Developing the next generation
Former cricket star Darren Maddy helps Solihull School to flourish through new sports scholarships
A former Warwickshire and England cricketer is flourishing in his role helping develop the game’s next generation of stars at Solihull School.
Darren Maddy led the Bears from 2006 to 2008 following a move from neighbours Leicestershire, going on to play at Edgbaston until his first class retirement in 2013, when he was appointed master of cricket at Solihull School.
The 42 year-old, who played three Tests, eight one-day and five Twenty20 internationals, took over from David Hemp and has built on the foundations laid by the former Glamorgan batsman to catapult Solihull into a position as one of the country’s leading lights in independent schools’ cricket.
Under Maddy’s guidance, Solihull’s under-13s team has swept the board this summer, winning every competition from the Solihull 6s – a six-player version of the game introduced by Maddy and contested by 20 schools across the Midlands – to the ESCA national cup.
Despite this success, the former international admits he was initially a little unsure about which route he would take following retirement from the professional game.
“In the years leading up to 2013, I knew my retirement was imminent,” said Maddy. “I had options to possibly explore playing county cricket elsewhere but I just felt it was coming to the end of my chapter and it was time to move on.
“I was very lucky, I was club captain of Warwickshire and won the county championship, I won two championships and two Twenty20 cups with Leicestershire and played for England, so I had a wonderful 23 years playing the game.
“A month on from having announced my retirement, I had three serious job offers, including one from Leicestershire as strength and conditioning coach, which I thought long and hard about. Then I found out David (Hemp) was leaving Solihull to move to Australia. After meeting the head master and going through the interview process, I started in November 2013.
“What David had done previously was outstanding and it wasn’t a case of reinventing the wheel, just some simple steps to build on what was there. What we’ve created at the school now is an environment for the lads to really succeed in and improve and, ultimately, to enjoy.”
Maddy says the cricket term is short and intense, often affected by exams. He continues: “You have 10 weeks of cricket in which we play 130 fixtures. It has opened my eyes from being the player who turned up and concentrated on myself and my performance for the team, to now arranging everything from the fixtures to the kit and the groundsmen.
“I’ve been the mini-bus driver, the tea boy, drinks boy, umpire, coach and manager – it’s an all-encompassing role, which is great. It’s very enjoyable and, as intense as it is, I wish the season could go on for longer. It has given me a real insight and an even greater appreciation of all the hard work which administrators do behind the scenes.”
Three years ago, Solihull School introduced sports scholarships and it is these, believes Maddy, which has really allowed its young cricketers to flourish.
He said: “The introduction of sports scholarships has made a massive difference and, in my opinion, has been the biggest turning point in the cricketing success at the school. The scholars benefit from a bit of psychology and nutritional advice, extra fitness sessions, along with one-to-one mentoring and guest speakers who come in and talk about their experiences and careers. I think what we offer for all of our scholars is outstanding.
“The lads are now becoming cricketers and that’s not necessarily what we’ve had before – actual cricket thinkers. We may have had talented individuals but now the boys are thinking in the correct way and that makes a big difference.
“If one or two go on to become professional cricketers that would be outstanding, of course, but even if I can get these boys playing club cricket until the age of 40 then that’s a success because a lot of them may not have previously gone down that road.”
While his role at Solihull keeps him busy, Maddy still finds time to play for Berkswell in the Birmingham League premier division, while also being part of PCA Masters sides and the Lashings World XI.
He said: “I still find myself thinking about batting again or what the lads are doing and miss being in the changing room within that professional environment. I have been associated with Berkswell since my last year at Warwickshire. After all the years of playing professionally, I never envisaged myself in club cricket but they are a great bunch of lads and I really enjoy it.
“I’ve been lucky that in each season I’ve played with Berkswell it has gone well for me, so it has really helped make the transition from the day-to-day cricket I’d longed for and missed. I’ve also had great opportunities to play for the PCA Masters and Lashings. Being back in a changing room with those type of cricketers and characters is great.”