My first 100 days as CEO of USACA has been an exhausting, yet enjoyable experience. I made a commitment when appointed that I would work diligently with everyone involved in the game and give everyone the chance to meet with me and give me theta thoughts. That process has been a “steep learning curve” and three months have flashed by. I have personally visited 6 Regions and spoken with the representatives of all 8. My staff and I have made the arranged and participated in a multitude of teleconferences with Regional groups most evenings, attended meetings with various committees, met with government bodies, commercial entities and other US sporting groups in a bid to gain a very clear picture of where US cricket is currently positioned. It has been worth every minute!
What I have seen and heard has affirmed three core principles;
1) Cricket can and should succeed in the United States
2) The foundations of our game require immediate attention
3) The future of cricket in the USA starts with you.
At the outset, let me say that EVERYONE involved in cricket in the United States should be proud of what has been achieved to this point. More than 30,000 people are playing the game every weekend across this nation and all on the efforts of dedicated volunteers is a mighty effort. The core success of any sport, anywhere in the world, starts with people playing that sport because they love it. We have that cricket passion in America and it is a powerful ingredient in our plans for the future.
There is a great deal of enthusiasm for the game and there are some very capable people leading our cricket groups across the nation. That means the foundation for success of cricket in the United States already exists and now we all need to work together to unify and strengthen the sport as one.
After three months in the top job in US cricket, cricket stakeholders have indicated that they want the following 5 areas addressed in our plans for cricket development into the future. I thought I would share them with you and give you my perspective on how we might progress.
Junior Development in the United States needs USACA’s attention and assistance now. From my travels and conversations with various stakeholders, some areas in the country have junior development that is
well organized, but in many areas development barely exists. By actually going to the Regions and viewing for myself what is happening at the 6 to 15 years old group, I have been able to separate ‘fact from fiction’ as to the state of this crucial building block for our future success. Think of any country where cricket is the top-tier sport and you can be assured it is built upon a world class junior cricket programme. We need that here in the United States and USACA is determined to deliver it. It is our responsibility and the foundation on which the game is built.
From what I have seen, youth development has been very focused on 17 years and above. It is too late to make a significant benefit to a sport at that age, as by the age 10 (the fifth grade); children have already determined what sports they will play for their life and begun to learn the fundamentals that will provide them with a life time association with that sport.
Elite Player Pathways
The past ICC WCL Division Three tournament in Bermuda was a reminder of just how far the US has to go to be able to find its place in world cricket. After earning our position in the ICC T20 Qualifier in Dubai commencing on November 15th, our National Men’s team fought hard to achieve a similar result to reach the qualifier for the World Cup to be held in New Zealand next year.
After an excellent start, we weren’t able to win two crucial games and whilst we are all proud that they finished third in the tournament, one can’t help but think it was a missed opportunity. Our fitness levels weren’t sufficient to maintain our early form and we fell short (as we have so often done in the past) at the most important stage.
I have sat back and observed the manner in which we approach our high performance programmes over the past 3 months. Now I have a better understanding of the modifications that need to be made and the work that needs to be done to reach our potential. The process starts immediately with a full review of what US cricket has done in the past, comparison with world’s best practice and developing a talented player pathway for our Men’s, Women’s and Youth teams that is well understood and uniform across the nation.
The USACA Combine at the end of the month will be the first step in the right direction.
Visiting the Regions across America has given me the chance to see a little of the great cricket the country has to offer and each has its own triumphs and challenges. One consistent area where USACA has been asked to assist is in the area of consistency in approach. In each discussion with all 8 Regions, this matter was common. There is a sense amongst the Leagues that the Regions are lacking a cohesive and consistent approach to the manner in which cricket is delivered and in many cases, even played. Our Umpires, coaches and scorers are all looking to one standard that can apply.
USACA has been asked to play a leading role in this area and to ensure that best practices are being followed where the game is played. This request will form part of the new USACA Strategic Plan that will
be released in August this year. Standards, uniformity and communication are deliverables than any national governing body of cricket should provide, and USACA accepts the challenge.
Women’s Cricket is a Priority
USACA firmly believes in the critical role that women play in our great game. For many years USACA has championed girls and women having access to cricket and an organized the USA Women’s Cricket programme. However, it is clear that despite these positive first steps, progress has faltered and disparate groups have tried their best to keep competitions happening in some shape or form.
There is unanimous agreement that Women’s cricket requires leadership and guidance from the peak body and from the Regional Boards.
The new Strategic Plan must have a dedicated element focused on Women’s cricket and build a platform for the future that goes well beyond sending teams to participate in tournaments. America has a proud tradition of successful women’s sports and cricket can benefit from that tradition. Our sport must encourage youngsters to try and play the game and have a life time association with cricket.
It is time to get serious about this element of US cricket.
One Sport – One Voice
These goals only become real with a two-way commitment. US cricket needs our members aligned with our new direction. Everywhere I travelled I have been asked about compliance with the USACA Constitution. Some Leagues want to know how they can achieve compliance and as I have said whenever asked, the first step is to renew your financial standing for 2013. Once our members have done so (and I thank the great number that have), USACA will work through the process with you.
In the short time I have been here our efforts have been aimed at uniting cricket. Our communications are transparent and regular. All 8 Regions have held an Under 19 tournament with USACA’s support and embraced all, members and non-members.
The Governance Review is well advanced with the interview process with the independent consultant underway. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has very publicly demonstrated its support of USACA by touring the US for the very first time, something that clearly indicates that change has come to America. There are major developments still to be announced that are designed to meet the needs of the cricket fraternity.
A New Era
The key learning after 100 days in my new role is that we are on the cusp of an enormously positive time for the sport of cricket in this country, When USACA commended in 1968, it had a vision to leave a legacy for the sport that would endure. 45 years later, the game is still here, but a little unsure of which way to head. There are plenty of people who have strong views about where it should head and many, many great ideas. There are those that have passion and others that have divergent views. People
involved in US cricket won’t necessarily agree and a variety of views on the best way to progress will always exist. For me, what remains constant is that we are all a cricket fraternity’ and united by our desire to see cricket succeed.
From my perspective, America and cricket is a partnership that should be healthy, sustainable and lasting. We owe it to our children to leave them with a game that is stronger, healthier and one that embraces all Americans. A legacy for future generations that love this game and this country as we do. I am confident that we all can agree on that.
I look forward to you being a part of the new era in US cricket and invite you to join us on the journey as we make cricket a sport for all Americans.
Chief Executive Officer