Sports courses that have hit a rich seam

When he’s not at the crease scoring runs for Yorkshire, the county’s cricket captain is a leading sports entrepreneur.

“I’m not the type of lad that just sat around in the winter playing on my Playstation,” says Andrew Gale, 27. “I wanted to do something extra.”

So, aged 20, he set up a coaching programme that began as two or three courses for local cricket clubs and has now blossomed into a national enterprise with an annual turnover of £500,000.

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“I didn’t envisage it getting to this stage,” concedes Gale, whose form for Yorkshire has earned him England Lions honours.

“I just saw it as something to keep me busy during the winter, but it‘s growing rapidly.

“In future years we’ve got plans to go into different sports as well. We’d like to set up ProCoach football, tennis, hockey.”

The company is ProCoach Cricket Academy, based across St Michael’s Lane from Headingley Carnegie, at the side of the Indoor Cricket Centre.

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Seven hundred and fifty children in Yorkshire have benefited from the programme this summer holidays alone – and this is their quiet season. The winter months are when an English cricketer’s hard yards are done. The company has six full-time staff, including former Yorkshire second XI cricketer Chris Brice, 28, and the managing director, ex-Yorkshire and Derbyshire player Chris Taylor, 30.

As well as involving himself in the financial side of the business, Gale is happy to roll up his sleeves and do some coaching, with a little help from his friends.

Gale says: “We try to involve the professionals as often as possible. (England’s Ashes winner) Tim Bresnan has done a few masterclasses in the winter.

“We’re hoping to get the likes of (former England bowler) Ryan Sidebottom involved. (Yorkshire team-mates) Joe Sayers, Anthony McGrath have done one-off sessions and Rich Pyrah is turning out to be a very good coach.”

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The success of the business has been aided by the people around him. While Gale was setting up his fledgling scheme as a young man, his future Yorkshire team-mate Taylor was coaching children in Derbyshire.

Gale added: “When Chris came back to Yorkshire we decided to merge our two companies to create ProCoach, and we now run academies all over England.

“There’s two separate sides of the business now, the national side and the Yorkshire side.

“The Yorkshire side of the business two years ago merged with the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation which is part of Yorkshire County Cricket Club and since then it’s been very successful.

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“We’re turning over close to half a million pounds this year.

“We probably cover more than 2,500 kids throughout the year. We’ve got a big winter programme which is probably bigger than the summer programme.

“When I first set up the company I just did it for local clubs, and I sold it as a way to get enthusiastic lads that have dropped out of the centre of excellence and pathways systems back into quality coaching.

“Since then we’ve catered for all needs, from beginners to lads who are on the verge of getting into the academy.

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“We’ve had a few lads who have gone into county cricket; Barney Gibson started with us at 11 and he made history this year at 15 as England’s youngest first-class cricketer.

“We’ve had Tom Knight who plays for Derbyshire. It was quite weird because I played against him this summer and I’m thinking ‘hang on I coached you two years ago, I better not get out to him’.”

Day-to -day management of the company is administered by Taylor, who just five years on from setting up his own coaching programme in Derbyshire, has become the business mastermind. He launched the equipment shop All Rounder from the same base, which allied with ProCoach has a combined turnover nearing £1m.

Gale said: “I attend monthly board meetings, but with my commitments pretty full on for Yorkshire, Chris (Taylor) runs it all.”

A key player in the scheme

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One of the key figures behind ProCoach Cricket Academy’s success has been Chris Brice, a cricketer who was one step away from county cricket before finding his true vocation.

Mr Brice added: “We try to mirror the coaching programme that the first team have.

“They are experiencing cricket coaching at the very top level from a very young age. We’re also coaching in schools, we were in 40 last year and we’ve got full-time contracts at Cundall Manor, York, and Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield.”

ProCoach has already expanded into corporate events. They have a contract with supermarket chain Morrisons, conducting more than 200 sessions nationwide.