Cricket is thriving here at Taunton School with a top team of professional coaches and strong links to the county and regional teams. Here’s a look at what’s making the school standout right now.
A PERFECT STORM
It’s one of the most iconic cricket pitches in the area. The Hogwarts style school building looms over a perfect lawn, surrounded by mature trees and admired by many near and far, but that’s not the only impressive thing here. Whilst there is a noticeable trend that some independent schools are experiencing difficulties in producing a number of teams for weekly fixtures, Cricket is thriving at Taunton School and it’s easy to see why. Recently some significant changes have taken place. Pete Sanderson, former Somerset Coach and top level ECB 4 qualified coach is now at the helm as Director of Cricket with former England batsman and Somerset cricketer Marcus Trescothick as Head of Cricket Development.
With a top professional coach driving forward an inclusive and all-year round programme of cricket, it’s bound to instil a passion into those who get involved. Pete Sanderson, who started his official role at Taunton School last January says “The School has such a strong philosophy on pupils taking part in a co-curricular sport – to most it’s expected, and immensely enjoyed. I’m so impressed with the numbers of boys and girls who want to play and be coached in cricket. I operate right through from Year 5 in Prep, to the 1st XI senior team. At any one time there can be up to 20 games in play, which is incredible to be involved with”.
Pete Sanderson started his professional career at Somerset County Cricket Club, and has worked his way to the top of the coaching game, becoming an ECB Level 4 qualified coach and Elite Programme mentor – the highest level there is. His departure from Somerset CCC to Taunton School is not so final. The links between SCCC and the School have strengthened inexorably with Pete’s initial period in post. The County team have used the impressive school cricket pitch for their 2nd XI team games, and a weekly county academy training programme takes place on site using the school facilities. Young players get the opportunity to take part in training programmes at SCCC and Pete retains his good working relationship with the Youth Development Manager Gregor Kennis there. “Gregor and I have worked together for years, and I’m completely aware of what he’s looking for to build the fantastic county youth system. There is a lot of talent at Taunton School and it’s great to know I can prepare them for advanced skills that are expected at county level and beyond.”
Marcus Trescothick’s recent appointment is actually not his first experience at the School. In fact, Marcus recalls days spent at Taunton School youth cricket camps before he was signed for SCCC some 25 years ago. Marcus comments “Taunton School is so familiar to me; somewhere that I’ve known since childhood. It makes perfect sense to be involved in the cricket coaching here.” It goes without saying that Marcus’s playing experience will give him a major advantage in the development programme, but he is also qualified to ECB Level 3, supported by elite mentor, Pete Sanderson. “Although I play during much of the summer for Somerset, I still have a large amount of time to spend working with the pupils at Taunton School, and the winter months are perfect for intensive classes honing their skills and techniques.”
Marcus points out the training undertaken in the winter months. You might think that training slows down in a term where other sports are at the forefront of the season, but not so. Somerset captain Tom Abell delivered a masterclass to students last winter, and so did teammate Jack Leach. (By coincidence Tom was a Taunton School pupil until 2012.) On being asked how it felt to coach young talent, Tom said: “I love it. I feel privileged to help younger pupils and to give something back. Being able to inspire younger players is awesome.” A worthwhile programme then? “My aim is to get more players on board to deliver specialist training sessions” says Pete, “The pupils benefit hugely from having professional players talking about their first-hand experiences.”
And the partnership between champion south west women’s team Western Storm and Taunton School continues to build on that professional link with young talent. Former Taunton School student and England cricketer Jodie Dibble is part of the Western Storm squad and has already had the chance to work with the pupils from Taunton Preparatory School. Girls have received training sessions from some of the best female players in the game right now. With the recent women’s world cup matches taking place down the road at the Cooper Associates County Ground, there’s never been a better time to inspire girls to get involved in a traditionally male dominated sport.
On a more personal level, it’s heartening to note that Pete and Marcus have known each other since playing together at their home town club, Keynsham, when Marcus was just eight years old. Maybe that’s why Pete can see the value in inspiring youngsters when he knows just what the future could hold? “It was clear that Marcus was a phenomenal player even at a young age. I really believe the groundwork starts with the Prep school teams. We have a great Prep School Sport Director in Shaun Winsor who understands my vision of nurturing young talent. I’m really looking forward to working with pupils across the school and hope to raise the Cricket Performance Programme to an even higher level than it already is. It’s great to work with a friend and colleague motivating youngsters to play a great sport.”
Marcus adds: “Being back at Taunton School in a professional capacity is a privilege. I’m so impressed that the focus on cricket is maintained all year round. It’s certainly an exciting time for cricket at Taunton School.”
Taunton School promises to “challenge, nurture and inspire”, and that’s exactly what you get.