Former Australian cricket captain Greg Chappell said the new junior formats that are being rolled out across the nation this summer are the result of the fun being “sucked out” of the kid’s game.
Chappell, who is Cricket Australia’s National Talent Manager, also admitted his son Jon was among the sport’s lost generation of players from the 1990s who were “tormented” so badly at their junior cricket training sessions they turned to other pursuits, including baseball.
He said it was time to change the role - and the title - of those adults who coach nine-to-12-year-olds, the age groups the new junior formats target, to ‘facilitators’ because their job is to create an environment that fosters a child’s passion to play cricket.
“It’s not about technique for that age group - it never has been,” said Chappell. “It’s about developing the passion for the game, and the earlier that’s done the more likely it is the kid will put in the hours that are needed to develop the skills.
“I don’t think we should call them ‘coach’ because the connotation is they have to coach. They are a facilitator. Unfortunately, coaching young kids is seen to be all about technique when it’s about facilitating; managing the individuals and creating the environment to bring out the best in them. We’ve got to draw the talent out of these kids.”
Chappell, who played 87 Tests between 1970-84 and is widely regarded as the best Australian batsman of his generation, expressed his views as junior cricket Associations prepare for their first season of the new junior formats, a game that is tailored for the specific physical capabilities of children.
It features shorter pitches and boundaries; less players on the field and one of the key selling points is every child is guaranteed the opportunity to bat and bowl.
Chappell said the junior formats would help address the issues – including parental and coaching interference - that deterred many children from playing cricket in the 1990s.
“One of the big problems about cricket, particularly over the last 20-30 years, is we made the game too hard for kids,” he said. “By trying to instruct them we’ve confused them . . . we sucked the fun out of it.”
Chappell admitted his son Jon was one who turned his back on cricket because he didn’t enjoy it. He instead focussed on baseball and was recruited into the Toronto Blue Jays system in the mid-2000s.
“Most kids from that era didn’t have the opportunity to truly enjoy cricket because we made it too hard for them,” said Chappell. “We tormented kids.
“The human brain isn’t ready for that at the ages we’re talking about (9-12). What the brain responds to at that age is having fun and learning from doing. We need to get the kids to do everything from batting, bowling, fielding and running between wickets – they’re the things the brain is designed for at that age.
“That’s what’s going to get them excited – and foster their passion for the game and allow them then to want to keep doing it, and that will give them a chance to learn. We had to stop making the game harder than it needed to be; we need to let them explore the game and that’s why we should all be excited by the new junior formats.
“When you see the junior formats done – and done well – you’ll see kids let loose in an environment that encourages them to laugh and interact with each other. The great thing about that is that’s what kids do when they’re having fun.”
The sport’s hierarchy introduced the new junior formats after a series of outstanding results were recorded during last summer’s Pilot including more runs off the bat, more boundaries, more balls in play and a dramatic decrease in wides and no balls.
New Junior FormatsSTAGE 1 (Under 10/11)
Time: 120 mins
Overs per team: Max 20
Pitch Length: 16m
No. of Players: 7
Boundary Maximum: 40m
Ball Size: Modified
STAGE 2 (Under 12/13)
Time: 120 or 180 mins
Overs per team: T20 or max 30
Pitch Length: 18m
No. of Players: 9
Boundary Maximum: 45m
Ball Size: 142g