United States Youth Cricket Association
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Franklin Township, New Jersey Conducts Youth Cricket Clinic

Youth cricket campers at the completion of the Franklin Township spring cricket clinic.

[Courtesy: Riya Patel]

By Peter Della Penna (for DreamCricket.com)

Kids aged six and up received a golden opportunity to get outside and get into cricket over the course of seven weeks at a spring cricket clinic organized by the Franklin Township Department of Recreation in Franklin Township, New Jersey. The city with a population of approximately 60,000 located in central New Jersey was declared by Money Magazine in 2008 to be one of the five best small cities to live in America. One reason why is that it's "very diverse and has great natural beauty." That diversity is evident in the opportunities offered to its citizens and among the activities now available is youth cricket.

"I was thrilled to get the flyer," said Dip Kharod, whose son Dhruv, 8, participated in the clinic. Flyers were given to children through school teachers and taken home to show their parents. Kharod says his son has had plenty of opportunities to sign up and play youth soccer and tennis in the area, but this was the first time something had been organized for cricket. "The introduction of the game itself, having the opportunity for kids in itself is a big thing."


Coach Linden Fraser helps teach the proper batting grip to a camper.

[Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]

"This is the first thing that I've seen for the kids," said Niral Trivedi, whose son Jaival, 6, was at the clinic dressed in an MS Dhoni blue India jersey. "I love cricket and absolutely he does. Probably we'll continue with additional training after this."

The camp was held over six sessions on Saturdays from April 21 through June 2 at Naaman Williams Park. The cost was $60 to participate for the entire camp. Technical assistance for the camp was provided by DreamCricket in the form of coaches, free equipment and curriculum. Kids received instruction from ICC certified coaches Linden Fraser and Damion Morgan and got the opportunity to play short matches during each 90 minute session.

"I think at the initial stage of the camp I was a bit curious to know what I have to work with based on age, but from the first week I've seen a lot of improvement," said Morgan. "At first they didn't even know how to hit the ball, but now they're hitting the ball as clean as it gets. The biggest challenge is hand-eye coordination. Their motor skills are not fully developed. You gotta do a lot of different drills just to get them to even start making contact."

The coaches have tried to structure sessions by having contests or games to keep the kids excited and interested without overloading them by introducing too much technical information.

"We give them targets," said Morgan. "If you hit the stumps the most times, you get to be the champ. So they compete and they stay in it, focus to see who is hitting the stumps more or who is not so they know, 'I'm leading.' They love it and they're willing to learn."

Coach Damion Morgan looks on as a young camper gets through his bowling action.

[Courtesy: Peter Della Penna/DreamCricket.com]

"A lot of coaches will tell you they don't like the idea of coaching six-years-old," said Fraser. "For all the age groups, six-years-old can be the most difficult group to work because they're more fidgety. They like to do what they like to do. They want to do their own thing so you have to create stuff that will get their interest. These kids are excited to come every week. The reason why they want to come back is that you have to create stuff for them to want to come back."

Parents smiled while watching from the sidelines this particular Saturday, seeing the enthusiasm that their kids have for the game while playing a short practice match using wooden cricket bats and tennis balls.

"They're wonderful, the coaches," said Charmy Desai, mother of participant Aryan, 7. "They're really good with the kids. They really make an effort. They're teaching them really well. They're correcting their mistakes. They're good, very hands on. I think the kids are doing a great job, a big improvement from the first day to today. They're working as a team, which is a big thing."

"It's great to see a township-run program for youth cricket using ICC certified coaches," said DreamCricket CEO Kranthi Bayya. "These kids are the future of cricket. We hope to see this program become a springboard for other townships to launch their own cricket camps to give more opportunities for youth players because they will be the next generation of cricketers in America."

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