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Stop treating your cricket club like a social get-together and treat it more like a business to reap the benefits.

Updated: Apr 22

The biggest issue with most clubs today is the amount of politics that has become associated with them. Treating your club like a business installs discipline and professionalism and kills off any corruption or dirty politics when it comes to team selection and reputation.

Businessman standing and looking outside of office window with pride

Being involved and having played at so many clubs over the past 30 years, I have seen the same issues being discussed constantly, forcing out promising players and loyal members. The club is not adaptable to welcoming change and continues to be stubborn and set in its ways.

The main issues in every club evolve around team selection, the stigma of ‘buddy-buddy cricket,’ lack of playing opportunities, and most recently, racism. Although we try to deny it, the case of Ex-Yorkshire county cricketer Azeem Rafiq indicates that it still exists. The ECB's report highlighted that it wasn't the only county where it took place and has now started implementing necessary changes. After England captain Ben Stokes called for more diversity in English cricket, more and more inquiries by the ECB have begun to take place.

"We have the most Asian players out of any club in the league?" Just because you have diversity in your club does not mean that racism does not exist. Racism, as we know, is not defined by just race and religion! Bias and discrimination of gender, sexuality, disability, body shaming, and mental health are also a common factor under equal opportunities.

Cricket clubs focus too much on the social element; yes, sports should be open to all and provide a friendly, relaxing environment. However, sports is also associated with excellence and competition. Cricket has been known since the 17th century as the "Gentleman's Game." Only recently, over the last few years, has this changed significantly due to the inclusion of Ladies' cricket rising to stardom with mass following and popularity.

Cricket Clubs fail to realize the obvious: every end-of-season AGM involves a fact sheet of account balances. These clubs are not free or provided for via local council funding. They require investment through paying memberships and sponsorships to be able to run. Unfortunately, so many long-time expectational clubs have now folded and turned into a Barron wasteland. Due to the lack of funding and playing members, they had no choice but to call it a day.

This is why we must treat cricket clubs more like businesses than social communities. We must combat the financials and make sure it truly is a place without politics. It is good to be sociable and invite everyone with open arms, but without a sense of professionalism and discipline in the club, it can easily slip into a poor reputation and generate a lack of loyalty amongst playing members. A cricket club is an investment; invest in your members, and they will invest in the club.

Here are some tips to help your club tackle the most common issues;

Tip #1 - Treat it like a business, not a social club

In any sports, just not cricket, there are 4 key signs indicating why every club needs to operate with a business mentality rather than as a social outlook.

  1. Management of Payments and Profitable Growth: Your club relies on making a series of payments through league registrations, tournament entries, groundskeeping material and resources, club kits, balls, etc. Your club relies on donations, fundraising, sponsorship, and membership/ match fees. In business, this is known as P&L (Profit and loss); how do you manage operational expenses to be profitable? Clubs envision growth in teams and additional leagues, junior cricket, and more general offerings to attract more investment and build growth.

  2. Your club has a Staff of employees and Volunteers using a leadership structure: Every cricket club has a committee consisting of leadership, vice president, chairmen, treasurer, etc., the same structure as any other business. You rely on a handful of parents as volunteer coaches, scorers, and umpires to help the club where funding is not available. There is leadership and management in place to run the club with policies, a code of conduct, and moral ethics. Any business, small or large, requires structured leadership.

  3. Leveraging technology to accomplish goals: To run your cricket club smoothly, you have introduced certain Apps to take match fee and membership payments, announce match day teams, and organize events, donations, and contributions. Building a website, social pages, or marketing emails to drive more interest to your cricket club. Creating the function of a sales and marketing team in the business responsible for driving reputation (brand recognition), Brand loyalty (Club awareness), and lead generation (New investment as in Players & Members).

