Over the past few years, students at Poplar Tree Elementary School in Chantilly, Virginia have expressed an interest in cricket. However, the PE teachers, Carrie Baranowski and Robert Thompson, did not know much about the game and did not have any cricket equipment. There are many South Asian families residing in Northern Virginia that have immigrated to the USA to fill the large number of vacant Information Technology jobs. Many of the Poplar Tree students learned about cricket by watching matches on TV with their parents and playing cricket with their friends at home.
Mrs. Baranowski was delighted to get an email from Sham Chotoo (aka The Cricket Guy) about starting cricket at Poplar Tree. Even though they wanted to, Mrs. Baranowski and Mr. Thompson just did not know how to teach cricket to their students. Sham offered to go to Poplar Tree with other cricket coaches (George Mathias, Raj Damaraju, Jay Sharma, and Mohan Mavilavalappil) to teach the students and the PE teachers the basics of the game during PE. Sham also offered to give the school free plastic starter sets for the PE teachers to use during their classes. The school accepted the offer, and so said, so done.
The cricket coaches did PE demonstrations for the students from 3rd grade to 6th grade. Usually, Sham does these demonstrations on his own, but he used this opportunity to show the other coaches his method. Over the past 6 years, Sham has taught more than 6,000 students the basics of cricket during PE. He has fined tuned his technique, and it is quite effective in getting kids excited about cricket in 30 minutes, which is the typical duration of an elementary school PE class.
Many of the students at Poplar Tree knew about cricket, but many others did not. All the students were glad to hear about the basics of the game in the first 15 minutes of the PE session. They were even more excited to participate in the remaining time by fielding and batting while the coaches bowled to them. The coaches spent two half days at the school and were able to introduce more than 200 students to the second most popular sport in the world. Now, Mrs. Baranowski and Mr. Thompson have the expertise and equipment to teach cricket whenever they want to. Also, the other cricket coaches can do the demonstrations on their own.
Flyers then went home to parents on how to register their kids for the BEST Cricket League, which is the first and only elementary school cricket league in the USA and was formed by the Bowie Boys & Girls Club (BBGC). Parents pre-registered their children for the league by sending an email with the registration information directly to the BBGC Cricket Commissioner, Sham Chotoo. After 1 week, 41 students including 6 girls signed-up for cricket. There will be 4 cricket teams from Poplar Tree Elementary participating in the BEST Cricket League in spring 2018.
Cricket demonstrations were also done at another school in Chantilly, and 52 students registered to play cricket including 11 girls. There will be another 4 teams from that school participating in the BEST Cricket League, which is run solely by volunteers. 10 parents already volunteered to coach those teams and 2 more volunteered to help with logistics. Even though they do not know anything about cricket, Thea Hargrove’s parents (Mike and Anna) volunteered to coach a team. Thea is so excited to participate in the cricket league that her enthusiasm has spread to her parents, who are more than happy to help. The cricket program will provide the necessary training to get Thea’s parents up to speed on coaching cricket to kids.
On January 17, The Cricket Guy’s Crew will be doing demonstrations at Greenbriar East Elementary School also in Chantilly. Another 4 teams are also expected from Greenbriar East. That will make it 12 teams from 3 schools, which is just incredible. For comparison, in 2017 there were 14 teams in the BEST Cricket League from 14 schools in Maryland.
The BEST Cricket League stresses participation and is designed for parents and kids to have fun learning the basics of the game. The better players will be recruited to play for the local youth clubs (Washington Cricket Academy, Future Stars School of Cricket, and the Washington Cricket League Youth Program). The travel teams from these clubs currently participate in the Maryland Youth Cricket Association (MYCA) state tournament, which is the first state cricket league in the USA and the matches are more competitive. As the school program expands to more elementary schools in Northern Virginia and to the middle schools, the demand for youth clubs offering more specialized cricket coaching and travel team play at the U11, U13 and U16 level will increase significantly. In a year or two, there will be an equivalent Virginia Youth Cricket Association (VYCA) with its own state tournament.
And then… the Super Bowl of matches between the MYCA and VYCA Champions.