December 2015 - South Wilts CC

It’s been a special year for South Wilts Cricket Club; success on the field was replicated off it with the awarding of two Outstanding Service to Cricket Award’s (OSCA) to Jon Williams and Adrian James by Wiltshire Cricket for the Heartbeat of the Club and Officials award respectively. The club went one further when captain Tom Morton was recognised by All Out Cricket magazine as one of their club cricketer’s of the year.

The 1st XI and the 2nd XI’s won their respective leagues, the 1’s with a fourth consecutive success. The club also won the Southern Premier League T20 at the Ageas Bowl for a 3rd consecutive year, continued to reap success in junior cricket and contributed players at most age groups to county teams. For all the effort on the field though it is the behind the scenes efforts that have been recognised by in the OSCA awards held in September.

The OSCA’s are an ECB national initiative to recognise and reward those volunteers that cricket quite simply couldn’t do without. In that respect, both Jon and Adrian were worthy winners in categories that recognise contributions to cricket that make a huge difference to the ability of the club to provide the game in the way that they do. Between them they have provided over 50 years of service to South Wilts and in various ways helped shape the club into the community hub that it is now.

Adrian has scored for the club for 29 years, missing one Saturday league game in the process and supporting Sunday and midweek cricket too. Jon has held virtually every committee position and worked tirelessly on the grounds and behind the scenes to the help the club develop.

Every sports club has its own unique set of circumstances, issues and dynamics that can be incredibly difficult to work with and manage. South Wilts CC is no different – there are expectations and challenges associated with the level of success that the club has achieved over the years, both on and off the field. To continue going forward, to continue to develop and grow, to continue to challenge and succeed is testament to the people behind the scenes that make this happen.

Trevor Pittman, Chairman of the club, attributes this success to never resting on their laurels, always looking for the next opportunity and persistence. A strong resilient committee with accountability spread between officers and other integrated volunteers. Having people who care, about the game, and the club. People who want to make a difference and see South Wilts continue to be a desirable club for members to stay at and players to join. People like Adrian and Jon, and in fairness, many others at the club who take responsibility for delivering cricket across a range of abilities and ages.

Looking at South Wilts CC and their success is not to presume that their way is the right way of delivering cricket. But it is to look at how they make things work for them. One key facility addition per year has been a development aim over the last decade and this has amounted to considerable improvement in facilities and further ambitions to be realised. The wonderful new clubhouse is the proof of a development plan that has been well articulated, made accountable among the committee and pursued enthusiastically in many quarters to realise.

But whilst it might take pride of place, there are many other elements that have helped to bring players back and keep them there. Improvements to the second pitch and changing facilities have ensured that the club retains its membership through all four teams and is not seen as primarily driven by first team demands. Investment in grounds machinery and grounds maintenance volunteers has improved pitch quality; identifying and taking ownership of issues, putting in place robust corrective actions is very much part of normal business.

Organising structured training sessions and creating an environment that attracts quality cricketers without the need to go looking has re-energised training and set high expectations. Developing links with other local clubs to ensure that cricket opportunities are available for young players at the club who may not make senior teams beyond under 15, and for those that don’t quite make it into the younger junior squads is an example of the club looking wider than it's own limits. Of course, there is a two dimensional angle to these relationships, with potential premier league players provided an opportunity to come across to South Wilts to play at a higher level should they wish.

The payback has been in the retention of players and the highlight is the rise of junior players through the senior teams to occupy key positions in both the first and second teams. 10 out of the 2nd XI squad that won the league in 2015 came through the junior ranks – a number have already made the jump to the 1st XI supported by the experience of the likes of Morton and James Hibberd, delivering structured training sessions through the winter and summer months.

Challenging the ethos that ‘it is what it is’ and attracting, recruiting and supporting the right people to drive your club forward is key to making change happen. Having a sound development plan, having ‘off the shelf’ options ready to take advantage of available funding and attempting to run an amateur club as professionally as possible creates an environment where people can be effective. It’s not easy, and it takes time, but it is possible with the right people, the right attitudes and a collective vision.

The OSCA’s are a way of recognising the impact of the work of volunteers in cricket. Every club has people who go above and beyond in the name of their club, attempting to improve things for others. When you get a group of ambitious people, who have the desire and commitment to see projects through, then you can create special things. Jon and Adrian have been an integral part of that journey for South Wilts, along with many others, and deserve their recognition, but there are many others in Wiltshire who are their equivalents in their own clubs.

Cricket in Wiltshire is considerably better for them and the time and effort that they put in.