Lorna Upton explores the journey for St Chad’s Broomfield Cricket Club as they sought to establish and then grow their women and girls’ section.
St Chad’s Broomfield Cricket Club first set up a dedicated women and girls’ section in early 2017. With funding and support from the Yorkshire Sport Foundation, the Club slowly gathered a handful of women, most of whom possessed little or no prior cricketing experience.
Since then, the team has more than doubled in size and now participate in the Yorkshire Women & Girls’ Cricket League (YWGCL), ECB National Women’s Club T20 Competition and the 365 Sport Leeds Indoor Cricket Leagues.
When the Club initially introduced a women’s section, we hosted three Women’s Soft Ball Cricket Festivals in 2017 and 2018 – jointly organised with the Yorkshire Cricket Foundation (YCF) – which were instrumental in gaining momentum.
In June 2018, the team played their first competitive game (above) against Cottingham CC as part of the ECB National Women’s Club T20 Plate Competition.
Although we did not win, it was fantastic for everyone to have the opportunity to play competitively after more than a year of regular training. This spurred on the decision to take the plunge and join the Yorkshire Women & Girls’ Cricket League for the 2019 season.
The YWGCL offers formats and divisions to suit almost all clubs, players and standards. Our club decided to enter both the Super 8s competition and Division 2.
Women and girls’ cricket – Super 8s
With Super 8s being pairs cricket and Division 2 being the more traditional format (ranging between 20 and 30 overs), this provided playing opportunities for all of our players, helping to inspire confidence and encouraging their differing abilities and interests.
Playing our league fixtures on Sundays allows for the women who wish to play mixed 40+ over cricket on Saturdays for one of our five teams to do so, as well as also being invited to join our midweek Last Man Stands sides.
This has recently led to women taking captain and vice-captain roles within two of these seven teams.
Women in club management roles
As a club, our priority is to provide as many playing and training opportunities as possible to all of our members, with complete inclusivity.
The Club have periodically had women in management roles long before the women and girls’ section was introduced.
Since then we have had female-representation on our Management Committee and in a Deputy Club Welfare Officer position as of 2018 and 2020 respectively.
As well as a varied summer calendar, in January 2019 we entered the 365 Sport Leeds Indoor Cricket Winter League and subsequently, the 2020 Autumn Indoor League.
Although playing against predominantly all-male teams, it has been invaluable to have the ability to offer cricket all year round and increase opportunities to improve skills and understanding of the game on a smaller scale.
After winning our first league game at the end of the 2019 season, we awaited 2020 with great anticipation. Unfortunately, our competitive ambitions were suspended as the YWGCL 2020 fixture list was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
All was not lost, however, and the Club had a number of positives in 2020. Some new members joined our ranks, we arranged several friendly games and also gained two new female ECB-qualified Level II player-coaches to train the squad weekly.
Setting up and progressing a women and girls’ section at the Club has never been plain-sailing and there have been a number of difficulties arising along the way that we have tried to overcome.
Some are out of our control and are nationwide, if not worldwide, issues regarding women’s cricket.
One concern is that the often-extensive travel required for matches, due to low numbers of women’s teams on a broader geographical scale, can deter women from playing due to the greater time commitment involved.
Moreover, the women’s game has historically had a more limited club-feeder system than the men’s. Following programmes such as Chance to Shine, it has generally been routine for girls to enter only the county, rather than also the club structure.
I understand that the ECB are attempting to address this issue through some new initiatives. Hopefully, the lack of girls-only pathways at a domestic level will cease to be a barrier to girls playing cricket in the future with these in place.
Need more teams based on ability
Unlike men’s teams at club level, where there is almost always a team for them to slot into based on their ability, it is rare to have such luxury within the women’s game.
Very few squads have more than one team and so the mix of abilities and interests gives the Club issues to contend with.
Meeting the coaching needs for all players simultaneously can be a balancing act. Although beginners can directly benefit from the knowledge and skills of the more experienced members, approaching training sessions with more flexibility, such as splitting into smaller groups and offering one-to-one support, has proved to be invaluable.
The recent ECB directives and associated funding streams focussing on the growth of women and girls’ cricket across the country, alongside the impending building of our new pavilion – with dedicated women’s changing facilities – should support St Chad’s being one of the pioneers to help pave the way in the future of women and girls’ cricket.
Currently we are working hard to increase the number of girls in our junior section for the upcoming season and beyond.
We have some talented junior girl players already and the ultimate goal would to be able to offer them both mixed cricket and girls-only, creating a pathway into our senior teams.
For the 2021 season we will be launching the ECB’s new Dynamos scheme at the Club as a dedicated programme for girls aged 8-11 in the hope that this inspires more girls to take up and continue playing cricket.
The eventual goal at St Chad’s would be to have a Women’s 2nd XI as well as 1st XI, with the former being more development-based, focussing on an introduction to hard-ball cricket in addition to playing soft-ball, and the latter for more experienced players with a desire to concentrate on competitive league cricket.
As a club, we are always looking for new women and girls to join us, irrespective of ability or age. Our current women’s squad comprises of beginners to experienced, aged fourteen to fifty.
So, whether you are looking for a club for your child or you are interested in joining us yourself, please do not hesitate to contact Chairman Paul Berry, at [email protected] or on 07795 154444 to sign up for a free trial session or to ask any questions.
Thanks to Lorna for that insight into how St Chad’s Broomfield grew girls and women’s cricket at their club. All the best to them as they seek to expand and offer new opportunities.