One, two, three, four, five, six; the excitement in the voices grow as numbers get higher; seven, eight nine, ten; this isn’t listening to my children learn to count but a group of young men playing “keepy uppy football”. As they manage to get over 20, the excitement mounts until one player messes up and the ball hits the floor on 27. The hilarity and exuberance displayed amongst the group of friends is a clear sign of how happy, and at ease in each other’s company, this group of people are.
I understand this story makes me sound a little odd. I don’t normally sit around watching groups of young men indulging in “keepy uppy”. What I was doing was attending Derbyshire County Cricket Club’s Media Day and the group of people playing “keepy uppy” were a number of the clubs crop of rising young stars. Between interviews, I was watching this group enjoying messing about with one another when it struck me that this is why so many young players keep committing their futures to this club: the atmosphere, the camaraderie, the enthusiasm for everything they do. It is such a positive place to be right now.
Talking to the players, it was evident that they shared this view as well:
“We’re all good friends and we all want each other to do well. We spend a lot of time with each other, best of friends on the pitch and best of friends off the pitch too.” Said Ben Cotton, when asked about his fellow bowlers.
Greg Cork added “We’ve all grown up together, same ages, come through the academy and second team together and now the guys are putting in performances in the first team.
“It’s always good to see team mates you’ve grown up with doing well, it is a really good place to be right now.”
It was clear to see that this wasn’t just trained and regurgitated media waffle for a reporter, but a true and honest assessment of the squad and the its atmosphere.
One man who must take a great deal of credit for this atmosphere is Elite Performance Director Greame Welch, a man who has overseen the development of these players since his appointment in January 2014. Every player I spoke too was keen to impress upon me Welch’s impact on him or her and on the team in general.
Tom Taylor said “Since he’s come here I can definitely see the difference as a bowler. He’s lead bowling coach I can definitely see the progression in my bowling.”
It would be hard to argue with that assertion. Taylor took 28 wickets in First Class Cricket last season, form that saw him selected for the Potential England Performance Program over the Winter.
Ben Cotton was also keen to sing Welch’s praises, saying “We’ve got one of the best bowling coaches around in Greame. He came in and in the first year he made a massive impact on my bowling.
“I’m very grateful to him for that and I think that’s one of the main reasons we have got such a big crop of young bowlers, having one of the best coaches teaching us.”
Cotton is clearly learning well from Welch. The improvement in his List A bowling last season was evident, taking 15 wickets at an average of 26, compared to 4 at 46.50 the season before.
The atmosphere around on that media day was infectious. It was fun and enjoyable and it drew you in. It made you want to be involved in the club and talk to the players, so much so that in the interviews I conducted I got drawn into the atmosphere and asked the players to answer an age old question: “Would you rather be attacked by one horse sized duck or fifteen duck sized horses?”
Some players in clubs where the atmosphere was not as good would not have been happy to answer this question. Here at Derbyshire, they all answered. Even players I didn’t interview were discussing the question with those I did, and wanted to tell me their answer.
This happiness, the positivity, camaraderie and togetherness is a major factor in why so many young players are happy to commit themselves and their futures to this club. It will stand the club in great stead in its future, a future that if the improvements shown continue will be a successful one.
If you are wondering what the players would rather be attacked by it was a 50/50 split between the two options, but they were still discussing it and laughing about it as I left.