After an enormously positive season of women’s cricket at both domestic and international levels, the development of the grassroots game in Scotland has also received a significant boost. Dynamos, the latest phase of the ECB’s programme to inspire the next generation of cricketers, gives youngsters of between eight and eleven the chance to continue down the path first established through All Stars in 2017. With plenty of role models on hand to show that #ShePlaysCricket, too, the first year of the new initiative has given plenty of cause for excitement.
Cricket Scotland Development Officers Katie McGill and Elliot Rousen worked in conjunction with Edinburgh South CC.
“The programme at Edinburgh South was run through Cricket Scotland, which meant I had both my club and work hats on at the same time,” said Katie. “Funding was secured for up to a hundred places, so we had essentially unlimited places for free all-girls Dynamos at Inch Park for a block of time in the summer.
“The club hadn’t really provided anything for girls in that age group before, certainly not something that was separate to the boys, so it was really exciting in that sense for it to be pushing that initiative and building on the good work with the younger cohort that Colin Mills had already been doing for a number of years.
“We decided that we wanted to look for participants from outside the existing cricket community,” the Scotland international continued, “so we looked at routes through Active Schools and got some great support from the coordinators. A couple of schools invited us in to do assemblies and we spent an afternoon in the Cameron Toll shopping centre, which has become an ongoing support link: we’ve now got some funding from them to help us get some women’s kit. We also reached out to local mosques, churches and other community hubs that weren’t affiliated to cricket, and the outcome of that was that we got 38 girls signed up, less than half a dozen of whom had ever played cricket before.
“Next week we start an indoor block. We’ve used Dynamos as a launch pad to get an eight-to-eleven-year-old section started, so we’re going to keep using the Dynamos structure, build on the exercises we’ve already done and then hopefully make them part of the club, to slowly transition away from the programme being Cricket Scotland-run to entirely club-run.”
Westquarter & Redding and Stewart’s Melville Cricket Clubs have also added girls-only Dynamos sessions to their existing work.
“We had about 14 girls in all,” said W&R’s Stephen Shorten, “four girls who had already come along to the club, another four who had been to All Stars but hadn’t gone on beyond that, and six who were brand new to the club. We were really happy with how it went, and we’re continuing with girls-only sessions over the winter.
“About five girls felt confident enough to join our mixed junior section, but others are keen to carry on girls-only, and we’ve had contact from a few more parents inquiring about the winter sessions as well. We have about 14 again for those, which we’re running in November and December.”
“We were looking for an angle to try and build our girls’ softball cricket, and the ECB were offering girls-only programmes as part of Dynamos,” said Dave Gibson of Stewart’s Melville. “With all the admin done centrally, it’s an easy way to start something new: the decision for us was, let’s go for this, but the ECB take care of all of the registration side of things and provide videos of the activities on their website, which for a lot of the younger coaches coming through is really helpful. What really caught on was six-a-side, which allowed much more time on task, less standing around doing nothing.
“As a club we have quite a lot of links with the Mary Erskine School,” he went on, “but we had about 30 sign-ups who came from eight different schools. We were also able to play some matches, finishing in a Wee Bash at the end of the season which was fantastic: they all got a chance to play with their mates, and it was a very positive experience for all of us.”
“We partnered up with Callander CC and their girls section, the Valkyries, and the first hardball game we played as a combined women and girls’ team was against Stewart’s Melville up at Bailliefields,” said Stephen. “We played Carlton later on as well: it was all about getting them an opportunity to play.
“We had four girls who were older and about five who were just starting hardball, so that’s why I’m particularly happy with how Dynamos has gone, because it’s given us several more girls who will be ready for hardball cricket in the next few years as well.”
But perhaps the most important aspect of all in building to the future was the ready input of the more established players at each club. You have to see it to be it, as Billie Jean King first said, and with plenty of female cricketers on hand to show the next stage of development, that maxim became a cornerstone of their Dynamos experience.
“We are really fortunate in that the four girls who are 15, 16, are very interested in helping the club,” said Stephen. “Anya Wortley helped with our All Stars as well as our disability programme, while Areesa Aslam and Katie and Khloe Misell did the Level One online coaching course that [Cricket Scotland Women and Girls’ Development Manager] Rosy Ryan organised together with Susan Robertson, who also did the all-female online umpiring course. She’s been helping us coach the Dynamos as well.
“Having a mix of girls and boys is really important because it gives you that diversity as a club, but one thing that the all-girl sessions have encouraged is a willingness to try things, to have a go in the all-girl atmosphere. We always encourage players to hit it as hard as they can, but the response might have been that they can’t do it: a bit of encouragement, though, and they’re hitting the ball really well and seeing for themselves that they can.
“The willingness of the girls to try and get more involved has definitely helped their confidence, even amongst those who were already in the mixed sessions.”
“Elliot led our sessions,” said Katie, “and we also had Ramona Kallamadi come along, who is a qualified coach, but we also had Catherine Holland, Chloe Kiely and Clara Sablitzi who have all just done their Level One. It was awesome for the girls to be led primarily by other females, but they didn’t even think about that: it was just, girls do cricket. The three of them were fantastic with the group and they all became super-attached to it, so that was a bit of a lucky win as well.”
Stew-Mel captain Catherine was involved with the Inverleith club’s programme, too.
“We ran our Dynamos on a Thursday evening because that’s when our older girls practised as well, so they were playing hardball at the same time,” said Dave. “That was so the Dynamos could see what was next, the pathway and the fact that lots of other girls were playing. Catherine was keen to help, which was great because this is about role models, about youngsters seeing the people who are not many years older than them playing cricket. For Catherine’s own development it was good, but it was excellent that as captain of our women’s club she was involved in running these sessions in which the girls could see her, talk to her, and get to know her.
“It was really important to have young people involved in it,” he concluded. “They don’t need to worry about having a Level Three or a Level Two coaching qualification: it’s about participation, enthusiasm, and getting kids playing.
“That’s the key to it, really.”