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UK Coaching Team
28
Self-care and development

Why We Need to Make a Commitment to Get More Women into Cricket Coaching

Kent Cricket Under-15 Girls Performance Head Coach Lucy Arman says that attending the ECB Advanced Coach programme had “opened up my eyes that actually there is a career out there for female cricket coaches”. She summarises her positive learning experience to Blake Richardson and provides some candid insight into why it is vital the sport attracts more female coaches

Three national lockdowns may have forced this year’s schedule to be extended beyond its usual six-month duration, but Lucy already knows – before attending the face-to-face modules in Derbyshire, and completing the applied coaching activities – that the Advanced Coach programme has been a game-changer for her career.

That Lucy is able to juggle a full-time job as a PE teacher at Simon Langton Grammar School for Girls in Canterbury, with her part-time coaching role at Kent Cricket and her own coaching business – Girls Performance Cricket, of which she is the founder and head coach – is a clear indication of her drive and ambition.

Her time on the programme has further stirred her ambitions and quenched her thirst for knowledge whilst, significantly, given her the opportunity and the confidence to achieve her principal goal, which is to make coaching her full-time career.

“The experience so far has been so positive and beneficial,” says Lucy. “One of the things I’ve enjoyed the most is the connection with other experienced coaches. I’ve learnt so much just from talking to and getting to know all of them.

“Being able to bounce ideas off the few of us that work in the girls’ and women’s game has also been really useful.

I was expecting the course to be very technical and tactical, but it has been more around you as a person and how the relationship with your players is more important than ‘this is how you hold your bat’, ‘this is how you bowl the ball’ and I’ve found this interesting and illuminating.”

Valuable lessons learned

The easing of restrictions and phased return to cricket has given Lucy the opportunity to start putting her newfound knowledge into practice.

Her excitement at the prospect of this practical implementation was, however, quickly eclipsed by the thrill of witnessing the positive outcomes of her newly-refined coaching methods.

For example, she says the programme has taught her the tremendous benefits of giving her players greater autonomy and control over their learning.  

I’ve learnt so many new things on the course. My coaching style before starting the course was quite direct. There was a lot of me telling the girls to do such and such. It’s made me appreciate the importance of questioning, and exactly how and when to ask questions; allowing the girls the exposure to try things out and encouraging them to take control of the conversation.”

Lucy has utilised this method of encouraging ownership to create independent thinkers in other ways, notably to help develop a team culture within her county squad.

Being on the Advanced Coach programme has given her the confidence to adapt and evolve her methods for developing collective responsibility. She says she now recognises the importance of integrating the players’ parents as “part of the team”.

“My communication with my girls is always very honest. So, at the beginning of the season I will always set out my expectations. And this is another thing I learnt on the course: that, when you coach young players, you should do this with the parents as well, as you need their buy-in too. If you set your expectations and your standards at the beginning, then there should never really be any problems.

“During lockdown, when we had to meet with our players a lot online, we created our team culture. Me and my other coaches didn’t have a say in it; the girls came up with six or seven points about what their culture was going to be. For example, one of them was positivity, another was fun and enjoyment, and we then shared that culture with the parents and said ‘this is what your daughters have agreed, this is their culture. We are going to work alongside that. If any of you have anything to say, then please let us know.

It was important the girls did that themselves. Before I learnt about ownership on the course, I probably would have posed some ideas myself.”

Thriving in a man’s world

While Lucy does not lack confidence, she is aware that this is a barrier preventing more women from entering the male-dominated environment of coaching.

“I have coached a lot of boys and men in the past, and I used to get nervous sometimes, because you think they are not going to respect you because you’re a girl. I’ve been in that situation where, from a confidence point of view, it can be quite daunting to go into a male environment as a female.

“On the programme there was around 20 guys and just three girls, and at the start it was quite overpowering. ‘Should I say something, or should I stay quiet?’. By the second or third classroom my attitude was, ‘we’re all here to learn and get the most out of the course, so I’m going to give my opinion.’

