Photo: Saffron is second from left, Vanessa is third from left
By Catherine Caunce
We Don’t Like Cricket, Oh No, We Love it!
Be under no illusion, women and girls play cricket too.
Uptake of the sport is growing at an astonishing rate – and there’s plenty of space left for you to join in too!
Amidst the excitement of both the Men’s and Women’s Ashes, back here in grassroots club-land, the cricket season rages on in the most charming way.
The women and girls’ leagues are alive with vibrant competition, enthusiastic participation and the spirit of everything cricket. Women and girls are giving cricket everything they’ve got and in return the sport yields friendship, a feeling of wellness and unbridled revelry and fun. What more can you ask from your summer?
Not much we hear you say. So, why not read on and find out just how much this incredible sport could do for you.
We’re following the Women and Girls’ teams at Colton Cricket Club, East Leeds. They’re making their way through the West Yorkshire Women’s and Girls’ Cricket League. The teams want to welcome you wholeheartedly as they make their debut in new leagues. But, they also want you to find the confidence to take your first steps into cricket if the sport appeals to you, that’s why they want you to know, Mums Play Cricket too!
Our women and girls are talking to you today so you can read about the way in which cricket is growing their confidence, building camaraderie and establishing strong resilience and determination in them all.
Meet the players……..
So, we start with the inspirational Saffron. Cricket, for her, started as a distraction from pandemic lockdowns. Her mum would take her on a Friday evening so they could stretch their legs and enjoy fun with others. Neither Saffron nor her mum had any idea what natural talent she had at that point. Back then, it was just a Friday night escape from Covid19.
Friday nights soon led to an invitation to join the mixed under 9’s group and soon after, in 2021 the under 11’s girls’ team beckoned. Saffron is a natural cricketer. She's brave, determined and skilful, yet humble and self-depreciating. She’s a fierce batter with strength and power that could blow your socks off. She’s also quick on her feet and bowled an admirable amount of wickets.
Saffron plays for the Girls Under 11’s, the Girls Under 13’s, and stands in for the Under 9’s if needed. And, to top it all off, she also has taken up her bat for the women’s team too. Saffron was selected into the Under 11’s Yorkshire Girls’ pathway squad where she trained weekly in the winter months. The coaches at the club have absolute certainty that if she keeps working with determination, resilience and fortitude, she will find her permanent place on that team in the near future. What an incredible cricketing CV at such a young age!
In the summer of 2022, during one of the hottest days of the year, she hit so many sixes, not just over the boundary line but over the brick wall that surrounded the cricket field, one of our coaches had to stand in the road in an attempt to catch them. Dodging cricket balls and cars, it was a white knuckle ride! Over and over they went – even the adults watching wanted to be stood in Saffron’s shoes that day! This resoundingly brilliant commitment and skill earned her Colton Cricket Club’s first ever Eric Precious Award. A prestigious trophy that’s open to any junior cricketer at the club. What an honour to receive it before anyone else!
When we spoke to her about cricket and how it makes her feel, this is what she said:
“Cricket makes me feel joyful, triumphant and I really enjoy it. The words that come to mind when I think about cricket are, wickets, bowling and sixes. My favourite part of cricket is working with my team and supporting one another. I have learnt that I underestimate myself and what I can do, because my teammates point out the things I am doing well before I realise my strengths myself. This makes me believe in myself more than I did before I played cricket and I am learning not to underestimate what I am able to do. It’s funny because even my school friends have realised that I am good at cricket and now, if we play at school, everyone wants to get me out!
My advice to girls who are thinking about taking up cricket is to find a club and go for a play. Just give it a try. Even if you find that it’s hard or you don’t feel that you’re that good, keep going. You might just be underestimating yourself like I did!”
Meet the ladies…..
Now, because this is a women and girls cricket blog, and because we want you to realise that our young people inspired their mums to join in and play too, we’ve caught up with Saffron’s mum, Vanessa. As is often the case, Vanessa got more involved at the club when she was asked to help run the girls Dynamos sessions in the spring of 2022. She was approached by the club’s Andy Scholes about setting up the first ever women’s team at Colton. When he first sent her the text she replied with a single laughing emoji! Now, she plays on the Women’s team. They’re enjoying their fourth win from five games, and Vanessa has been instrumental in each victory. This is her cricketing story:
"When Andy Scholes first told me his vision was to set up a women’s team too, I just laughed at him. But then he said, “haven’t you ever dreamt of playing cricket with your daughter?”
My reply to begin with was, “I’ve only ever dreamt of spa days and shopping, not batting and bowling.” But, he’d got me! I knew then I wanted that chance with Saffron.
I knew some of the other women who were going to join the team, because their children went to school with mine, but not all of them. I’ve found that I’ve grown really close to the women in the team and it’s great that we’re all so different but so similar when we’re playing cricket together. I’ve grown to love the club too and we come together because of cricket but also because we’re our own little community. People go out of their way to help one another here.
I’ve learnt a lot about myself since I started playing. I realise that I am really competitive, I’m faster on my feet than I ever gave myself credit for and I really want to learn the craft of cricketing. Winning is addictive, I play to win every game.
As a team, we’ve come such a long way. We started off hoping to just win one game at a festival at Collingham CC last year. We surprised ourselves by taking the first game, and then the next and the next. Before we knew it, we were the festival winners. I think that’s when we all got bitten with the cricketing bug. We liked the taste of victory. We’ve played against some amazing women and learnt much from watching them play and understanding how we play against them. We were lucky enough to have former professional Courtney Winfield-Hill working with us. She has taught us so much about the craft of cricket and game play. It’s made a big difference to how I see myself and the way I play.
It’s funny because Saffron’s been my greatest teacher so the parent/child roles have been reversed. I like that too. She’s inspired me. I’d never ever have been playing cricket without her starting here first. She’s my greatest critic but my proudest champion and I love her for that"
What we’ve learnt from talking to the women and girls is that being part of a team drives them all massively. The other thing that’s been glaringly obvious is that supporting the team overrides egos and the will to win at all costs. And, when we live in a time of crippling mental health concerns devoting time to something that makes you feel good, broadens your friendship groups and develops your confidence can only be a good thing. Cricket is not only good for your physical health – it’s good for your soul too.