  4. Need for member experience and feedback: Every cricket club strives to make sure members and players maintain a certain degree of loyalty. Checking in on members to ensure they're happy and provide feedback on improving their personal experiences. Clubs are always disheartened by players wanting to leave and moving away for other opportunities. What is the nature of an HR department in business? To focus on employee engagement and maintain trust and loyalty across the workforce. As a club, you focus on keeping every member engaged and included as part of the club. When an employee moves on and resigns, there is disappointment and a reaction; "Should we have done more for them?" Does the same not apply in your club when players decide to leave?

Tip #2 - Have a fair selection committee!

No player ever leaves a club because of its members. They leave as result of bad captains and unfair selection. Every club should have a selection committee consisting of 7-8 members made up of past players, head coaches and loyal members who understand cricket. This committee should decide and pick the match day teams for Junior and Adult cricket league games.

Captains should have next to non or limited say in who is picked and who isn't. This will automatically start to eliminate members believing the stigma of "buddy, buddy cricket", "Oh he's only been picked because he's best mates with the Captain". The committee should also define the roles of each player. So many times, I have seen a bowler go into a team and, in the end, not even bowl. As a result of the captain not liking or agreeing with the committee that they're a bowler.

Just like in business a project team is selected based on experience, skills and technical ability to get the job done. The PM does not choose their team they make do with what they are given. Players must be picked according to merit, dedication, availability, and training attendance, not because of loyalty and friendships. Captains should make do with what they are given to the best of their abilities Just like most PMs and leaders do in business when they're under-resourced.

"You don't need a group of superstars, you need a team working together to bring you better results" - Brian Lara

Tip #3 - Eliminate dictatorship!

No player is bigger than the club! Therefore, a players ego and attitude should not dictate where and when they play and how! No player should be allowed to make open statements such as "If I am not picked for the 2s this week I wont be playing!", If I don't "open the bowling this season I am not staying here". A loyal and respectable player will play where ever they are picked to play based on merit and performance.

Just the same as in business, a company will not promote or give a bonus to an employee who is not deserving. Employees may request pay rises and promotions but it doesn't have to be granted in accordance to their performance criteria falling under par.

Bad attitudes and moral effect everyone in the team, they have options to go somewhere else if they are not happy. Employees are chosen based on commitment, dedication and loyalty. A player is no different, they need to perform to be considered for a opening batting or bowling spot, it can not simply be handed to them.

Tip #4 - Invest in Junior Cricket

Junior players are like fresh graduates, interns, and apprentices at any company. If you don't invest time in progressing them to a senior level, they move on to greener pastures for better opportunities. If a junior player has progressed through the various age groups but doesn't get that dream chance of playing respectable adult/ senior cricket, they will never stay.

The issue is the realistic steps clubs take to correctly introduce them to adult cricket. Making the jump from playing club cricket to county and eventually internationally is tricky, and the expectations change. It's the same feeling for a junior cricketer jumping straight into senior cricket for the first time.

Clubs should encourage juniors ready for adult cricket to prioritize senior club training sessions over junior training and matches. This way, juniors will get an early idea of what it's like to be involved in adult cricket before the summer season starts.

Another solution is for some adult cricketers to start attending junior training and net with some of the more progressive juniors. This way, they get a feel for what it's like to train and play with the senior cricketers. They also get the option of having a familiar face for when they make the step up to adult cricket in their debut match.

The harsh reality is that most Junior players will only be considered temporary replacements to cover for injured or unavailable senior cricketers in most teams. Clubs have to remember most adults are already hitting a more than respectable age. How much longer can they realistically keep playing? Junior members are the future of any club. I have witnessed so many clubs invest time and energy into junior cricketers only for them not to be given an opportunity to play adult cricket. Leaving them with no choice but to seek other opportunities with another club. Later on, hearing and reading about their performances and how they have now become a key player in the 1st team on a Saturday at their new club.

To keep hold of the young talent you have invested in, I would consider clubs making it a policy for lower teams, such as 3rd, 4th, and 5th teams, to make sure a good handful of positions are available in each team to play regular juniors on a rotation schedule. There should be 3-4 players in each team. In business, we do everything possible to retain loyal employees. We need to apply the same principles in club cricket.

