A SHINING SPORT OF CHOICE
I have been involved with the sport of cricket my whole life. I grew up whacking a ball around with my father in the backyard. Thousands of other Kiwi boys and girls did the same. I, like many of my young compatriots developed a lifelong love for the game. In countries like Japan, that lifelong love didn’t yet exist, and that is what I set about changing, beginning with a strategic plan.
It became apparent that many of the indigenous Japanese cricket participants took up the sport at university – so the age of 18. I saw this as a problem and when I looked at the player database it was obvious why. It was a university sport – one that was played during the four years of their lives that they spent at that institution, and following that it was into the reality of life – career and family and cricket wasn’t part of that.
Having participants who have a lifelong love for the game is crucial, not just from a playing perspective, but administratively as well. Volunteers in sport are usually people who have been involved with that sport the majority of their lives, so my line of thinking with regards to the strategic plan was constantly on developing Japanese kids to have a lifelong love of the game of cricket.
As an organisation, we quickly settled on our vision – “A shining sport of Choice”. Choice was a critical word. We wanted people to choose cricket over other sports. Not just because they couldn’t make the cut in Baseball, but because it’s a great sport, they enjoy memorable experiences in it and they choose to be part of it.
I’m a big believer in a strategic plan being understood by the entire organisation so that all day-to-day tasks are centred on its content. In order to do this, a strategic plan cannot be a booklet, rather a smart one-page document, framed and on display in every office.
We developed the page to be five pillars. The metaphor of the pillar is that they all need to be strong like the pillars of a building under construction. If one pillar is weak then it will put pressure on the other pillars to keep it from crumbling down.
Each pillar is broken down into a goal, a rationale as to why the pillar is important, objectives to be achieved by the end of the 4-5 years of the strategic plan. And the focus points.
Focus points are critical to success. Many sports coaches and athletes say that they don’t focus on the outcome, rather the process. If they are outcome focused then they will become anxious and not perform to their optimum level.
A strategic plan is no different. If you focus your energy on the focus points then the outcome, being the objectives of each pillar will take care of themselves.
The five pillars of the strategic plan for Japan Cricket Association were:
Promotion was increasing the awareness, involvement in and profile of cricket.
Playing was strengthening player pathways, increasing the number of regular participants.
Performance was producing strong men’s and women’s national teams to inspire the next generation of fans and players.
Leadership was producing strong and accountable leadership through a revamped governance system.
Investment was generating further revenue to sustain the strategic plan and growth of cricket.
Following the tsunami we set up a development programme called “Cricket for Smiles”. The purpose was to introduce the children affected by the disaster to the game of cricket, donate cricket gear to the affected schools and train their teachers to run our 6 week coaching programmes that we devised.
An acquaintance of mine in the Middle East generously donated 200 sets of plastic equipment and we set about rolling out the programme in the Tohoku Prefecture with the aim of making cricket the “sport of choice” in the rebuilt communities.
The objective over the five year period (which was achieved), was 50,000 school children to be involved in the programme.
The programme was then extended to cover other targeted regions of the country with fantastic results. Those kids are now in their early teens, with a healthy percentage of them still playing cricket. It is making a difference because they were involved in the game at an early age so they are developing the critical “lifelong love for the game”.
When you introduce children to sport there is always going to be a natural drop off as they head into the following year. But through the strategic plan, new courses and cricket modules were introduced to keep players participating.
Once a sport in a Baseball-mad country that a group of expatriates played, became a university sport and is now a thriving sport enjoyed by thousands of youngsters across the country.
It didn’t happen overnight. It took many hours of hard work to achieve the results we set out, but they were achieved because we had a solid vision and strategic plan in place. We lived and breathed that document and we can be very proud of what is currently in place.
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