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The Proteas’ head coach discusses Cricket South Africa’s grassroots development programme and the impact it is having on South African cricket as a whole

It’s Lunch on day two. The Proteas are taking on New Zealand at Centurion and we are currently well placed in the Test match. Faf is playing a brilliant captain’s innings and has anchored us towards a challenging first innings total. A commotion catches my eye as what seems like thousands of red and white clad kids descend on the playing field. This isn’t standard lunchtime fare at a test match. This is serious business. The KFC Mini-Cricketers are here.

Anyone currently questioning cricket’s commitment to grassroots development in our country need only cast their eyes over any of the multiple KFC Mini-Cricket festivals taking place on a number of playing surfaces around South Africa. The festivals take place from the most rural of areas in the Eastern Cape, to private schools in Northern Johannesburg and to our country’s biggest cricket stadiums – where literally thousands of kids at a time are honing their skills and building a love for the game.

The stats which came out of KFC Mini-Cricket post the 2015/16 cricket season are staggering. I’m told over 114,000 kids, boys and girls both abled and differently abled, from 5,584 schools around South Africa now participate in the programme.This makes KFC Mini-Cricket the biggest grassroots development programme in South Africa by some stretch. In all my travels with the Proteas I have visited every single cricket playing nation in the world and am yet to see anything which comes close.

KFC Mini-Cricket is the first step in Cricket South Africa’s pipeline to the Proteas and is the first taste of cricket for the majority of children taking up the game. It is a soft-ball version of cricket focusing on participation and fun – ensuring every player is given ample chance to bat, bowl and field. On a micro level it aims to set young South Africans on the path to international stardom by entrenching cricketing basics and a love for the game by reaching as many kids around South Africa as possible. On a more macro level it is creating a generation of cricket lovers – something which can only be good for the future of the game in our country

For those kids who show cricketing potential, the programme offers them opportunities to uplift themselves. Each CSA provincial union identifies and aims to nurture young talent with the goal of ensuring that youngsters with the requisite potential are taken through the ranks in CSA’s structures. The result of being scouted at a KFC Mini-Cricket festival has the potential to not only put a young cricketer on the road to stardom but to also open doors to scholarships at top schools which can lead to an improved life for both themselves and their families. This is further illustration of KFC Mini-Cricket’s ability to not only produce cricking superstars but to wholly better the lives of its participants.

The programme’s contribution to our player structures is obvious. Where the programme’s benefit is somewhat less obvious, is the coaching element. 8,774 volunteers took up coaching duties in the KFC Mini-Cricket programme in the last year.

The programme offers each coach the chance to upskill themselves through initiatives such as regional seminars where local coaches involved in the programme meet to share best practise and to learn from standout coaches and CSA representatives. As a result, many coaches have been able to use KFC Mini-Cricket as a catalyst to forge a career for themselves in the game. The outcome of this is more people working towards becoming qualified coaches. This leads directly to a better standard of coaching across South Africa.

A great proof point of this is Julius Maziya. Julius was given his start in his cricketing life by Mini-Cricket. The programme introduced him to the game and gave him the skills and aspirations needed to forge a career out of cricket. After trying his hand at playing professionally, Julius is now back in the KFC Mini-Cricket set-up as the Mpumalanga co-ordinator. He believes KFC Mini-Cricket has the potential to provide kids with the same opportunities that it gave him. He has made it his life goal to get as many kids involved in KFC Mini-Cricket as possible.

KFC Mini-Cricket is without a doubt the shining light of sports development in South Africa. With the help of CSA’s valued partners, KFC, I firmly believe the programme has the potential to not only produce future Proteas, but to uplift people and communities and to nurture our country’s future generations.

As I watch these young cricketers take to the field and ready themselves to face off against their heroes (and my team) in the KFC Mini-Cricket Kids vs Proteas Tour, I can’t help but think to myself that one day they may just be doing this for real. It’s a dream, but it needs to start somewhere.

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