Milo Cricket: Is There Value Beyond The Kit?

In a former life as a sports development officer I was heavily involved with pushing a nationally branded participation program for a severely under resourced sport in a crowded, ambivalent market.

Needless to say coercing parents and teachers across Victoria to sign up for Touch footy was a tough battle.  But although success was marginal, the sessions themselves, as far as imparting the inherently foreign concepts, skills and rules, would rank pretty highly in the strata of introductory programs I’ve encountered.

Nonetheless, in terms of junior sport, the old adages of ‘you get what you pay for’ and ‘nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd’ generally ring true.

Luckily my kids offset their screen time with a keen desire to play most sports and I’m only too happy to enable them.  With Auskick done and dusted, presently they are having a shot at basketball, soccer and cricket, plus swimming lessons.  Last year they also tried tennis.

Cost-wise the basketball and cricket programs are on a par (alongside Auskick), though basketball doesn’t have a sponsor to fund a you-beaut registration pack.  The ‘Brazilian Soccer School’ they attend is almost double the cost, nor does it boast any giveaways.  But I must say, as someone with marginal appreciation of the beautiful game, the quality of coaching and the level of skill attainment is light years ahead of cricket and footy.  Basketball is perhaps somewhere in the middle.

I wrote last year of concerns with my local Auskick centre and sadly this season was no improvement.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the challenge of coaching/wrangling a group of 16 recalcitrant 8 year olds.  But by the 18th week and not a single ounce of help forthcoming from the 4 members of the weekly convened fathers’ club meeting (at least they showed up), capped off by not even a verbal thankyou from the coordinator to any of the weary volunteers at the end-of-season, I felt as appreciated as Mick Malthouse c2015.

Interestingly, the Milo Cricket coordinator’s philosophy is the polar opposite to the point where parents are actually getting in the way.  In the first session the mother of one child took up position at silly mid-pitch.   But I digress.

Based on last years’ experience I was reluctant to sign up again on the basis Mr 8 and Miss 7 learnt twice as much in half the time on the beach and in the backyard.  But being aligned with the local club closer to home, and all of us being suckers for included cricket gear (no matter how plastic), we gave it another go.

Last Saturday, after about three minutes of waiting in line to paddle the ball hockey style through a short obstacle course, Mr 8 and I looked at each other and headed for the nets.  Other activities included using the plastic stump bases as a fielding cradle (WTF?) and a poorly explained duel between kids running between wickets alongside other kids bowling at a set of stumps. Worst of all, the purpose of the activities was barely explained, if at all.

I have no truck with running skill based activities instead of matches, as was the practice early dawes, but five weeks into Milo cricket and I’ve yet to see a forward defence, or any shot for that matter, referenced or demonstrated.  Likewise, any actual fielding or bowling skill instruction is minimal.  Perhaps the expectation is on the hovering parents, however 90% of them wouldn’t know a cut shot from a cut lunch.  And sadly, for various reasons, many kids appear as though they don’t play much other sport across a normal week.

Surely more engaging and practical training ideas could have been devised on the way to the ground, let alone the days in between?  Is there not a manual for this?  Clearly fun is the fuel on which these programs succeed but Milo Cricket needs servicing here too.  For example the two activities from the previous week at least had merit, alas they each dragged on for half an hour.  Only the Aussies efforts to knock off the final 12 runs against the Kiwis has been more excruciating cricket viewing lately.

Whilst I’m off the long run, perhaps some responsibility lies with the host club.  Good on them for making their field and club rooms available and putting on a couple BBQ’s, but surely if they want to impress parents and recruit kids into their Under 9’s then a couple players or club stalwarts lingering in the background could make a big difference by sharing some tips with struggling kids.

Cricket is a technically difficult game for young ‘uns but I don’t see dumbing it down and ignoring technique as a solution.  Even for preps – grade 2’s.

I can only speak for my local Milo Cricket centre so I would be interested to hear of others’ experiences.  Are mass sport participation programs in general all they’re cracked up to be?  Do they adequately prepare children for junior competition?  Which ones are good and how can others be better to reduce rates of churn?  Are my expectations too high?



About Jeff Dowsing

Washed up former Inside Sport and Sunday Age Sport freelancer. Now just giving my stuff away to good homes. Not to worry, still have my health and day job. Published & unpublished works fester on my blog Write Line Fever.


  1. Andrew Weiss says


    I totally agree with what you have said here in regards to the lack of teaching kids the skills of the game at an early age when it comes to programs like Auskick and Milo cricket. For most of these programs it comes down to a club trying to find a volunteer to run it whether they know anything about teaching the kids the skills or not. Both my boys did Auskick with one having a fantastic coordinator who taught my lad a lot and my youngest had someone who couldn’t even teach them how to kick properly. It seems to me that the AFL and Cricket Australia are all about getting as many kids involved (hence the so called freeby packs) and making each sessions about fun rather than teaching the kids the basic skills properly which is so important.

