The Professional Cricketers’ Association’s Rookie Camp has inducted 28 players into the professional game, just weeks before the start of the 2024 season.

Hosted at Edgbaston Cricket Ground on Tuesday 5 March, the annual event saw Chris Woakes, Georgia Elwiss, Rob Key and Ian Bell amongst the guest speakers as they welcomed 16 male and 12 female members into the game.

England Women Under 19s players were amongst the 17 professional teams represented. The cohort included brother and sister duo William and Sophia Smale who were joined by Warwickshire and UAE U19 keeper-batter Kai Smith and latest South Asian Cricket Academy graduate, 28-year-old Yadvinder Singh Chahal, with each player engaging in nine educational workshops throughout the day.

Inducted into the elite environment, wide-ranging sessions were delivered, including on the global landscape and the future of the game with the Association’s Chief Operating Officer, Daryl Mitchell joining Key to provide the unique perspective of the Managing Director of England Men’s Cricket, alongside Woakes, his country’s Player of the 2023 Ashes.

Former England and Warwickshire batter, Bell and England and Southern Vipers all-rounder, Elwiss also shared their invaluable insights to the youngsters in attendance during the ‘Embrace the Opportunity’ player panel.

Seminars were also presented to the eager group of players through B5 Consultancy, specifically around social media and healthy relationships. Double amputee Shaun Whiter also delivered a powerful and emotional talk on his inspiring story on how to deal with adversity.

The Official Motor Insurance Partner of the PCA, AllSport Insurance and Brooks Macdonald, the Official Financial Partner of the Association shared their expertise and former professional footballer Simon Haworth from EPIC Global Solutions delivered a session on gambling education.

The 14th PCA Rookie Camp was financially supported by the Graham Gooch Scholarship and the Tom Maynard Trust and forms part of the PCA’s Personal Development and Welfare Programme (PDWP), a personalised support service which aims to enable individuals to develop sustainable performance both within and outside of cricket.

The annual event brings together players who have recently signed their first professional contract and sits alongside further PDWP initiatives including the Futures Awards and Futures Conference.

PCA’s joint Head of Personal Development and Welfare Programme, Charlie Mulraine, said: “We’ve had another great Rookie Camp, the players have had lots of sessions with some great key speakers on how changes in the game will affect everyone.

“We bring back former players to imagine talking to themselves from 20 years ago and you know some of those messages will stick. Anything that they will have picked up from today will be extremely valuable.

“Today makes the players realise there’s more to life than cricket, so there’s always the message of focusing on what you need to do to achieve but recognising that personal development outside the game is important too.”

Southern Vipers and Welsh Fire batter, Emily Windsor, said: “It was a brilliant day, some of the talks were truly inspirational, it was hard hitting but I’m so glad that I’ve come and learnt a lot.

“The different things the PCA can offer you outside your PDM has really opened my eyes. Going into this year, it’s a great time for women’s cricket, there might be a few teething issues but I’ve been reassured today that we’ve got the PCA’s support.

“Everyone was really open and welcoming, there’s always someone at the PCA that can answer any question you have and we’re really lucky to have that support.”

Warwickshire and UAE U19 keeper-batter, Kai Smith, said: “I’ve loved it, to see everyone here broadening their knowledge to be able to think two steps ahead has been great to learn about.

“It can be a difficult and overwhelming job and I’ve learnt it’s really important to talk to people and be aware of things that can happen, especially with social media.

“By using the PCA it can make your life easier, it’s a great support system and we’re really grateful for all the help that they have to offer us.”

Thunder and Scotland off-spinner, Olivia Bell, said: “All the speakers were unbelievable, it was very engaging. I’ve learnt it’s not going to be an easy ride and there will be challenges but if you use the support available that will improve your chances.  

“It was really interesting listening to older players and getting their perspective and delving into their knowledge.

“The opportunities over the next couple of years in women’s cricket is really exciting. I’ve not been around the professional set up for long so I feel like I’m more prepared than I was after today.”

Full list of players in attendance: Charis Pavey (Central Sparks); Daniel Hogg (Durham); Henry Hurle, William Smale, Asa Tribe (Glamorgan); Archie Bailey, Joe Phillips, Ahmed Syed (Gloucestershire); Joe Eckland (Hampshire); Noah Cornwell (Middlesex); Lizzie Scott (Northern Diamonds); Freddie McCann (Nottinghamshire); Josh Thomas (Somerset); Nancy Harman, Ella McCaughan, Alice Monaghan, Mary Taylor, Emily Windsor (Southern Vipers); Jodi Grewcock (Sunrisers); Tom Ealham (Surrey); Zach Lion-Cachet, Henry Rogers (Sussex); Olivia Bell, Aisla Lister, Hannah Rainey (Thunder); Kai Smith (Warwickshire); Sophia Smale (Western Storm); Yadvinder Singh Chahal (Worcestershire).