Pitching for new female players at Anston Cricket Club

Could you be the next Heather Knight, Charlotte Edwards or Katherine Brunt?

After celebrating their 100th anniversary last year, Anston Cricket Club is hoping to carry the bat into the next century by encouraging more women and girls to take up the sport.

With a national interest in women’s sports continuing to gain momentum, and genuine career paths and professional contracts now readily available for female athletes, the team at Anston CC are leading the way in regional cricket to help change the game and level the playing field.

During the club’s long innings, women have been involved for the past 25 years following a charity game organised by Janet King which first set the ball rolling.

After joining the club in the 1970s, helping with administration tasks when her husband started playing at Anston, Janet persuaded a team of her colleagues from Bassetlaw Hospital to play in a one-off charity game at the club – most of whom had never played cricket before or were privy to the rule book.

The idea of having a women’s team took off from there, with long-serving club members, Alan Vollans and Frank Holding, being instrumental in the research and development of the female squad along with coaching the players.

Originally, the team was mostly made up of more mature women.

“It’s harder to learn a skill the older you are so it took some time to develop the players, but we’ve also worked hard as a club to encourage younger women and girls to join us.

“It can be difficult to keep women playing, especially those with families as most assume cricket is a time-consuming sport. But we’ve made changes at Anston to reflect that and encourage the whole family to get involved,” Janet says.

Anston has the widest spread offer of girls’ cricket in South Yorkshire, starting with their All Stars programme aimed at five to eight-year-olds, to the mixed-sex junior teams, and various womens teams playing in the Yorkshire Women & Girls Cricket League.

For those who may be new to the sport or want to build confidence, they also have a Super 8’s team which encourages player development and inclusion through a relaxed fun format

“Super 8’s is great because not everyone is ready to bat or bowl continually for 30 overs like in Division 1, but it means everyone gets a go and is constantly involved in the game. Players also see opportunity for progression as the two senior teams play and train alongside each other as one and players do switch between the two teams,” Janet says.

They are also looking to start a softball team for those who may be intimidated by the thought of playing with a traditional hard ball.

The female teams are coordinated by Kelly Harding who returned to the club six years ago to regenerate women’s cricket.

Kelly first started playing cricket aged three on the sands at Scarborough, following in the footsteps of her father who played cricket locally in Rotherham. She was coached by Alan Vollans as a junior and has since gone on to become a league co-ordinator, all while being a busy working mum of two.

“Our senior teams are made up of a wide variety of women from teenagers to those married with children and grandmothers. We know from our own experience how hard it can be juggling commitments so we make a great effort to listen to the team and consider what they’d like to see happen and overcome any barriers they may have,” Kelly says.

As they attract players from all over the borough, from Barnsley to Blyth, Anston to Huddersfield, during the winter they train at Horizon College in Barnsley as it’s the most accessible place for everyone.

Ladies fixtures are played on Sundays which allows any of the ladies wanting to play in the men’s teams to do so, but also helps work around childcare and work commitments for some.

With a range of women and girls involved from teenagers to those in their late 50s, they also want to make sure everyone feels comfortable so gone are the traditional cricket whites, replaced by a modern navy kit.

In women’s cricket girls can start playing with the senior team from the age of 13, or school Y8, and Kelly and the team at Anston are working hard to drum up interest in local schools.

“We still have a lot of work to do in terms of encouraging more women and girls to give cricket a go and remove the label of cricket being a man’s sport.

“The message we try and tell the schoolkids is that girls can be what they want to be. It doesn’t matter to us if the teenagers come in a full face of makeup if it makes them feel more comfortable. To us it is more important that they’re doing some form of activity and being part of a team which is great for their self-esteem,” Janet says.

The only boundaries are the ones on the cricket pitch.

For more information about Anston Cricket Club and how to get involved in the women’s and girls’ teams, email Kelly at womenandgirlscricket@anstoncc.co.uk or see their website for full training times and contact details.