12 Test Nations: What Your Club Can Learn from Ireland’s Journey to Full Membership

Cricket Ireland and Afghanistan have been awarded Test match status by the ICC in the past week; fantastic news for both countries.

The Cricket Ireland story is personally special. It provides a fantastic example of how a clear vision and direction can result in an organisation achieving the seemingly impossible.

I have seen teams and clubs take themselves to their next level and beyond by following a very similar process.

So how have they done it and what can we learn from Cricket Irelands success?

1. Keep banging the drum
Warren Deutrom has been the man behind the vision. The Cricket Ireland CEO banged the drum for “Test Status by 2020” from my first day as Performance Director in September 2009 through to the momentous decision of last week.

Warren is the best public speaker that I have ever worked with and has been unrelenting in his belief that Ireland, would one day, become a Test Playing nation.

There were many days in my time with Ireland when I started to doubt our appropriateness for Test Status. Every time I showed an element of doubt, Warren would bang his Irish drum and my doubt instantly dissolved.

Warren’s insatiable energy and belief inspired everyone to try harder.

At club level, I was inspired by Ventnor Cricket Club Chairman, John Hilsum who worked solidly for the club to be accepted into the Hampshire Cricket League at the bottom rung of the ladder with the vision earn the right to eventually play in the Southern Premier League after 15 years of successive promotions. The club, and “Hils” achieved this after 16 years.

John and Warren took very similar and ultimately simple approaches and were relentless in their quests. Both achieving their long term outcomes.

Who is your club’s drummer?

How simple and clear is their message?

2. Co-operatition
This is a term that I have nicked from my old England U15 captain and incredible Sports Psychologist, Jeremy Snape.

Snapper introduced me to “Co-operatition” in my Ireland years. In order to achieve your goals, elements of your organisation work with each other in a highly competitive way: Each element trying to outdo another.

The great Australian Test Teams of the past were only as strong as the quality of competition within the Sheffield Shield State Cricket Competition. The West Indies had an incredibly strong inter-island competition and it lead to World dominance for 15 years.

In Ireland, there used to be 3 incredibly competitive Cricket Unions. Leinster, Northern Cricket Union and the North West Cricket Union.

Tim Simmonite (Development Manager) worked tirelessly to develop and strengthen cricket in less established areas of Ireland and soon the Munster Cricket Union started to develop players and feel more connected to the National Governing body. Tim and I headed across to the Connaught region and started to link up bodies of keen cricketers and budding coaches. The CCU was born.

Cricket Ireland now have 5 Cricket Unions who are doing some incredible things to develop talented cricketers, beautiful cricket grounds and inspirational coaches.

The competition within Inter-provincial matches, cricket development, club initiatives, the all-Ireland club cups and in youth coaching was fierce. As a result, the game grew and the quality of players coming from these regions increased at an accelerated rate.

The Co-operation element wasn’t that strong when I arrived in 2009 so it became a huge emphasis to maintain the excellent sense of competition within a more all encompassing approach.

3. Coach education
We started building an all-Ireland Coach education pathway, developing Irish Coach educators rather than relying on English ones to sporadically come over the Irish Sea and developing initiatives which would support coaches and their junior players across the Unions.

We had 1 nearly-qualified Coach educator and assessor back in 2009. By 2012 we had 17 and now there are many more. My successor, Richard Holdsworth has done a great job in building on that foundation and now there are 1000’s of coaches working throughout all the Cricket Unions.

How good is the “Co-operatition” in your cricketing organisation?

4. Build relationships
Ireland would not be a Test nation without the essential financial support from the two government based sporting organisations, Sport NI and the Irish Sports Council.

I was lucky enough to build relationships with Eamonn McCartan Sport NI CEO and his sidekick, Chris Moore as well as the Irish Sports Councils chief John Traecy. Over two years, the government supported funding increased exponentially as our systems professionalised and the International teams qualified for more World Cups and beat Full Member Countries on a regular basis.

Their support alongside main sponsors (RSA and now Turkish Airlines) have given Richard Holdsworth, Warren Deutrom and Irish Cricket more resource than ever before to invest in state of the art facilities, resources and education programmes. That funding will now be increased further as the ICC additional funding kicks in with Test Status in the bag.

Do you know all of the funding avenues available to your club of organisation? There are little pots of money available from councils, NGBs, local businesses, charities and benefactors which can be utilised for pitch maintenance, coach development, equipment and player support.

Explore all the options, develop good relationships with key external stakeholders, spread your vision, connect them to your aims and goals.

Then take those partners with you on an incredible journey. Just like Warren Deutrom, Richard Holdsworth, Suzanne Kenealy and Cricket Ireland.

Congrats to everyone involved in cricket on the Emerald Isle. My Guinness never tasted so good last week!

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