In the last few weeks of summer, Angus has been fortunate to host the ICC Women’s International T20 World Cup Qualifier, that has seen eight teams from around the world descend upon the county to compete. Although we were interested in the event itself, one of the focuses the Young Scot Media wanted to report on is the struggles women in sport face and what is being done to encourage more girls and women to participate in the game. Over the course of two days, we were fortunate to speak to a number of women who are all involved in cricket one way or another.
We started the week meeting with two of the players on the Scottish team; Megan McColl from Arbroath and Abbey Aitken Drummond from Montrose. Both girls started playing cricket at a young age but got involved in different ways. Megan‘s own family were interested in sport and her sister played cricket with her. She started playing cricket through the local Arbroath club and simply never stopped. Abbey tells us that she was very sporty as a child and liked to play rugby, football, squash, and badminton. One day, a local cricket coach came to her primary school, introducing the sport to her class and Abbey was naturally good at it and decided to get involved in the local cricket club at the age of 10. None of her family had partook in the sport and Abbey herself had never watched it or played, so it was a new experience for her. But for both girls, their family’s support has been key to their success in the sport.
One interesting thing to note is that all the women we interviewed have, at some point, played for men’s cricket teams due to a lack of opportunity for women’s cricket. However, we’re beginning to see a bit of a change in women’s sport. Neither of us are particularly sporty, but we do believe in equal opportunities and it is encouraging to see more media coverage of women’s sport. Abbey says this increased coverage of women’s’ sport is very beneficial to young girls as “the more you see it, the more you want to be it.”
We spoke to Jennifer McGregor, who played cricket for Scotland and was the opening bowler for the Scottish Ladies Team, who feels there has been a lot of changes since the 20 years that she started. When asked why this might be, she told us there seemed to be more opportunities and the training had improved. There is also a lot more opportunity to go abroad within the sport for matches, which makes it more appealing for girls to join.
Nik Wilson, who has been involved in the sport for a number of years in various ways, and is now the Head of Participation for Cricket Scotland, tells us that, despite cricket being her work, she remains very passionate about it and says she is very lucky to have her hobby as her work. Part of her job is to encourage more girls into cricket and as part of this role, she helped developed the CrickHIIT programme (which stands for High Intensity Interval Training), She’s also created a Women’s Softball Cricket initiative. She thinks that this is the best way to get girls playing cricket, because it emphasises fun rather than skill. Susan Bruce from Forthill Cricket Club has first-hand experience of the CrickHIIT project. It’s a high intensity exercise programme that teaches cricket skills. Susan decided to take part in this initiative as she thought it was difficult to get girls to play cricket but an avenue to getting them into the sport was through fitness: “pushing the participation rather than the performance immediately gives people the opportunity to be included.” The enterprise took off and she now has 22 registered members partaking in CrickHIIT on Friday evenings. She mentions that many age ranges are included in this, from mums and daughters to women aged around 45.
We asked Nik what she thought organisations such as schools and clubs could do to get girls involved in the sport, she told us that Cricket Scotland have a network of development officers that are available on their website and they can help schools introduce programmes for girls. They also have a Curriculum for Excellence cricket programme aimed at primary schools and are trying to get the CrickHIIT programmes introduce in schools through PE teachers. Even though it’s designed for women and girls, Nik says that it can be for anyone with an interest in cricket if introduced in schools.
We also spoke to Graham Hewitson, who oversees the running of the local Strathmore Cricket Club. We asked him about what he thought local clubs could do to encourage young girls to pursue cricket. Graham first informed us that there are 7 cricket clubs in Dundee and Angus. Only one of them, however, has a female only section (the club in Forfarshire, if you’re wondering), which is very new, as it only started a couple of months ago. He said that his aim was to get a girls group established at each of these clubs. One of the problems, he cited, that girls had with pursuing cricket is that it is very much a male dominated sport and the facilities provided for girls were not as good as they could be, such as changing rooms and showers. He feels clubs could do more to encourage girls to join.
When we asked those we interviewed if they had any advice for young girls interested in playing cricket, they all had very positive things to say. Megan said that, although it may look like a boring sport, they should definitely get involved because it can be really fun and it’s not all about the sport; it’s a great social experience that you can make many friends from. Abbey said that they should “go for it… and have fun.”
Jennifer, Susan and Nik all said to ‘just do it’, because playing cricket is an amazing experience, that ‘s not just about sport, but also about making friends and supporting each other, building a sense of teamwork and community. Graham’s closing remarks were “Give it a go. I’m confident that all the clubs in this area would be happy to have girls play.”
So, as you can probably tell, the overall sentiment is that, although being a woman and playing sport can be a challenge, you shouldn’t give into the pressure that says not do to it. The best thing you can do is just give it a go!
By Ashley Pannell and Ellie Prouse