With the 2019 season in the books, some young Irish players have made the trip overseas to continue their development and gather more experience.
The likes of South Africa, New Zealand and Australia are all popular destinations, with Carrickfergus trio Harry Warke, Max Burton and Robbie Moffett all plying their trade in New Zealand this winter.
From a wider Ireland perspective, highly-rated U19 captain Neil Rock has been playing First Grade cricket in Australia and his Rush team-mate Stephen Doheny is at Randwick Petersham.
Futura Sports Agency and Futura Cricket is a premier academy for developing young talent in South Africa and has a familiar face to many in the NCU leading the way.
Craig Yelverton, who enjoyed a spell as coach at North Down, is currently a director and Head Coach at Futura and has been working closely with Irish youth international Tim Tector in recent weeks.
Having gathered a lot of experience in both hemispheres, just how beneficial can it be for young Irish players to go abroad for a spell?
“There is massive benefit in a player applying his trade abroad,” said Yelverton.
“To experience something different, and challenging yourself in a different environment. We learn and grow as players and coaches through experiences that you will either gain from or learn from and that is exactly what going overseas and playing abroad is all about as a young player.
“It gives you an opportunity to experience different conditions and is a great life experience too.”
The immediate difference for any young player going abroad will be the warmer climate and different conditions in the Southern Hemisphere.
“First and foremost it will be getting use to the heat, training in 30+ degree weather is not easy even for us locals,” added Yelverton.
“So its first understanding how your body responds to training in that heat. You will fatigue much quicker when you aren’t used to it leading to concentration levels lowering.
“So to bowl longer spells, batting for longer periods and fielding become more challenging for players coming out to South Africa, especially as we head into the December to March periods as the humidity also plays a massive factor.
“Then a players need to understand a team can be multi-cultural so team dynamics can be very different sometimes so it is also adapting to this if they are here playing.
“There could be conversations going on in three different languages on the field which can be difficult to get ones head around.”
The hope of any young player going abroad will be that they can develop their game further and then bring those skills back to their home clubs.
As Yelverton explains, some players can really use the experience to bounce back from difficult seasons at home and develop at Futura.
“We see a change in their thinking and mindset the most and when you get that part right it becomes much easier for us to start making necessary adjustments to their fundamentals as they are open and receptive to the process of change,” he said.
“One example we have from the programme we had at the beginning of the year was a player who had a poor 2018 season in the UK scoring 340 runs at an average of 20. He returned to the UK in 2019 scoring 846 runs at an average of 44.53.
“We have had some outstanding results like the one mentioned from players who attend these camps and we always aim to stay in touch with these players and help develop their careers.”
A productive winter period in a different environment can undoubtedly set those young players involved up for a big season back at home, and there are some recent examples of that with the likes of James McCollum returning from stints in Australia to become an established international star.
Adjusting to varying conditions and demands can only make a player better in the long run, and Yelverton believes the impact can be immediate in their home campaigns if they are willing to put the work in.
“In a way yes I think it does as it really gives the cricketers a better understanding about who they are as players,” he added.
“However it all depends on the effort the player is putting in wherever they are to learn. Being adaptable is one the challenges a player faces when they play in different conditions and adapting their game to suit different conditions is important.
“Playing against different opposition also opens you up to different bowlers and batters and how they play the game. If a player can come over and be receptive and learn from how players have been successful in those conditions and understand how to apply it to their cricket, they put themselves in a position to be successful when heading back home.
“I always say to players what makes batters who score runs or take wickets consistently in the league season in and season out? They always focus on what they do well and maximize those areas as often as they can, they work out conditions quickly and how to bat or bowl in them.
“This can only happen through experience so yes I do believe it can have a significant effect on a player’s season back home.”
Yelverton has long had a desire and enjoyment for helping players to improve, starting with his brother in their back garden right through to his current role at Futura.
Along the way he has spent time with the likes of Clifton College, Crusaders Cricket Club. Berea Rovers and also with North Down – a place where he made many good memories.
“North Down is a great club and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them,” he said.
“I have made some very good friends there and in the NCU in general and still keep in contact with many of them.
“It was great to see how well they did this past season and I know the great work that is being done behind the scenes to develop cricket there and I don’t think it will be long before there is silverware back at North Down.
“One thing I will say I enjoyed the most on a cricket perspective while coaching in the NCU was the passion and intensity every game has. I also enjoyed the odd Guinness!”
Based in Durban, Futura is a sporting agency that represents current Irish international cricketer Shane Getkate while also being involved in rugby, football and hockey.
“FSA is a sports management and coaching company,” explains Yelverton.
“Our High Performance camps is where we host both local and overseas players who come through to us to develop their game. We currently run two-week high performance camps in Durban.
“FSA have been in the sports management business going on six years now and represent players locally and abroad from international cricket to amateur cricket.
“I have had great experiences coaching at FSA, it was FSA who afforded me the opportunity to head to Northern Ireland for the first time.
“My position is as Head Coach of the High Performance camps as well as working with our Prodigy to Pro Program which is our mentorship program for young up and coming cricketers between the ages of 16-19 who are looking to take their cricket to a professional level.”
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