Inspired, exhausted, elated, emotional, motivated, sleep deprived, passionate and relieved are just some of the array of emotions that I am feeling after completing Women’s ICL’s (WICL’s) first cricket program in Auckland, New Zealand.
Playing cricket at the highest level for Australia for over 12 years afforded me some amazing opportunities that I will be forever grateful for. These included the opportunity to travel the world, the opportunity to meet a diverse range of people, the opportunity to be treated like I really mattered, the opportunity to learn and the opportunity to do what I love with passionate, generous and driven people, I have made lifelong friends, I have been taken care of and it meant that I have always had a support network around me. .
Therefore when I retired from International cricket in February 2013, I wanted to give back to the game which has given me so much. Anyone who knows me, or who has followed my career, knows how much I love of the game of cricket. So post-retirement I knew that I would stay involved in some way, and I knew that what I was most passionate about was finding a way to engage with female players across the world and to find a way of giving them a chance, even if it is just a brief chance, of experiencing what I have been fortunate enough to experience.
It was about two years ago I teamed up with my manager at the time, Shaun Martyn and we both set about starting the business, Women’s ICL. Our vision was (and still is) to create Opportunity, Performance and Education, through the vehicle of women’s cricket. It is my passion as it’s my chance to leave the game in a better place than when I came into it.
Not only is our goal to support female cricketers on the field, but also to create opportunities for players who were less fortunate than myself. Having had a brief chance to work with the Argentinean Women’s cricket team (Flamingos) in 2011, it was evident that they hadn’t had the chance to be exposed to the intensity and standard of women’s International cricket. If you weren’t lucky enough to be eligible to play for the national team of one of the full member ICC countries, your potential exposure to elite cricket as a female was virtually non-existent.
Like all start up ventures, there were and still are, so many lessons that you learn along the way, not only about yourself, your business partner but also the world of business and the politics that are inevitably involved.
Have we made some mistakes along the way? I have no doubt we have. If we had our time again there would be some things which we may approach differently with the benefit of hindsight.
That being said, whilst standing at Kings College in Auckland, with 12 players from Associate ICC countries running around, with WICL having been able to fund their attendance at a 2-day high performance camp, enjoying each others company, using great facilities, learning more about the game of cricket and being filmed by a group of talented Pymble Ladies College students, I caught myself feeling briefly overwhelmed by the realisation that my dream had come true.
Earlier this week WICL’s ‘Fair Break’ program came to life. The impetus for its birth arose when I was lucky enough to watch a documentary earlier this year about Team SCA, the first all female team since 2002 to complete in the toughest ocean race in the world, the Volvo Ocean Race. The documentary covered the selection process that took place in finding the 14 team members from five nations and then of course the race itself.
This instantly resonated with me as being something we could do in the context of cricket and Shaun and I decided it would be great opportunity to provide players from Associate ICC countries with a chance to come together, meet other skilled cricketers and continually learn about the game of cricket in a high performance environment they had not necessarily been involved with before. In addition, we entered into a partnership with Pymble Ladies College (PLC), to have four students attended WICL’s camp to provide real life learning experiences for their students. The students will be actively engaged in the creation and delivery of the WICL Fair Break documentary and supporting the creation of other online content.
Sport has such a unique capacity to bring different cultures together and through the language of sport, break down so many barriers. I certainly witnessed this first hand, not for the first time, earlier this week.
As you would expect, I have been a part of probably over a 100 cricket camps in my time as a player and a coach, but what made this one extremely special to me was that we had players from five different countries (Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu and Singapore) and within a matter of less than 24 hours they had bonded like a team.
The love of cricket certainly bound them, but it was also their singing and dancing the completed the unification. It was evident that music is something so strong in each of their cultures that helped the process immediately. Even more special was seeing how the players and the students bonded instantly through sport, singing and dancing. Within no time, the girls were all starting to absorb and learn each other’s native language.
Thank goodness one of the PLC students spoke fluent French, as the two players from New Caledonia hardly spoke or understood a word of English. There were constant cries out to Zoe, to come and help translate what we were saying from a coaching point of view.
During my career, I was fortunate enough to train and play at the best facilities. It came as a huge shock to me that there were five players that had never played on turf before, despite representing their country. Plus a number of players didn’t own cricket gear, such as a bat or pads, making it difficult to train.
As many of you know, nearly all high performance cricket camps will involve a component of cricket match play as a way of facilitating tactical learning opportunities. We were fortunate enough to provide valuable match time for the players, with an Invitational XI consisting of Provincial Representative players to play against.
Even just that opportunity to play against a stronger opposition, allowed us to assess the players more meaningfully from a tactical perspective and to rate their performance under pressure. The most pleasing thing from my point of view was the players improved in such a short amount of time.
Of course, projects like this cannot happen without the generous support of people behind the scenes. We could not have run the program, and funded all of the players to attend the camp, without our very generous sponsors, Hertz, Rudy Project, NicStar, New Balance and Yaru water for making it happen. Plus a very special thanks to FitBit and Skins who provided gear and a FitBit watch to each of the players to take home with them and hopefully inspire more female players to pick up a bat and ball in their regions.
I can’t wait to share with you what we were able to achieve in such a small time. Please start to follow our Facebook, Twitter (@WICLNews) and now Instagram (wiclnews) to catch all the news of this last camp and us building towards our next camp.
Where will the next one be?