Cooke signs off after six splendid years of service to Devon cricket
PUBLISHED: 09:03 06 April 2018
Sidmouth Cricket Club's Matt Cooke has signed off as Devon's club development officer with stacks of fond memories and memorable achievements after nearly six years in the role, writes Conrad Sutcliffe.
Cooke, now a national account manager for a cricket kit and equipment firm, said he felt he had a ‘dream job’ when he started working for the Devon Cricket Board.
Before leaving the Devon Cricket Office in Exeter for the last time, Cooke said his view of the job had not changed.
“Working for the Devon Cricket Board gave me the chance to turn a sport that was my passion into a job I knew I would enjoy,” said Cooke.
“Few people are that lucky and throughout my time with the DCB I never forgot that.”
Cooke’s passion for cricket was nurtured in the back garden by his late father Peter, who played for numerous clubs as he moved around the country as a police officer.
Cooke junior joined Sidmouth, his local club, aged eight and by the time he was 13 was playing 3rd XI cricket under the captaincy of Tom Overthrow and was well and truly hooked on the game.
He played through the youth age groups for Devon and made a name for himself in an under-17 game by slamming a double hundred against Cornwall.
It wasn’t long before Cooke was in Sidmouth’s 1st XI, a formidable team that dominated Premier cricket in Devon for the best part of a decade.
A possible job with the Devon Cricket Board, initially as a cricket development officer, was a too good not to apply for. It was a decision Cooke, then aged 24, never regretted.
“My role changed significantly over the time I was there, but it was always rewarding,” said Cooke, who was the club development officer when he left.
“Cricket development covers many things – youth coaching, building up numbers at clubs, improving facilities – but whatever you did it was rewarding.
“Successes come in many different ways. It could be the growth of the Chance to Shine programme in Devon, a programme I was responsible for overseeing.
“All Stars was an initiative that got youngsters playing cricket in clubs last year and I am interested to see where that goes this season as more clubs get involved.
“It could be improving facilities at clubs like Holsworthy or Ilfracombe, clubs that don’t get a great deal of publicity yet do a superb job in their area.
“Or it could be the way the Youth Cricket Awards evening at Exeter Chiefs has grown and grown since we moved there four or five years go.
“It has become a celebration of all cricket in Devon, individually and at club or team level.
“Whatever area I worked in there was one thing that always stood out. The volunteer workers at so many clubs who put in hour after hour of their time to keep their clubs vibrant.”
Cooke coached county age-group sides during his time with the DCB and toured South Africa five times with the Development squad as part of the management.
He intends to carry on in coach education – someone has to train new coaches – and may work with youth sides again.
Cooke said colleagues he worked with at the DCB – staff and volunteers – had been a huge help when times were tough.
“I would like to thank Matt Theedom, Martin Webb, Jon Mears, Alan Swift and Jim Wood for the help they gave me. I owe them a great deal,” said Cooke.
Theedom, who was the ECB’s cricket development manager in Devon and was Cooke’s boss, said his former colleague would be a hard act to follow.
“Matt really was passionate about cricket in Devon and worked hard on behalf of the clubs and the game,” said Theedom. He was always prepared to go the extra mile for everyone, going above the call of duty. We are sad to lose him from the team, although I am pleased to hear he wants to do some coach education.”