YOUNGSTERS at three cricket clubs in south Powys have been enjoying the benefits of the England and Wales Cricket Board's flagship development programme – Allstars.

Approximately 160 five to eight year olds have taken part in eight weekly, hour-long sessions based at Brecon, Builth and Glangrwyney Cricket Clubs. This is part of 1,700 sign ups in south east Wales, 3,502 across Wales and 57,000 UK wide.

Allstars is seen as an antidote to a malaise in the game by grabbing the attention of both children and adults as a fun, safe introduction to the game in the face of the ever creeping football and rugby seasons into the traditional British summer sporting scene.

Focusing on development of core skills cricket clubs are targeting those younger children with the promise of a coach led, fast moving activity that develops not only their cricket skills but also intentionally, as a priority addressing teamwork, communication and coordination.

But Allstars is going further, tapping into the garden or beach cricket traditions and challenging parents and guardians to explore their inner child. And with the help of a personalised kit bag, including bat and ball, given to each participant, the ability to take the new-found skills home or on holiday. Rubbish bins suddenly become wickets, flower pots targets for budding Jimmy Anderson’s, garden fences or garage doors ensure balls rebound conveniently.

Allstars began in 2017 amid much hype as Cricket Wales officers visited sceptical clubs, cajoling many into signing up with the promise of life saving injections of enthusiasm and new members old and new. By their own admission it was brinkmanship at its best. Issues with technology, late kitbags and cynical clubs Allstars 2017 became a qualified success, many lessons learned, bruises evident.

However, 2018 brought Cricket Wales Allstars champions as flag bearers were enthusiastically dispatched to preach to the unconverted and cynics.

With technology working the trickle became a flood. In 2017 south Powys saw Brecon Cricket Club as it’s only participant club with 53 signed up. Then 2018 saw the club number treble as Builth Wells and Glangrwyney Cricket Clubs took their first nervous steps toward the promised land. Multiple visits by Allstars coaches to local primary schools to deliver the Allstars message of STAR – Smile, Teamwork, Aim High and Respect, ensured that children and parents alike were enthused as to the aims and principles behind Allstars. By the time of the mid May Allstars launch, Brecon had hit a rapid 88 sign ups while Builth edged past its 50 with Glangrwyney settling for a more sedate but equally satisfying 23.

Amid much back slapping, clubs are delighting at the new-found interest from children and adults in equal measure. On a weekly basis cricket grounds are turned into a hive of activity, colour – the Allstars brand is an eye catching turquoise and orange - and an opportunity to sell. Not just the pop and crisps but the local club as a focal point for community activity. A place to play and socialise in equal measure.

Backed by the resources available from Cricket Wales, clubs are encouraged to advertise themselves through activity that includes parents and carers and sessions will include barbecues, face painting and visits from the Allstars mascot - Starry. Social media is awash with images of children and adults alike learning and playing together.

Early indications suggest that cricket in south Powys has a future borne out of Allstars. A generation who at least know what cricket looks like. An alternative to wet and cold weekends chasing footballs’ Premier League stardom.

South Powys Allstars champion, Paul Rowe, praising the scheme, added: “The three clubs have really embraced the Allstars principles. Allstars is all about a positive first experience of cricket in an inclusive and fun environment.”

“It also provides clubs an opportunity to tap into a new cricketing community and with the support of volunteers developing coaches for the clubs in the future.”