March 2018 - All Stars

Junior cricket in the UK has traditionally started at the under 11 age group. Matches and leagues start at this age group and the technicality of cricket has tended to dictate that young players are not started until slightly later in their development whereas football and rugby, as a comparison, are often started much younger.

In recent years, under 9 cricket has started to flourish with soft ball, 8 a side kwik cricket format events taking place in Wiltshire over the last decade. Bringing younger players together to play three games in a morning gives children the chance to test their skills in game scenarios with the emphasis on giving everyone plenty of opportunities to be involved.

Now we have All Stars Cricket. Introduced by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) in 2017 to give children aged 5-8 a great first experience of cricket, the programme features eight one hour sessions, held over 8 weeks. The emphasis is on having fun and being active and focuses on developing movement skills through cricket. 

All young people who register receive a backpack full of goodies including a cricket bat, ball, activity book, personalised shirt and cap and the programme is delivered at clubs who register to deliver it.

But what of the impact of All Stars? ClubLife speaks to Malmesbury CC who delivered a successful programme in 2017 with 50 young people involved.

The club benefitted from its geographic location on the Wiltshire / Gloucestershire border with no local programme being run in Tetbury. Consequently sign ups at Malmesbury flourished as a result of the national advertising campaign delivered by the ECB, and the attractiveness of the package, which at £40 for 8 weeks coaching and all the kit that was included, delivered very good value to parents.

The professionalism of the registration process that was set up nationally, helped to develop confidence and no doubt encouraged the self-referral process of parents discussing All Stars with other potential participants. Coverage of All Stars on social media with parents featuring pictures of their children with their All Stars kit bag undoubtedly had a positive influence in generating interest also. There was a clear, and open, intention to engage with parents in this way to encourage them to join in with sessions, and sent email updates on things to try at home with their children, as well as trying to foster the social element of parents coming together at the cricket club.

The ECB showed their commitment to All Stars with Andrew Strauss leading the ECB performance team to design the programme, which is aligned to the national curriculum for schools. Activator training was rolled out to county boards, who then provided local Activator workshops for club members and coaches. Clubs received free equipment to run their programmes alongside the training sessions, providing them with everything they needed to run the programme.

Pete Sykes, Cricket Development Manager for Wiltshire Cricket, adds that this means ‘every All Stars session is fully prepared, with every location fully dressed with the All Stars branding; making the sessions look eye catching and professionally delivered.’

Clearly one of the biggest challenges for clubs delivering All Stars was going to be the practical provision of sessions. Cricket coaches are generally not trained or prepared for delivering fun, successful, engaging sessions to children as young as 5. The club appointed a lead activator whose responsibility was to organise the sessions and the coaching workforce. With resources often stretched during the cricket season, Malmesbury reported that when all coaches and helpers turned up, the All Stars sessions were ‘an absolute joy’ with children and parents having a fantastic time. When helpers were unavailable or limited in number, sessions were slightly more ‘frenetic’.

It has been noted by the club that with more time to interact with parents during winter sessions, there has been more opportunity available in 2018 to develop better relationships and recruit additional helpers into the forthcoming programme.

All Stars in 2017 was a steep learning curve for all involved. For clubs to take on an entirely new age group and all the accompanying nuances of working with much younger children. For parents and children trying cricket for the first time and visiting a cricket club for the first time. For coaches delivering a new kind of session to new children to cricket. However, the indications are that the programme has been successful and will continue to improve. The kit has been very well received by children and is a great tool to attract others as a result.

Asked in summary for a review of the programme in 2017, Sykes said, ‘All Stars Cricket was a wonderful success in year one with 28 clubs running the programme and 766 children signing up across the county. As well as the obvious benefits in terms of the enjoyment that the children receive, All Stars has been so successful for me because of the wider benefits it can have for a club in terms of its reputation and its ability to portray itself as a professional and welcoming club to the local community.’

Realistically though, clubs had limited time to react and adapt to All Stars in 2017 and as with anything new, the initial programme threw up challenges and issues that were unforeseen. With that learning under the belt, clubs will be in a much better position to deliver in 2018 and All Stars will be a better product for it.

With 32 clubs signed up in Wiltshire for 2018 (including new centres at Devizes CC, Mere CC, Marshfield CC, Shrewton CC and Westbury CC) and already over 630 young people signed up on a programme, it’s clear that All Stars has been well promoted and provides the sparkle and excitement that can hook a young person. The challenge, as ever, is asking clubs to provide more and stretching resources further. However, there are solutions to this and with a greater awareness of how the programme works in practice and more parents involved in their child’s cricket, there is a huge opportunity to identify and develop new volunteers as well as new players.

Cricket, as with other sports, needs to adapt with the times and look to be innovative in the way that it attracts, recruits and retains players of all ages. The ECB are also modifying the playing formats at ages 8-12 so that All Stars Cricket feeds in to the future playing of the game. As Sykes notes, ‘It’s fair to say this is a very exciting time to be taking up cricket in England and Wales’

All Stars is a great example of the national governing body implementing solutions to be delivered locally and it’s great to see the level of support that it’s generated from clubs and parents alike.

If you’d like to sign your child up to All Stars for 2018 please visit