Black Caps beware ... up to 1400 Wairarapa rural school pupils will get the chance to approach the crease this summer thanks to Kiwi Cricket.
The Wairarapa Cricket Association has started running cricket awareness sessions to 10 rural primary schools in the area.
These tasters will continue through the 2012-13 cricket season but a spin-off already is the excitement of up to 115 children participating in the full Kiwi Cricket programme at their schools this term.
The programme, funded by KiwiSport through Sport Wellington, aims to initially develop children's fundamental skills of striking, throwing, catching and running so more pupils participate in sport, ultimately growing the number of children aged 6 to 10 years continuing to play cricket in the Wairarapa.
Sam Curtis, Wairarapa Cricket development officer, says one of the aims of the programme is to capture potential future cricket players who attend country schools and perhaps have the skills but not the resources to go further.
"There's a fair bit of talent out there. We aim to go to these schools and give pupils the coaching and resources to improve their game. Ultimately, clubs should gain as these new cricket players come to play competition cricket."
Cricket awareness sessions have been held at the Gladstone, Kahutara and Pirinoa schools this term.
Seven other Wairarapa country schools will get their taster sessions next term, with 1400 rural children being introduced to the programme. Up to 420 children are expected to continue with the full Kiwi Cricket sessions. The programme will end with two cluster cricket festivals in March.
"We aim to grow interest in cricket in the Wairarapa region so the children who participate in this programme stay in the game," says Curtis. "We want to increase the number of school-age children from rural areas having the opportunity and playing cricket in school and out of school. The $14,800 received from KiwiSport has enabled us the opportunity to deliver Kiwi Cricket to these children."
The Kiwi Cricket programme is based on a New Zealand Cricket module. It also provides coach education training and resources for teachers and parents, as well as cricket gear for each of the players to practise at home.
Curtis says several teachers have already brushed up on their coaching skills and feel more confident overseeing their pupils' sessions. He is eager for parents to also participate in the programme.
Engaging parents and the community to support children playing sport is one of the key aims of KiwiSport, which is facilitated by Sport Wellington and funded by Sport New Zealand.
KiwiSport manager Peter Woodman-Aldridge says it's great to see the initial promotion of Kiwi Cricket in rural Wairarapa being embraced so enthusiastically.
"It's fantastic to see these young cricketers given the opportunity to play and develop their skills. All I can say is those elite cricketers at Twenty20 level should watch out. These Wairarapa kids will be at the crease in a few years."
KiwiSport has invested $2.2 million during the past three years in community-led programmes, enabling 109,000 children to participate in sport across the greater Wellington region.