“So while I would say that confidence and self-esteem is a challenge, I would also say that by attending this programme, I now feel, not like a different coach, but that I have much more confidence in myself with what I’m delivering, and do not worry about what others are going to say.

“It’s opened up my eyes that actually there is a career out there for female cricket coaches – where in the past I don’t think that was necessarily the case.

I’m now passionate after attending the course to hopefully get a career in coaching. By talking to people and recognising the level I’m at with my coaching now, it’s given me the confidence to go for it.”

See it; be it: Role models key to gender diversity

Another challenge that acts as a barrier to women getting into coaching is the dearth of female role models in the sport.

This is something that resonates with Lucy, who says she had no role model to look up to when she was growing up playing county cricket.

For males, you are always going to see men playing cricket on TV and, if you go to most clubs, probably 95% of the coaches are going to be male. I still don’t feel there are enough female role models out there and it is vital that younger girls especially see more women playing and coaching cricket, because seeing someone like them acts as a motivation and an inspiration.

“Things are moving in the right direction though. We now have that progression opportunity for females to become professional cricketers: moving on from club, to county, to regional cricket and on to becoming an international player.

“When I was growing up playing county cricket, we didn’t have the same opportunities. You would either stop playing or go to university.”

The incremental gains are starting to mount up and make a difference, but Lucy would still like to see more female trailblazers come to the fore and exert an influence. And, like so many of her peers coaching women’s cricket, if presented with a magic wand, she says she would use her first swish to pump further funding into women’s participation and coaching initiatives.

“I think it’s important to get support from others around you. I’m somebody who pushes and pushes. So, a few weeks ago I hosted a female cricket coaching webinar with another female coach that was about ways of attracting more female cricket coaches and getting them involved.

“I think you’ve always got to have someone in your area who is going to drive it and I don’t think that around the country there are enough females doing that.

And I think it also comes down to funding. This year the ECB has pushed out some tremendous initiatives to get girls involved but previously there hasn’t been enough funding available to support growth in the women’s game.

“It’s encouraging that we are seeing a surge now in female participation across schools, clubs and counties, and now there has to be a similar push for female coaches, because if we are getting more girls involved, they need more females to look up to keep them coming back week after week.”

The role of emotional intelligence

Lucy had male coaches growing up and says many of her team-mates did not have the confidence to talk openly and honestly with their coach, which hindered both their enjoyment and their development.

She believes women coaches often bring high levels of emotional intelligence and a natural appreciation of the softer skills, which are so important at the foundation level to get young people to fall in love with and stay involved with sport.

“When I was 17 and 18 years old, I know that if I had had a female coach who was quite nurturing, I would have had more conversations with her about things I was going through at that time.”

Lucy says social awareness and showing sensitivity to players’ needs and aspirations helps to build interpersonal trust, mutual respect, and closer emotional bonds.

I have girls in my team who talk to me like I am their parent sometimes. They are very open with me and I’m always making it clear to the girls that they can come to me. We have that relationship. It can be hard for some girls who don’t have female coaches to build the relationship they need.

“I do feel there is a lot more nurturing in the girls’ game and that females are more naturally equipped with those softer skills.

“It's something we spoke about on the programme. For example, I made a point on a call when I was the only female in a group of 20 coaches about when girls go through puberty and start their periods.

“When you are coaching 12 and 13-year-old girls and it is their time of the month, will a male coach know that, first of all, and secondly, will they know that research suggests they should decrease the amount of training at that time; will they understand the range of physical and emotional symptoms and how to deal with them appropriately in a training session? Some of the men admitted they had not considered that.”

And Lucy – who is playing her part attracting more girls into cricket, having increased the number of registered 10 to 18-year-olds at her cricket centre from 16 to nearly 50 in less than two years – said she looks forward to the day when females coaching male teams becomes the norm rather than the exception.

After all,” she concludes, “the skills women coaches bring are no different to those that men bring, so why shouldn’t women coach men’s teams?”

Related Resources

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  • Cognitive Diversity Key to Better Coaching Environments – for All

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