Some of the female participants.

Exactly a year ago, Orange County Cricket Association (OCCA) declared its commitment to the development of youth and women’s cricket, to develop a model that attracts potential youth (boys and girls) and women and to maintain their interest by delivering well-structured program with a pathway to play at league, regional and national levels and with the ultimate goal to play for team USA. The program is designed to be fun and engaging specifically for young boys, girls, and women to learn and develop their cricket skills while instilling confidence, and teaching kids and youth about physical and emotional health.

OCCA Youth Cricket Committee met diligently every week over the last few months to create a comprehensive in-house development program that included creating coaching and other manuals, designing processes for registration, program implementation, obtaining coaching gear, infrastructure and location permits and in establishing an online presence. This culminated to the launch on April 27 2014, when the OCCA YCC team was ready for training 26 kids and 10 women, as Harsha Chulki, one of the founding members of OCCA and Publicist & Website Designer for OCCA, completed the registration process for all the kids as they started pouring in.

Some of the kids that attended the program.

The opening ceremony was kicked off by Scott Voigts, Lake Forest City Council Member, Durga Das, a member of the Advisory & Judiciary Committee and Women’s Cricket Representative for the American Cricket Federation, a former USA women cricket captain, plus the OCCA Youth Cricket Committee and a very enthusiastic and cheerful crowd of boys, girls, women players and parents.

Shantha Suraweera, also a member of Advisory & Judiciary Committee of American Cricket Federation and president of OCCA welcomed the guests, players, parents and officials.

Mr. Scott Voigts, speaking at the event, thanked OCCA for launching the program in Orange County, a region represented by him. He assured his support and development for cricket infrastructure and enthusiasm for helping to introduce cricket to schools and other programs such as the Boy Scouts.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Ms. Das emphasized the unique opportunity this program provides for the youth and women and invited them to participate and leverage the facilities and training as much as possible, while commending the remarkable work of OCCA Youth Committee in creating a structured program with emphasis on development and training.

Beulah Pidakala, Coordinator for OCCA Youth and Women’s Committee, and a Team USA women cricket player, shared the vision and goal of OCCA youth and women’s program and walked the participants through the coaching program, schedule and expectations for the next six weeks.

Tiran Mendis, OCCA Youth Committee member and president of the OC Lions Cricket Club presented to the exuberant young boys and girls a video introducing the game, the playing rules to first time players, with this setting the stage for the two hour training sessions for the youth and women.

Women’s coaching was led by Durga and Beulah, with a warm up session, followed by catching and fielding drills, with emphasis on fundamentals of batting followed by batting drills. The group of ten women included seasoned cricketers like Rupal Van Zweeden, tennis ball cricketers Upekhsha and her OC team, and some first timers such as Laura Jane Mitchell. The session lasted over two hours and ended with a cool down and debrief of the training.

The youth coaching program for 18 boys and girls started at 10:00 am and also lasted for two hours. Shantha and Tiran were the certified coaches on the day supported by eager cricketing parents assisting with tasks on the field.

The children were divided into three groups, and each group was taken through a basic training on batting, bowling and fielding till 11:15 AM. The coaching team then switched gears to play their first match, which was met with equal interest and enthusiasm by the boys and girls. Grouped into two teams (Blue and Red) the kids experienced a real 8-over game, with a marked boundary, stumps, scorecards, score boards and official umpires. Batting first, the Blue team scored 41 runs in the allocated 8 overs, and with the Red team chasing the target of 42, the game was filled with exciting catches, run outs, stumping, and glimpses of remarkable boundary-saving fielding.

It ended with a nail biting finish as the Red team hit their matching winning boundary in the 7th over to win their first game. Both teams completed the game with traditional end of game handshakes which also concluded their first training session.

The youth coaching will continue throughout the next six weeks and will take the kids through a comprehensive training program. OCCA aspires to build a very promising U-15 team for the upcoming youth tournaments through this youth program.