Women and Girls legacy bowls over Newport Cricket Club

Sports:

Cricket

Location:

Newport

"To create a legacy dedicated to increasing female players is the most rewarding decision this club has ever made." Mike Knight, Head Coach Newport Cricket Club

175 years after its formation, Newport Cricket Club pledged to create real opportunities within the club for women. Now almost 5 years on, this legacy has delivered nationally capped players, trophy presentations at Lords and teams of enthusiastic cricket-loving school girls.

The secret behind the club's success; 'an environment built on trust and respect', advises club Head Coach Mike Knight, who with the assistance of his twin brother Dave made it a personal mission to give the women and girls of Newport an opportunity to get hooked on his favourite sport.

Back in 2009, the 175 year anniversary of Newport Cricket Club was seen as an ideal opportunity with the support of a Sport Wales Development Grant, to launch a legacy aimed at providing opportunities for women within the club.  Until this point the club had watched small numbers of girls playing alongside boys at a junior level, before having to quit the sport as they reached the age of sixteen, as the club did not have a senior women's team.

"We felt really guilty; there was nowhere for our girls to go as they got older.  We were one of the bigger clubs in the region so knew that we had to lead by example, hence our anniversary provided a brilliant opportunity to start a legacy aimed at addressing this really important issue" recalls Mike.

Although initial promotional pushes to recruit females offered disappointing turnouts Mike and the team did not let this deter them.  Passionate about getting more girls involved, the club soon learned that talking to their target audience, gaining their trust and support would quickly see growing numbers of new starters as word of mouth spread.

Mike explains:

"One thing that we quickly realised was that if we got it right, we didn't lose the girls after the initial sessions, they stayed, and they were keen and committed to becoming cricket players.  They then told their friends, and parents told other parents and we haven't stopped growing since."

A key philosophy of the club has been to treat new female players as equals to boys.  Girls have dedicated training sessions, but are often asked to showcase skills and techniques that they are mastering well to their male counterparts and vice-versa, breeding a club full of mutual respect.

A number of fine tunings to the delivery of training sessions has also helped Newport Cricket Club work successfully with women and girls.  Rather than competing with other commitments that girls had of evenings and weekends, training sessions are organised via group consensus (including parents for younger teams).  Training also carries on throughout the winter months to keep interest and motivation high.

Now with over 70 regular female players, full squads between the age ranges of U11 to U15s and a full women's team, numerous trophies at national and league level (including 2 teams crowned as UK champions in 2013), 19 girls gaining Welsh caps and quite a few title holdings over predominantly male leagues, Newport Cricket Club has a strong future ahead of it in women's cricket.  The club has turned around the face of cricket in the area offering community opportunities and real progression options.

How they did it…

Prioritise

The creation of a women and girls section was made a priority at the club led by the clubs head coach and bought into by all members.  When the initial promotional push wasn't an instant success this ensured that the club remained focussed on its ambitions looking at alternative methods. 

A huge emphasis was also put on reassuring new female players of the clubs commitment to their future opportunities.  They were as important as any of the male players and were made to feel like this from the off.

Trust and Respect

A philosophy throughout the club seeing female members as equal at every level meant that new players quickly regarded Newport Cricket Club, as their club.  Sharing of skills and techniques with male counterparts facilitated a mutual respect between all players.

Where junior members were concerned, effort was put into building relationships and generating trust with parents.  As a new venture the club often held meetings with this group, sourcing feedback and consensus, which also led to new volunteers and more male members as Dads and brothers got involved too.

Recruitment Activities

Newport Cricket Club undertook a number of initiatives to help recruit new female players initially. These included; annual junior schools cricket festivals, girls only taster days and weekly girls only coaching sessions.

Making it Sustainable

The club had a clear 5 year development plan, outlining growth stages at key milestones.  Youth teams were initially developed to allow progression through leagues at every age group, feeding players into a now very successful women's team.

Training was also supplemented with coaching provision, as girls became older they were given the option to train as coaches and support younger teams.

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