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It wasn’t just the Somerset First Team squad who were training at the Cooper Associates County Ground in the run up to Christmas.

It was also a busy winter for the players who are involved with the Somerset Pathway, as Head of the SCCC Talent Pathway, Steve Snell explains.

“Prior to Christmas I was encouraged by the amount of cricket that we had managed to deliver for all our players,” he said. “The Academy players came back in November and we managed to hold sessions for most of the Pathway age groups from the start of December. However, although it was with a heavy heart, it was obviously the correct decision to suspend our indoor activities until further notice. We love working with the players and we love it when the boys and girls come into the Ground to develop their skills and enjoy their cricket, but their health and wellbeing is of paramount importance.

“The Pathway players are obviously keen to come in and play cricket and we want to be working with them, but we have to look at what is best for them and their families at this moment in time. We are certainly urging our players to follow the guidelines to the letter. It’s important that they stay at home for the time being, and as soon as it’s safe to do so we will welcome everyone back in.”

Is Steve confident that the players will get to show what they can do on the field this summer?

“I think that we can look ahead to this coming season with a huge deal of optimism,” he said. “Last year we were eventually able to deliver a comprehensive outdoor programme over a short period of time. We enjoyed the problem-solving element that we faced when it came to delivering that programme. In addition to that, the circumstances meant that we learned a lot about the players. Crucially, the players improved, had fun and we saw some exciting performances too. The players were outstanding, and I also can’t thank the coaches, venues and parents enough for ensuring that these games went ahead safely and effectively. Thanks also has to go to our Academy Partner, Clarke Willmott for their continued and valued support.”

How is Steve and his team of Coaches dealing with the current lockdown?

“All of our players and the Pathway Coaching Staff are really creative when it comes to coming up with ideas for how people can work at their game away from cricket grounds,” he explained. “There’s a real can-do attitude in all of our groups which is good to see. No doubt everyone is feeling a little bit blue about having to stay at home, and how we react to that is going to be really important. I know that the Pathway teams are working as hard as they can to help provide relevant and engaging content for the players. We have sent out resources for all our players to connect with in their own time.

“It’s also important that we are sensitive and empathetic to the fact that there is a lot of uncertainty going on with exams and assessments at school at the moment and that uncertainty will be causing unwelcome stress to some of our players. It’s vital that we are as supportive as we possibly can be.

“As with any walk of life at the moment, communication is extremely important and we are highly sympathetic to the pressures that these young people are experiencing, especially at this time. We will be providing as much information as possible for parents and players, and it’s important that we make everyone aware that it’s okay and entirely natural to feel uncomfortable at the moment, and we will also be making sure that we are signposting resources which include relevant coping strategies and ideas to combat and work with this frustrating and worrying time.

How excited is Steve by the current crop of Academy players?

“It’s really exciting every year when the Academy players join up with the programme. It’s a smaller group this year, but it’s certainly an exciting group. They are in a privileged position of being part of the Elite Sport group which means that they are able to train when others can’t, a privilege I know that they aren’t taking lightly.

“We’re really excited to see Sonny Baker getting involved with the Young Lions programme. He’s done really well up at Loughborough and made a good impression. Now we need to make sure that he keeps on improving and makes a positive impact when he gets his chance at Second XI level. It’s not just all about Sonny though. I’m sure all of our players will be pushing hard to make an impact this summer and I can’t wait to see them all in action performing out in the middle when they get the chance to.”

Steve has also been impressed with the growth of the women’s game in the region, and he was delighted by the recent announcement regarding the awarding of professional contracts for several Western Storm players.

“It’s been fantastic to see Sophie Luff do so well over the course of a number of years because she’s been a standout performer in Somerset cricket. I have seen at first-hand how hard she has worked off her own back, without the support of a professional contract, and the security and opportunity she has achieved has been hard earned. It’s also great to see Somerset’s Nat Wraith and the other players with links to the South West like Georgia Hennessey, Fi Morris, Dani Gibson and Alex Griffiths earning professional contracts.

“It’s been superb to see the professionalisation of the women’s game. In that regard there’s a huge opportunity for young female players coming onto the SCCC Pathway and beyond. There is a definitive pathway for women to progress into the professional game. The clear infrastructure that is in place in the region will only continue to improve and our thanks go to the team at Western Storm for their continued collaboration. SCCC are motivated and endeavour to support the growth and progression of women’s cricket however we can.

“It’s really important that more opportunities have opened up for young women. I can only see the women’s game getting bigger and better. That will in turn drive the national standards and consequently the global standard of the game. Huge credit has to go to everyone involved at the ECB for the growth and investment that is happening in this area.”

The Somerset Academy provides an opportunity for talented young cricketers from across the region to further develop their potential within an elite environment and aids development across a variety of disciplines, both on and off the field. Recent Academy graduates include Jack Leach, Tom Banton and Dom Bess, all of whom are now established international cricketers.

The Somerset Academy is supported by leading law firm Clarke Willmott LLP who are our Official Academy Partner.

Clarke Willmott LLP is a national firm of solicitors with seven offices across the country, including in Taunton and Bristol. They provide a full range of legal services for businesses and individuals, working closely with their clients to provide expert legal advice and tailored solutions on a broad range of potentially complex legal matters.

Also SCCC’s Preferred Legal Partner, Clarke Willmott LLP encourage SCCC Academy players to carry out work placements within their company in order to aid their personal growth and development.

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