Tip #5 - Compulsory Training Sessions

No player can be expected to perform consistently if they only train as a one off now and then. When cricketers play at the highest level they train like its a full-time job! No one cricketer can wake up every weekend ready to play and perform having never trained. I would challenge this and I know your club would also.

Nothing is more stressful then players walking into a team and not performing at all. Club selections for matches should be based on dedication and commitment to training. You get a chance to clearly see the developments and progression.

I understand senior players and adults have work commitments. Honestly this is not a valid excuse in the summer; outdoor nets have light till 8pm every day. A player can turn up and do their own training any time. Most clubs have outdoor nets so their should be no exceptions, several schools have outdoor and indoor facilities for hire as well.

However, another pain talking point is how people train in nets they just come to have a bowl and a bit of a hit; then leave not having worked on their weaknesses at all. Every net session should be in the format of a trial. Every player should compete for their spots and match day selection. Just imagen how strong your club squads would become, if everyone competed for their spot? I once played for a club in London that had 44 players that could literally play for any team as a result of implementing this methodology and approach as a selection criteria. The training sessions should include fielding for an hour at the start before jumping into nets. A match is never won by batting or bowling its won in the field, by taking catches, stopping boundaries, and avoiding extras.

I understand in theory some clubs want it to be social and friendly but we need to make the club competitive and professional also. Would an employee of a company that hardly develops or trains his skills to learn something new be able to perform and keep up in business? Would you still expect them to lead and deliver projects?

"JONTY RHODES was once awarded 'Man of the Match' when he was not in the playing XI. In a first class match in South Africa, he came out as a substitute fielder and took 7 catches to win the title" 

Tip #6 - Play to Win!

Too many clubs are hell-bent on only focusing on the outcome of 1s and 2s cricket. "Why call yourself a club if you don't care what is happening in other teams?". There is a lot of stigmatism around other teams from 3rd to 5th and even, in some cases, the 6th team. They only play for fun, making sure everyone gets a go. I challenge any club to ask their lower teams if they enjoy rocking up every week, chasing +250 runs in the field, and then being bowled all out for less than 100 runs. Would everyone still be happy if they got a bowl or a bat?

Life isn't fair, and neither is business. You don't assign a task or a piece of work to someone who's not able to do it. You need to play to win on every team! If you have +250 runs on the board and the opposition is at 70-6 with 25 overs left, by all means, give some guys a bowl and have a bit of fun.

I have seen some teams where a player constantly bats No. 11 week in and week out. Who really wants a bat but is never given the chance? Even in an interclub or friendly fixture, they still bat No. 11. If you don't allow them a chance to bat in friendly matches, why should it be any different in league matches?

If a department is not contributing to the overall success of the wider business, what happens to it in most cases? Management change, department outsourcing, and restructuring, maybe? If a club only has 1's and 2's winning, would anyone want to come and play for the other teams? Why have additional teams if you don't care what happens to them? I challenge any club to prove me wrong.

"To me, it doesn't matter how good you are. Sport is all about playing and competing. Whatever you do in cricket and in sport, enjoy it, be positive and try to win."  - Sir Ian Botham

Tip #7 - Players dropping down should not get priority!

If a player in the 1's has not been performing, they're now being dropped down to get some confidence and good performances under their belt. To eventually make their way back into the first-team playing XI. They should not be batting in the same place or even opening the bowling if that team already has players who are consistent with their performances. Players will start to believe that performance doesn't matter and that you can't maintain fairness when favoritism is involved.

If a 1's opening batsman drops to play in the 2's, it’s because they haven't scored in the last few weeks. So why would you make them open the batting in the 2's? Especially when you have two openers that have scored 3 hundred's back-to-back between them? Ideally, you would want to bat them somewhere in the middle! In case of a collapse earlier on in the game, their experience having played at a higher level would help a team bounce back. The 1's player should not be guaranteed a place in the 2's. If you already have a playing XI that is performing, they should wait for an opportunity. Until then; they should train, work hard in the nets, and get some coaching to bounce back.

