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Coach of the Month - Strathalbyn Cricket Club

This month’s Community Coaches of the Month are showing the vast benefits of coaches as club builders.

Michael Cutting, Rory Lane and Andrew Roberts are all on the committee at Strathalbyn Cricket Club, 55km south-east of Adelaide, as well as being active coaches across the club.

It is common for volunteers to fill multiple roles in local clubs.

As Michael jokes, “The only way I could get out of being the secretary was to become the president.”

However, Michael, Rory and Andrew are demonstrating how the specific knowledge they acquire as participants in the club’s coaching program can have a positive influence on the overall decision making and benefit their players.

The best example came about five years ago when Strathalbyn CC, with the help of the SACA, successfully applied for state government funding to build turf nets.

Ground sharing with other sports and curating costs have discouraged some clubs from creating turf wickets, let alone turf practice facilities.

But Michael says the club coaches could see a clear benefit for the club which competes with Australian Rules football, particularly, for participants in a town with a population of just 6000.

“The junior program was struggling a bit and we could see turf would provide a real point of difference for us,” he says.

“We want to produce players of all levels. But we also knew turf nets and turf competition would give us the chance to develop players who wanted to go onto a higher level.”

At the same time, the coaches on the committee were well aware that excellent facilities alone would not ensure players coming through the club reached their full potential.

For a period they were fortunate to have SACA’s regional manager, former Australian star Shelley Nitschke, living in the town which inevitably helped with practical support.

More recently they have reached out to others such as the SACA’s Coaching and Talent specialist, Ben Cameron, who visited the club and provided some useful insights.

““You can tend to be just a nets coordinator rather than a coach so we’ve learnt a bit about planning our sessions and getting the most out of them,” says Michael.

“Some of the things Ben does were pretty obvious when you see them. But if you don’t have that knowledge you can get caught up in just working out who should be putting their pads on next and forget to coach.”

More recently, former Australian opener Rick Darling visited the club as part of another SACA program and shared his wisdom with the Strathalbyn players.

As with all clubs, the challenges at Strathalbyn CC are ongoing.

The turf practice wickets have helped and the club believes it is succeeding in its quest to produce excellent players to fill the ranks of its top grade teams. Some are moving on to SACA Premier Cricket.

Michael says increasing female participation against strong competition from AFLW and keeping youngsters engaged beyond the vital 12 to 16 year old age bracket remain challenges for the coaches and the club as a whole.

But, clearly, the active participation of coaches in the club’s decision making process and subsequent planning and investments is bringing strong benefits.

“I definitely think that’s true,” says Michael. “I think if you know from a day to day basis what the club needs to help the players or to build up your club, you can bring your knowledge to the table.”