Northern Counties and Ross County set to play first junior cricket match
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Northern Counties are set to host their first ever junior match tomorrow against Ross County.
It is the next step in a concerted effort to promote cricket to children and develop the next generation of first team players for the club.
Coaches have gone into local primary schools to deliver sessions, while the All-Stars programme has helped bring a new structure to Counties' youth set up.
After seeing numbers grow, and a clamour for matches from the kids themselves, Counties are finally in a position to play a match against their Strathpeffer counterparts.
"Kids love competing," club president Jon Ford explained.
"You can only keep them interested for so long by doing coaching drills and playing games against each other.
"One of the first questions they will ask me is if we've got any games coming up, and we're now in a position where we can start to organise games for them.
"Having enough coaches is key, and having those coaches with the time to get into schools to do after-school coaching is critical.
"I just think there haven't been the people around until the last couple of years or so.
"I can only talk for Northern Counties, but we're putting an emphasis on growing the youth section because that's where the future lies."
Counties have been able to make an impressive amount of progress thanks to their renewed focus.
Ford has long felt that not enough effort has been made in youth development across the board, but now believes there is an exciting future in store for young cricketers in the area.
"Not enough thought has gone into future planning in the past up here," he insisted.
"Teams have been content to have a senior team or two that they can put out at the weekend, and there has been no succession planning.
"When people get older, perhaps they will do a bit of coaching, but there aren't any kids coming through because they haven't recruited, so that's a dead end.
"It takes a lot of work to back out of that cul-de-sac and start to get interest.
"We've been working at schools recently, and every school that we've been at have expressed an interest in getting a school team together.
"We have our club team, so already we've got five potential teams to form a small junior league. That's a good basis for growing cricket in Inverness we think."