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Where leather and willow meet

Cricket Scotland is introducing an SVQ in community coaching, targeted at under-19s. Roddy Mackenzie reports

cricket scotland is inviting school-leavers to apply for a new Scottish Vocational Qualification in community coaching, which is due to start at the end of August.

With grant funding from Scottish Enterprise, the governing body plans to take on six coaches initially and provide pound;2,500 a year for each candidate, to be matched by a sponsor, which could be cricket club, local authority or any other body willing to support the youngster through his or her training.

Candidates must provide a reference from their secondary school PE department and not be in full-time employment or education.

Successful candidates will receive an average 20-35 hours of coaching and training per week and a total of 30 "college" days at the National Cricket Academy in Edinburgh throughout their two years.

Andy Tennant, Cricket Scotland's head of education and development, is delighted to have secured funding to get the programme off the ground. "It's based on the rugby model, which has been highly successful over the past five years and created more than 60 community coaches in that time," he explains.

"This is a chance for us to develop coaches who will provide an integral part of our development structure. It's a chance for us to get into primary schools and link them to the clubs.

"If, over the next three or four years, we can have 20 community coaches allied to our six or seven full-time development officers, then we can see that as good going."

Interviews have been taking place, and the six successful candidates for the first year will be announced next month. "We have had great interest for this year but next year's school leavers are now looking at it as a serious option. We will have 12 new coaches on board by August 2008, which can only be good for the game.

"There are a lot of children leaving school with an interest in cricket and it seems unfair if they cannot pursue that if they are not talented in the game, as there are limited opportunities.

"We see this as ideal for school-leavers who are keen to start in sports development and it's an alternative to the National Coaching courses. It's based on the modern apprentice scheme and, after the two-year course, other coaching and education opportunities are likely to open up."

An important part of the programme will be to develop school-club links. The new coaches will go into all schools to deliver coaching in the curriculum and after school. They will also be expected to organise club youth programmes and help organise development events.

Mr Tennant believes the natural enthusiasm of school-leavers, as they enter the job market or embark on further education, is something that can be harnessed by Cricket Scotland. Youngsters, he says, can identify with the language and mannerisms of someone who has just left school.

"We see this as a country-wide project, and it's not just boys we are looking for," he says. "Girls' cricket is a huge priority for us and we have made a lot of inroads into that. The success of the programme will depend on two things the quality of the candidate and the level of sponsorship we can achieve."

Cricket Scotland is running seven camps over the summer holidays, aimed at different ages and levels, from six to 17. The three-day and four-day camps at the National Cricket Academy are being overseen by experienced coaches.

It is not just the private schools that are making their mark nowadays. The final of the Glasgow Schools' Cricket Association Cup at the end of the summer term was between Hillhead High and Shawlands Academy. Hillhead came out on top, after reaching 114 for six, and its bowler Rizwan Ahmad helped skittle Shaw- lands out for a total of 20 when he took four wickets for only six runs.

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