Behind any successful sports team nowadays, there is support staff working hard all year round to make sure that the players are in peak condition every time they get ready for action.
And in the shape of Strength & Conditioning Coach, Charlotte Dalton, and Mental Skills Coach, Stephen Leckey, the Scotland Women’s national cricket team have a duo who have become key parts of what Head Coach, Steve Knox, and the players are aiming to achieve.
Later this month the Wildcats have their ICC Women’s World T20 European Qualifier fixtures in La Manga, Spain, against Germany and the Netherlands.
As well as providing solid warm-up for tests to come later in the summer, the team finishing top in this event will also go through to the final stage of qualifying for the 2021 ICC Women’s World Cup in the 50-over format next year.
Those T20 matches on June 26, 27 and 29 will be closely followed by a T20 Quadrangular Series in the Netherlands between August 8 and 14.
There the Scots will face the hosts, Ireland and Thailand before the big one – the ICC Women’s World T20 World Qualifier between August 31 and September 7.
All the matches will take place at Arbroath CC or Forfarshire CC and, featuring eight teams, the tournament is the final qualifier for the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup to be held in Australia in February and March next year.
With so much cricket to come in 2019, that is where people like Dalton and Leckey come in handy throughout the year.
Having played for the Wildcats ‘A’ team as recently as last summer, it is perhaps no surprise that Dalton is enjoying her Strength & Conditioning role with Kathryn Bryce’s squad.
“Cricket has always been one of the sports that I have loved and I always wanted to stay involved when I moved to Scotland from England,” Dalton, who played for Brighton & Hove for three seasons after university, said.
“I moved north about five years ago now to study Sports and Exercise Science and Medicine MSc at the University of Glasgow, so I am quite well established in the women’s cricketing community up here and I knew most of the Wildcats players before I took on this role so that has helped.
“This is my second season with the team having worked with them since January 2018.
“At first it was a bit daunting to come in and work with a squad where I knew all of the players either as team mates or as opponents, but everyone made it easy for me to fit in and knew that I was with them to do a specific job.
“I wanted my professionalism to take precedence in the role and it has worked really well working under Steve Knox and the other coaches.”
With an increased workload in terms of matches over the last couple of years, and with all of the Wildcats balancing cricket with other commitments, Dalton’s role in getting them ready to play regular top level games has been very important.
“All of the players have been brilliant when it has come to buying into what I am bringing to the table,” she explained.
“They were all adamant that they wanted to raise their standards in terms of fitness levels and they knew that to do that they would have to put in the hard yards.
“The standards they set have been player led and my job has been to design and implement a programme with short, medium and long-term targets that will result in the desired improvements. This will hopefully help the team when they go into the upcoming tournaments.
“We had excellent results last season, everyone passed the fitness criteria tests and we have definitely kicked on from there.
“There is a big geographical spread in terms of where the players are based and that has been a bit of a challenge, but when we are together as a group we make the most of the time that we have together and when the players are at home they are very diligent in following the programmes we have set for them.
“I think the players are in great shape heading into La Manga and I am excited to see how they get on.”
Originally from Ireland, Leckey currently plays rugby union for Glasgow Hawks and has previously played cricket.
He is a sports psychology consultant who is currently studying for a PhD at the University of Glasgow.
“This is my second season being involved with the Wildcats after Steve Knox got in touch and was keen to tap into my knowledge as I work on a PhD in mental toughness,” he explained.
“He felt that the squad could benefit from some help in that area and we started off by working through the MAC [Mindfulness-Acceptance-Commitment] Approach.
“Commitment was a big one when it came to the squad because, due to the number of matches and events that there were last summer, they had to be willing to make sacrifices and put in the hard yards needed to succeed.
“After the season last year the squad felt that working on bravery and taking risks was the next step for them on their journey ahead of the big competitions in 2019.
“A lot of the support in recent months has been about knowing when to take risks when you are out there on the field so to work on that we have done numerous things.
“We took the squad to [outdoor adventure centre] Go Ape and for some that was a big step out of their comfort zone. The squad presented to the group on times in their lives that they have been brave.
“They have shared some great things and for some of the younger members of the squad even just getting up in front of the group and presenting has shown their bravery is growing.
“The coaches want to give the players the opportunities to be brave when it comes to their cricket. They will all have doubts from time to time, but I think there is now a lot more clarity around when to take risks with the bat and when the situation is right to try things.”
In any team environment the language used is vital to harnessing a feel good factor and Leckey is loving working with the other support staff to make that a reality with the Wildcats.
“If players hear or read negative noises all the time then that means they are likely to doubt themselves, but if the language used in getting messages across is positive and bravery is rewarded then they will flourish,” he explained.
“We are seeing that within this group now and I believe the players are in great place ahead of their big games to come.”
Scotland Women’s squad for the ICC Women’s World T20 European Qualifier
Kathryn Bryce (c) – Eagles, Watsonian CC, Warwickshire
Sarah Bryce (wk) (vc) – Eagles, Watsonian CC, Nottinghamshire
Priyanaz Chatterji – Stormers, Forfarshire CC, Surrey
Katherine Fraser – Eagles, Stew Mel/Edinburgh South CC
Becky Glen – Stormers, Durham
Sam Haggo – Eagles, Carlton CC
Lorna Jack – Stormers, Stirling County CC, PSOS CC
Abtaha Maqsood – Stormers, West of Scotland CC
Megan McColl – Stormers, Arbroath United CC
Katie McGill – Eagles, Edinburgh South CC
Hannah Rainey – Eagles, Carlton CC
Rachel Scholes – Stormers, West of Scotland CC
Charis Scott – Eagles, Gala CC
Ruth Willis – Eagles, Carlton CC