Bearing the name of one of the greatest to ever walk on to a cricket field, the Everton Weekes Centre of Excellence has been quietly playing a vital role in developing young cricketers in Barbados.
And the man at the helm of the programme, Henderson Springer, says the focus is on the development of rounded, grounded players focused on excellence
“Our primary aim is to develop quality cricketers both male and female. Sessions are conducted five days a week from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. The intake comes from all of the secondary schools on the island,” Springer, the head coach with the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) told Barbados TODAY.
He explained that the Centre had three components in relation to the development of players. They were personal development and education, fitness and skills. Over the years, some elements of psychology have been added. The cricketers are drawn from the Under-13, 15, 17 and 19 age groups along with a women’s group that includes the senior team and a development unit.
Springer, a former quality Barbados off-spinner, said the young cricketers were recommended by their school to the BCA’s youth selection committee.
“The committee in conjunction with the coaches here will decide who will be enrolled in the center. The BCA determine the number of cricketers that the Centre can entertain and host properly,” Springer said.
The maximum number of cricketers in any age group is twenty-five. According to Springer, even though the coaching sessions are from Monday to Friday, only two groups are involved on each day.
“For example on Monday, the women and the Under-15 boys are hosted at the Centre. The women will have lectures, presentations, performance and fitness training, while the boys will be involved in specialist training,” Springer said.
He stated that the principal aim of the centre was to develop well-rounded cricketers, therefore lectures were a major part of the programme.
“All age groups attend the lectures. As the person who designed the programme, it is my view that across all age groups our young cricketers must be exposed to the same things. The lectures however must be executed with a different level of intensity. If someone is giving a lecture on the basic biomechanics of cricket or money management, it is presented in a manner that the group in attendance has no difficulty comprehending what is being said,” Springer explained.
“What we are trying to give our young cricketers is an early insight into what is required at the senior level,” Springer said.
Even though developing the skills and assisting in the personal development of Barbados’ young cricketers were the main objectives of the centre, it has begun to play a role in the development of coaches.
Springer noted that the centre’s mandate was expanded when the West Indies Cricket Board had a more consistent and educational programme. He disclosed that the centre was responsible for creating the coaching structure for clubs playing in the BCA’s Elite and first Division competitions.
“In addition to developing players, the centre must play a role in assisting with those who are involved in the other aspects of the game, whether they are coaches or trainers,” Springer said.
He beamed as he spoke about the first enrolment at the centre in 2008/2009.
“The Under 19s are always the flagship of the groups. Among the first intake in 2008/9 were players who have gone on to play regional or Test cricket including current West Indies captain Jason Holder, Roston Chase who had played outstandingly in the recently concluded Test series against Pakistan, opening batsman Kraigg Brathwaite, left arm spinner Jomel Warrican and Kyle Mayers who plays for the Leeward Island Hurricanes in the Professional Cricket League, Shai Hope another current member of the West Indies was in the Under 17 group that year,” Springer said.
He added: “There is a proud history of graduates of the centre doing well, even though in its initial stages the coaching structure that we have now was not in existence. At that time the coaches were just the three members of the BCA’s coaching staff. It is safe to say that we would have created the environment for some types of improvement as far as the first members of the Under-19 are concerned.”
In addition to the coaching staff of the BCA, the centre has enlisted the services of Corey Collymore, Pedro Collins, Sherwin Campbell, Dave Marshall, Shirley Clarke and Richard Clarke to assist with the sessions.
“The coaches have increased for three reasons. The programme has expanded to expose the students to wider knowledge and to give coaches an opportunity to work with an elite group of youngsters. In addition to developing young players, the centre must give other coaches the opportunity to develop their skills,” Springer said.
He stressed that the Centre of Excellence was not only a place where players came to have practice session.
“It is our mandate to assist with the total development of cricket in Barbados. As far as the players are concerned we try to broaden their skills and knowledge base. I still think we have to take a strong look at what we have done over a period of time and offer courses to active and potential coaches who are interested in pursuing higher qualification in coaching, “ Springer said.
He stated the vision for the centre that has been realized and maintained since its inception must be surpassed.
“Basically, we provide a facility for talented young players to enjoy. We assist them in their total development. The centre is the host. We have hosted players and coaches. I know the umpires have their own training unit. I look forward to the time when we will be providing training in areas such as performance analysis, which is now a vital part of the game and can become a career for young people who have an interest in cricket. Ensuring that our coaches are kept up to date with the latest courses and development is another role that we will be focusing on. The centre has been successful since its inception, maybe we could have done better in some areas but it is good to see that it is still going: because there were a couple people who doubted that we would have succeeded. I think that the only thing we are missing is a facility where we can practise late in the evening. It would ensure that all of the development programmes and workloads are met,” Springer said.