There is much more to Western Storm than the First XI.
So many people are working behind the scenes to ensure that the best young players from across the region make their way on to the Talent Pathway.
One of these unsung heroes is Senior Regional Talent Manager, Jack Bradbury.
We caught up with Jack this week to get an update on the Pathway.
We began by asking about the progress of the Pathway this year.
“2022-23 saw the introduction of our Regional Emerging Player Programme,” he explained. “This saw 39 players from across all of our six counties become part of the Western Storm Pathway. A total of 50 players in our Pathway took part in our weekly hub programme at the centre most local to them, and a number of group sessions across the region.
“We’ve also implemented a matchplay programme for the EPP with fixtures against other regions as well as organised matchdays internally.
“The Academy Programme saw a similar model, with the girls taking part in their weekly hub session, regular group sessions plus a more aligned integration with the Senior Squad, culminating in a pre-season camp involving the Senior and Academy Squads.
“The EPP Programme has seen a new programme develop and evolve across the South West and Wales, and we have seen a huge development in the relationships between players from different counties when they compete against each other.
“We’ve also seen a huge amount of progression, with a great number of EPP players representing Western Storm in Academy Level Cricket. A number of Academy cricketers have also represented Western Storm at a Senior and Second XI Level. Katie Jones, Isla Thomson and Izzy Patel being the three Academy Cricketers to make their First XI competitive debuts this year.”
How important is our relationship with all the Counties in the region?
“The nature of our region, and the programme we are looking to run, means that the work we do with all of our Counties is absolutely essential if we are to make Western Storm as accessible as we can for all players on our Pathway. We’ve continued to develop our relationship with all of these Counties and other partners throughout the last 12 months across all areas from County Age Group and County Women’s Cricket to Coach Development and facility usage.
“This relationship is integral to us being able to spread the message of Western Storm, and the work that goes on within each of the six is absolutely fantastic, and we look forward to continuing these collaborations in the future.”
How can we ensure that we are finding and nurturing the best young talent?
“Our talent identification and observation process has continued to develop this year. We’ve been out to watch more games in more places to give the best talent in the region the best opportunity to be seen across a variety of games and formats.
“We then ran three highly successful observation days to further learn about those playing the game in the South West and Wales. This culminated in our selection process for the 2023-24 winter. The level of cricket observed across the region in all the different age groups was evidence of the improvement we are seeing in women and girl’s cricket, and the rapid rise of it. It’s very exciting indeed.”
What are the goals in the short term and long term?
“Our short term goals are to continuing embedding the EPP Programme into our regional landscape, whilst continuing to develop and refine what it looks like. The Academy Programme will continue to develop in order to provide this year’s cohort with the necessary skills and information to try and develop towards senior cricket.
“In the long Term we are looking to produce more and more cricketers for Trevor Griffin (Western Storm Head Coach) to consider for First XI level, and to compete for England Age Group honours and beyond. We will continue to adapt and develop the programmes we are running to continue to provide as many cricketers as we can for further honours.”
How proud are we that the likes of Lauren and Dani are making their mark at international level after working their way through the Storm system?
“Lauren and Dani’s stories this summer, and their involvement in one of the most exciting summers that Women’s Cricket has had so far is an incredible inspiration for all the girls across our region to aspire to. In the same way that Heather has done for a number of years, having that Western Storm presence in the England squad is something that we are all incredibly proud of, and it will continue to inspire the future generations to want to do the same.”
How do we ensure that losing players to England doesn’t impact the quality of the First XI.
“This summer has provided some really exciting opportunities for Academy Cricketers to experience First and Second XI Cricket. The role of the Pathway now is to ensure that these young cricketers are being given the opportunity to develop all of their skills and are prepared for any call ups that may come. They are exciting times for those in the Pathway. The professionalisation of the game will create these opportunities, and it’s our role as Pathway staff to ensure that we are best preparing them for when those opportunities arise.”
“Now that a career as a professional is a genuine and attainable goal for girls in the region, how do we ensure that the next generation are achieving that goal?
“Professional cricket is such an exciting prospect and a genuine opportunity for women and girls across the country now. Our role within the Pathway is to ensure that players have the cricket skills, physical robustness and mental toughness to be able to meet the demands of the professional game.
“We will be looking hard at our programme to help best prepare the girls for what is to come and introducing more areas of education to ensure that they are prepared for the exciting times ahead. I know that Tasha (Morton, Pathway S&C) is also looking forward to helping the girls within the Pathway to develop physically to help get them better prepared for the demands of what professional cricket is likely to throw at them in years to come.”
How exciting is the future for Western Storm?
“The future for Western Storm and the women and girl’s game in general is incredibly exciting. We are seeing the level of the game in younger age groups increase at a dramatic rate, which is an exciting prospect because they are the future of the game in our region.
“The opportunities on offer for women and girls now are almost endless, and there has never been a better time for these young cricketers to aspire towards a professional career.”