opportunity is not to replace anything you get through county age group cricket – it will be complementary. We need to make sure, and this is not always easily achieved, that the communication between that regional infrastructure and the counties is tight.
The main thing we’re trying to do more and more is not just look at this with an ECB lens about what we think – it’s about trying to do what is right for the player. The most important thing is that the player feels that they’ve got the best support, and the support is fit for purpose for that player, both from a geographical perspective and from the perspective of: has she got the best coaching we can get for her?
What we don’t want to do is to have 14 year olds at the end of a school week driving for 4 hours from Truro (for example) to somewhere, to arrive tired and stiff and to not really enjoy it.
We definitely will not be taking players out of anything, and if there is a county training session going on and the county says “this is a really important team-building session for our under 15s”, we wouldn’t just take that player and say “no, she’s coming here”. That’s not how we want to work at all.
Given that this is being funded by Sport England, will Welsh players be able to be put forward to attend the Centres?
Absolutely, yes. Welsh players are still included within anything the England and Wales Cricket Board wants to do – any Sport England funding we get includes Wales. For example, Glamorgan Cricket Board will be treated the same as any other county.
Are more changes in the pipeline for U15s, U19s or the Academy?
There probably won’t be massive structural change coming. We’re considering aligning the Academy with the men’s equivalent programme – they’re the Lions when they play proper matches, but the programme is called the England Performance Programme. We’re looking at all of that at the moment.