While many New Tampa parents can sign their kids up for leagues in sports like baseball, basketball, football and soccer that they themselves played as kids, the same opportunity hasn’t existed for the area’s large Indian population.
But now, that has changed.
Nagesh Nayak and Prahlad Madabhushi, the president and managing director, respectively, of the Tampa Premier League (TPL) — which is based at Wesley Chapel District Park on Boyette Rd. — have begun holding youth cricket camps at New Tampa’s Community Park on Thursday nights. The hope is to take younger kids and spark interest, and provide the tools and knowledge, in a game that is near and dear to the hearts of their parents and their Indian culture.
“The reason we started it was there was a great deal of interested parents, asking if there was any cricket coaching for their kids,” said Madabhushi. “There is a large Indian population in New Tampa, so there was a lot of demand.”
Nayak and Madabhushi reached out to City of Tampa Council member Luis Viera for a place to hold their camps, and Viera helped secure the New Tampa location.
While you can find kids learning how to play in the streets and playgrounds in India (like American children learn baseball, basketball and soccer), that is not the case for cricket in the U.S. Nor are there any leagues for younger players, like Little League baseball or Pop Warner football.
Nayak says he would like to provide something close to that for interested players in New Tampa and Wesley Chapel. The goal is to develop new players who could then advance to playing actual matches in local adult leagues.
Roughly 40 eager players showed up on Sept. 23 for the first New Tampa camp, which has 4-6 coaches available to teach each week. The kids, who range in age from 5 to 16, are shown how to throw and hit the ball, while also learning the rules of the game.
“I think everyone liked what they were experiencing,” says Nayak, an accomplished cricket player himself. “Hitting the ball, throwing the ball, catching the ball….especially hitting the ball…they enjoyed it.”
Madabhushi has been pleased with the early reception to the camps.
“It’s been amazing,” he says. “The kids are so into it, some of them don’t want to go home. And, the parents appreciate it as well.”
While the first camp hosted all children of Indian parents, Nayak says the camps are open to everyone. In fact, he says, because of the similarity to baseball — both sports involve a pitcher (called a bowler in cricket) throwing to a batter whose goal is to hit the ball — he’d be interested to see current and former baseball players take a shot at cricket.
“I think that would be a good transfer of talent,” he says.
Nayak and other adult players in the area typically play on Saturdays and Sundays on a makeshift pitch on some extra, unused land at the Wesley Chapel District Park, roughly five miles north of New Tampa. Their hope is to eventually secure a regulation field, level and well-maintained, at the same park, for future matches and tournaments.
As the new players at the New Tampa camp develop and learn the game, they could graduate to games in Wesley Chapel with the better players.
“Out of the kids we had out there, 25 are between the ages of 5-12,” said Madabhushi. “But, there’s also about 8 or 10 of them who are ages 13-16, who we can take it to the next level. The first step is to move up to the adult league, and when they get familiar with that level, to take them to tournaments.”
Weather permitting, the camps are held every Thursday from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. and cost $70 for eight weeks of training.
For more information, email email@example.com, or visit Facebook @TampaCricket.