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Walsham-le-Willows Cricket Club’s youth section continues to grow due to work of invaluable volunteers

When Walsham-born Ned Campbell (junior lead coordinator) started playing cricket at seven years old – 35 years ago – there was not a junior side at Walsham-le-Willows Cricket Club for him to join.

However, over the past six years, the club has prioritised its junior section and, with the hard work of their invaluable volunteers, now has teams from under-9s all the way up to under-19s.

The journey started in 2018 when James French (youth section coordinator) and Campbell set up an All Stars section for under-5 to 8s, which was followed by the organisation of the Dynamos (under-8 to 11s) by assistant junior head coach Adam Howe in 2021.

Last year's Walsham-le-Willows Cricket Club Under-13sPicture: Vijay Chandraraj
Last year's Walsham-le-Willows Cricket Club Under-13sPicture: Vijay Chandraraj

Now, every Friday night, the two sessions combined draw in at least 80 children, compared to the 15 that turned up to the first All Stars class.

Also at the cricket club on a Friday night, run by chairman Rick Meyer, is training for the rest of the junior teams, meaning more than 200 children and parents pack out the green to create a ‘great atmosphere’ with music and barbecues.

“All Stars is all about making it fun and hopefully they get the appetite for cricket,” said Campbell, who volunteers at the club four nights a week alongside his full-time job.

“I’m Walsham born and bred and my children are playing. I’m now having that joyous time of playing with my 13-year-old son on a Saturday - an ultimate for a father to play any sort of sport with their son.

“It’s when training finishes on a Friday, the children don’t leave. The vibe is brilliant and it’s very enjoyable to be part of.”

Of the current crop of 45 children who are playing hardball regularly, 40 came through the All Stars section and Campbell, who captains the second team in the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties Championship Division Nine West, makes sure at least five juniors make the second team each week.

“The idea is that they get looked after and don’t get put in a team where they don’t bowl or just touch the ball twice,” he said.

“I always make sure the batting line-up is alternated so the juniors are on with an adult who can talk to them if they get a bit stuck.

“You’ve got the under-19s helping the under-11s, under-13s, creating that really great environment. Even though they’re young, I say to them (under-19s): ‘you’re the inspiration to these guys because they can see that you’ve come up the same way they’re coming up, and you’re playing first-team’.”