Last year, we revealed that we had introduced an initiative designed to increase the amount of cricket coaching available to Pathway players who attend state schools.

We caught up with Matt Drakeley, Head of Talent Pathway at SCCC, to discuss how the project is going.

“The initiative has been really successful,” Matt explained. “We’ve just come to the end of the winter programme element which has seen us deliver more than 200 hours of coaching to around 200 state school players within our Pathway and beyond.

“State School Lead Coach, Thom Bunker has led the project brilliantly and he’s got a good group of young coaches working with him. He’s done such a brilliant job of delivering those sessions and implementing the initiative and he deserves a lot of credit.

“The feedback from parents and players alike has been positive in terms of both the opportunities they’ve received and the experience they’re getting as part of that process as well.

“We’ve now signed an official partnership with Weston College which has seen us invest some money into their facility as part of the project and that has now become the official home of the initiative. It’s a partnership that has gone extremely well so far and it’s one we are sure will continue to flourish.”

What does the summer element of the programme consist of?

“The summer programme has just begun, and we’ve got comprehensive training and match-play elements in place, and we will be accommodated through the summer by Hunstspill Cricket Club and Uphill Castle Cricket Club who have offered us the use of their facilities to ensure we can provide all-year-round support to the players.

“There is also a fixture programme consisting of almost 40 matches against schools, local cricket clubs and other teams who offer similar programmes for state school players from around the UK.”

What have been some of the main positives so far?

“One of the most pleasing things is that the project has sparked a real interest from some external partners who want to explore how we can extend the offer. We’ve also had some positive conversations with the MCC Foundation about expanding the offer so that even more state school players in Somerset can get the opportunity to join programmes like this in the future.

“We’ve got to acknowledge where we are as a county. There are some huge benefits to the schools we have around us, but I think this programme is important when it comes to changing the perception that private schools are the only way through which you can access cricket. I believe we’ve already seen players demonstrating far more of their potential sooner than they otherwise would have, which allows them to have a more positive experience either within their club cricket programmes or pathway programmes.”

Will the success of this programme be players going on to play for Somerset?

“I think it’s wider than that. The cherry on top would be for a player to come through the programme and play for Somerset, but I think it’s about providing a real connection to cricket for young Somerset state school players and inspiring them to want to continue being involved in the game, whether that be coming to watch Somerset, joining their local club or becoming engaged with roles within the game going forward. We are creating more opportunity for players to be excited and inspired.”