I have heard management in various clubs say to one of the team captains, "A player is dropping down; they need to bowl their full spell!" That's nonsense in my mind. If the bowler gets carved for 60 in his first 5 overs, do we continue to bowl him and lose the game? Captains need to bowl and bat players according to the situation. They can't and shouldn't be expected to make a sacrifice because a better player is dropping.

If a player has performed back-to-back and you are now dropping them because four players from another team are dropping down, would the player be happy about it? Do you honestly think they would stay at the club? The same goes for business: If an employee is not engaged or treated fairly, will they stay?

Tip #8 - Balance the teams when players are called up!

So many times, I have seen a team pinch more than 3 players from a lower team due to last-minute dropouts, so one team has to field with maybe 8 -7 players if they can't find anyone else to play. Would it not be better to balance the teams so that one has 10 and the other has 9? How do you expect the lower team to compete when you have taken their leading batsmen and a bowler?

As mentioned before, if you call yourselves a club, you need to make sure all teams compete and are treated the same. No one will have fun or enjoyment when they are chasing leather for 40 - 50 overs and then being bowled out for under 50. You might as well only run two sides instead of three or more.

In business, one department can not just take employees from another department; they look to balance project teams by bringing in interns, contractors, or outside agencies for support

Tip #9 - No Player leaves a club, they leave bad captains! No employee leaves an employer, they leave bad managers!

A team captain should make the decisions and dictate what happens as the team manager on match day. Yes, by all means, take advice from players, but you have been given the leadership role to lead by example.

Other players need to respect the captain's wishes. Regardless of whether they believe they are doing something right or wrong, no one should try to take over the role. How do you expect a captain to lead and perform in their role or learn from their mistakes when the players don't give them a chance?

That is why club committees must speak to teams and have Feedback/ Q&A sessions with players on how the captain performed. No one should be captain if they are not open to criticism. It's an indication of poor leadership; no player will stick around. I myself have left a club halfway through the season as a result of poor leadership and the lack of involvement from club committees to rectify the issue.

In any other sport or business, if a leader is not performing, you don't wait until the end of the season or financial year! They are terminated immediately and let go. Cricket should be no different; you would benefit from changing captains and improving the team morale rather than letting players leave the club not even halfway through the season.

So many times, I hear players then dictate that they won't play for a certain captain. They would rather play for other teams, causing a selection headache for the club.

The excuse most clubs give is, "Oh, we can't change captains halfway through the season; we have to update the website, inform the league due to contact details, etc." Well, when someone has to step in as a captain because the actual captain is injured or unwell, what do you do then? It takes 5 mins to update a website and play-cricket with new details.

"Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problem is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership"  - Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State.

Tip #10 - Do not turn players away!

No club should ever turn away players, especially if they're willing to fight for their place and a spot on the team. You have to remember these are paying members! Cricket clubs heavily depend on subscriptions, match fees and memberships as a main source of income.

"We have loyal players; they will be annoyed if anyone else takes their spot! We can't just drop them for other people!" I agree that having loyal and dedicated players is a good thing. However, if that loyal person hasn't scored decent runs for the last three seasons or taken any wickets to help the side, should we let them continue to play week in and week out as they’re loyal to the club?

In business, if an employee has burned out, and their skills are now redundant, does the company keep the employee due to their years of loyalty? If you have new, fresh talent that can offer something dynamic and can help the business grow, would you not hire them?

If you speak with top county coaches and managers, they will tell you player performances dip the most when they get too comfortable and complacent. They feel reluctant to make the effort if they know their place is not under threat. They lose that competitiveness to perform or compete as they know their place is cemented. If everyone had to fight for their place in the team, consider the quality and talent that would become available. As we all know, to field 11 people at a club cricket level can be difficult due to family, work, injuries, other sports, and commitments. Captains are left to find other people; if you have people ready to pounce to earn their spot, should you not avail the opportunity to strengthen your team?