  2. It certainly is a numbers game Andrew. The pressure is on those higher up the chain to meet their KPI’s so unfortunately the quest for quantity outweighs quality. It’s worth noting the basketball and soccer programs my kids participate in are run independently of the national or state bodies. From their point of view that’s bad because it’s less email addresses on their databases, however those running these programs are more heavily invested in making them more than just a come’n’try.

    Notwithstanding that, what frustrates me Andrew is it’s not rocket science when the sporting body, coaches, club and parents are on the same page.

  3. Scott McIntyre says

    Our son did his pre-junior introduction to cricket at the local branch of the venerable VicCric. From what I have heard of Milo cricket, this was a totally different experience. The only non-cricket part of the hour was the warm-up run to the far fence and back. After that, it was cricket skills all the way. The kids would do drills to practice a particular stroke, or practice their bowling action, or catching or some other specific skill, then for the last 20 minutes or so, they would have a mini-game.

    I think was a pretty successful way to introduce kids to cricket and, more importantly, to foster a desire to play the game in a real-life setting. Certainly, many of the kids that we encounter around the traps at under 14 level are kids we already know from VicCric, who have stuck with the game.

    My concern about the officially-sanctioned sub-junior programs is that, being tied in with the governing bodies and sponsors, there is a heavy emphasis on getting names onto databases so that bragging rights can be established on the basis of how many junior participants a sport has. The more kids that you have doing an activity, the more diluted the group enthusiasm and aptitude for the core skills of the sport are likely to be, in my view. Hence the need to introduce “softer”, less skills-based drills.

  4. You’re on the money Scott. When I was at Touch Footy, Rugby League saw us as the enemy. A few years ago, in a light bulb moment, the NRL bought out Touch and voila they almost doubled their participation numbers which equates to enormous value with sponsors and other opportunities, besides bragging rights. It was good for Touch as well, being the poorly funded relation, in that it enjoyed an injection of $$$ and other resources.

    I’ve never heard of VicCric, I’m keen to know more. From what I can tell there seems a big gap for kids to cross from Milo Cricket to playing with a hard ball on a full length pitch. Milo has a T20 Big Bash comp/offshoot as well, perhaps that helps fill the breach.

  5. Scott McIntyre says

    VicCric is a much smaller operation, Jeff. I think they only operate in perhaps 3 locations. It was started by Ian Aitken, the ex-Carlton premiership footy player. Back in our day (about 7 or 8 years ago), they did footy and soccer also. They probably still do, I imagine.

    Re: crossing over to junior cricket, in our local league there is a grade called Rookies, for kids 8-9 years of age starting out in club cricket. They don’t use a real cricket ball, rather one of those semi-squishy balls that looks like a real cricket ball but actually has a bit of give in it.

  6. Dave Brown says

    I get you on this one Jeff. My eldest elected not to do Milo cricket this year, preferring Little Athletics (I’m waiting until next year before committing both weekend mornings in summer and winter). But I got to see the milo kids do their thing at one of the breaks in the Adelaide test. I must say I was astonished to see one group of kids practicing bowling at unguarded stumps while an equal number of children adjacent practiced batting to oversized balls rolled by volunteers. Meanwhile over the other side a group of kids were attempting to hit a massive inflatable cricket ball with a massive inflatable bat. Hmmmm

    Much prefer the T20 blast format (the lad did it as a school holiday clinic last summer) which focusses on a more traditional game of cricket speeded up to ensure everyone is quickly involved in all three disciplines with/against other kids. The coaches were paid SACA state level juniors and tried to teach the kids the skills. As you say you get what you pay for.

    As for Auskick the feeling I get from my local centre is it’s a bolt on to their real interest – getting juniors to play for the club. Yet, they don’t seem well organised to encourage that transition. Skills beyond the handball are practiced but are not taught.

  7. Hi Dave, thanks for posting. I’m hoping T20 Blast gets off the ground this year but I’m not that confident in the host club getting its act together.

    My experience with Auskick mirrors yours. The junior club had the best of intentions and after supplying some players to help out at a couple sessions they lost interest/capacity by about June.

    Skills practised but not actually properly taught seems to be a common thread in both sports. What I’ve found with my own kids is even some basic advice/corrections can make such a difference. I don’t go overboard but they enjoy playing more when they feel improvement. And hopefully they have a reasonable base if they want to keep getting better as they get older.

  8. Mr 7 has grown through the ranks, from yellow to green and now red (T20 blast) with Milo cricket at our local. He learnt more whilst wearing the day glow colours but feel more involved with the T20. My concern with this format (not including loud music on a Sunday morning hangover) is there is no coaching. It is up to the parent scoring to correct fielding and bowling technique. I watched one parent get involved who must have thought it was tippety, as he told each batsman to run when hit to a fielder and subsequently run out (a loss of 5 runs). The only skills they do is to keep the boys engaged when not batting. A friend from the day glow days moved his son to the whites of club cricket, where he is coached, engaged and encouraged with regular bowling batting and fielding and taught how to play the game, including whose call it is when running between wickets.
    Oh and with T20 kit you get shirt and cap and mile sachet, no water bottle and no cricket bat.

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