‘Johnno’ planning to take cricketers to new heights

2008-08-28 00:00

THE Neil Johnson Cricket School, situated at Camps Drift Park, is an exciting new venture that has the capacity to take the game and the talent of local cricketers to unprecedented levels.

Conceived by former Zimbabwe, Natal, Western Province and Hampshire all-rounder Neil Johnson (38) and KZN businessman and ardent cricket lover Richard Ford, the co-owners have developed a world class, state-of-the-art facility that opened with minimum fuss recently.

Walking around “Johnno’s” large indoor cricket school yesterday, attention to detail was apparent. Little has been spared in terms of quality.

“Our mission was to set up a cricket education centre that would be a leader in South Africa and on a par, if not better, than the leading institutions in the world,” said Ford, who will be running the business from his office overlooking the nets.

“We deliberately went on our own in order to have the freedom to introduce best-practice business and cricket principles here,” Ford said.

“Our coach, Neil Johnson, has gathered his knowledge of the game the hard way, in the top arenas in the world and against the best cricketers in the world,” said Ford.

Johnson — a hands-on coach with a natural affinity for teaching enhanced by his university education, has gone full circle. From humble beginnings in Howick, the left-hander scored over 7 500 first-class runs all over the world with a top score of 150, while his right-arm quick bowling earned this popular cricket personality 230 first-class wickets and a rash of runs and wickets in over 230 limited-over matches.

“I aim to teach the correct basics of cricket using the very best in coaching technology and build that into a culture of excellence that will encourage local cricketers, young and old, to think for themselves in an informed way,” said Johnson.

“I aim to inspire and educate my students so that they will become the best cricketers they can be, irrespective of their ability.

“Most of all, my intention is to instil a passion for cricket similar to the lifelong love affair with the game that I enjoy.

“Students are exposed to the latest trends in cricket, with regular updates, and it is our goal that they will come back to us again and again.”

Johnson’s batting, bowling, fielding and captaincy coaching is designed to cover every aspect of the game, from fundamentals to the finer points needed by top players. Structured coaching pathways and unique player support frameworks — how to work through a bad patch, for example — are important aspects of the package.

Indeed, “Johnno’s” enthusiasm and obvious expertise is contagious. Two Pietermaritzburg-born youngsters out from England took up their cricket-writer uncle’s offer of a session with alacrity and were so enthused by what they termed the “best coaching we have ever had” that their third session in four days with Johnson takes place today.

For more information and bookings, Ford can be contacted at richardford@vodamail.co.za or

082 521 2227.

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