Juniors History at Old Ruts
What seems like a long time ago now, the section started somewhere in the early 90s. Surrey CC helped and encouraged the Old Ruts to set up a series of sessions of softball cricket, aimed at starting a colts section. Whilst never really taking off, varying in numbers over the years, it nevertheless began to get the club thinking that the future might involve setting this section up properly.
The main driver behind the birth of the proper Junior section was the ever enthusiastic Graham Mills, without whom much of what would later happen would not have happened. So it all started with twenty or so children playing with plastic bats and tennis balls…
In the winter of 1996, an enthusiastic and newly formed Junior Committee set up the section officially and set about trying to spread the word. That summer, we had recruited enough children to enter our first ever league team in the NEC Surrey League Under 11s. They managed a solitary win that season that was celebrated like they had won a cup final.
1997 saw the first real expansion as we added more players and now fielded league teams from Under 11 to Under 13. It was still harder to find wins that it was to find losses as our kids were generally enthusiastic but raw, having not received much cricket practice at school. However, even when times were tough, the kids displayed an enthusiasm and enjoyment that meant more than just results. 1999 would see the first Old Ruts Junior play matches among the ranks of the adult section.
From then onwards, the section grew every year. Nearly twenty years later and the regular membership is over 370 children per year. We run activities across twelve age groups, from 5-16 year olds. We field around fifteen league teams each season across nine age groups, playing in two leagues and many cups. We were one of the main drivers behind bringing in ‘B Team’ leagues in the NEC league to try to give more cricket to children not making it into their A teams.
Part of our success was founded upon the efforts of volunteers from the adult club giving time to help the section get set up. This continues with both Graham Mills and Stuart Atkins still on the Committee today, having both been ‘founder members’ who helped set the section up in 1996. However, every club needs its army of volunteer heroes and we have been joined by many fabulous parents that got involved as team managers, coaches, scorers, umpires and supporters.
The growth of the Junior section has fed through into the adult section and we can count a huge proportion on members who have joined us as young kids and, many years later, now regularly play for the adult teams. It is part of the club mentality that we want children to play cricket for life, growing from young ‘kwik cricketers’ all the way up to playing serious, or sometimes social, adult cricket. Unlike some clubs, we do not have a Junior section as a fundraising activity. Juniors cricket for us is about children enjoying playing the game, because they are the future of our club.