If you have too many new members, why not create additional teams? Thus, your club will be bigger and better! Would a club be happy knowing a player they said "No" to has now gone somewhere else to fight for their spot, scoring runs and taking a bucket load of wickets, as well as being a paying member?

"Always turn a negative situation into a positive situation." - Michael Jordan.

Tip #11 - Match Day Professionalism

If someone constantly showed up to work late, would they not eventually be terminated, and why? It shows a lack of professionalism and can be highly disruptive to morale. Imagine you're a captain, and you have won the toss. It's the perfect pitch to bowl first. However, you can't, as your opening bowlers are still on route, having left late. You could quickly lose the game by not having bowled first!

If you do turn up early, why are you sitting around? Warm-up! Get loose, stretch out. How many players do we see immediately injure themselves going straight into a game stiff as a rock? It's a great opportunity to see what the wicket is doing and get into the mental zone of playing a match.

I never understand how someone gets to a match a few minutes before it's due to start, expecting to perform. Your mind must relax and feel ready to play by easing into it. I have never known anyone to be successful in life, sport, or business by rushing into everything at the last minute. How many misfields and dropped catches do we see, as no one is switched on in the field? This is your chance to turn up early, remove the nerves, and kick start your body; getting into the mood to compete and perform.

Discipline is vital in sports and business if you want to be competitive. Cricket is meant to be enjoyed and should be fun for all. I guarantee you would have more fun crushing the opponent by a massive margin than chasing leather and having players argue amongst themselves, mess about, and be disruptive. What kind of image would be portrayed about your team and club?

"If you do the bare minimum, expect bare minimum results, You want to be great, work to be great." - J.J. WATT, NFL Hall of Fame All-Decade team for 2010s.

Tip #12 - Invest in Home Grown Coaches.

I remember once sitting with my old man and asking him, "Dad, what was the first thing you looked for when deciding if a club was good for us?". My dad responded "It wasn't so much the standard or facilities that were on offer to you boys! It was more to do with the club committee and coaching staff!" My father went on to explain, that he had to know that it was a club where they could mentor and coach us to be better and reach the highest level possible! Having a good coach in your corner makes all the difference.

I have seen many clubs try to attract junior members by offering a lack of coaches. So many parents want a friendly club with good facilities. However, I guarantee they would be more inclined to sign up their children to a cricket club if there were terrific coaches known for progressing players through county age groups into First-Class cricketers.

Imagine a club with two coaches per team available when needed. Twenty-odd coaches at one club in total? Would you not run to sign your child up, knowing they would be taught the game in such a way they would enjoy it for the rest of their lives? Could the children turn into elite cricketers with the right mentorship and progression through the various age groups at the club?

Most of the coaches you speak to, including myself, will always tell you we have become even better cricketers after becoming coaches. We see and learn about mistakes we didn't even understand in our own abilities and performances. We get to try things on ourselves to understand what kind of outcomes we would get for teaching them to others to help improve their abilities and skills.

Having a homegrown coach who's played and/or coached at the club for several years can provide any member with insights on how to establish themselves as a core player. Their experience over several years contributes to guiding others to success.

"Having a homegrown coach that's come through our system is so important to us and the experience he's got over the last season will set us up for success in the future" - Matt Denny on John Gall. North Texas SC General Manager

Final thoughts

In theory, most club committee members will likely read this and say it is impossible to do all the suggested tips! How do you know if you're being negative and unwilling to try? You can't learn the outcomes of things that have never been tested.

Without making changes to improve your club, you will always have the same issues and constant problems, with members believing it's only a temporary stop to play some cricket and then move on to find better pastures.

The sad reality is too many clubs are folding due to not being able to get any new members or retain the old ones. If you ask those clubs what the cause was, they will mention some of our tips to get more serious about how you run and operate a cricket club.

Feel free to correct me if I am wrong or mistaken!

Good luck and happy cricketing from Ali Choudhry Cricket Coaching.


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