Bishop’s Stortford Cricket Club plotting more success for its women’s and girls’ section
There is grounds for optimism that Bishop’s Stortford Cricket Club can continue to develop its blossoming women’s and girls’ section. Joe Clune, who is the junior girls’ head coach, and Lee O’Toole, who is the ladies’ representative on the committee, reflect on the success and look ahead to the future.
Bishop’s Stortford Cricket Club formed a ladies’ team in 2007, a long time before most cricket clubs in the country, let alone Hertfordshire.
Back then, women and girls who wished to play cricket had few choices and many would stop playing when they grew tired of playing with the boys. With small numbers playing, either overtly or sub-consciously, cricket was seen as a men’s sport and, even if they wanted to play, interested girls didn’t feel there was an open door.
But thanks to pioneering players and non-players, Bishop’s Stortford CC was ahead of its time and enjoyed success, rising to the highest club level in the south-east of England. Strange then that it wasn’t until 2018 that the club established a junior girls’ section, which benefited from pulling girls from many clubs in the area who were playing mixed or “boys’” cricket.
The key was the growth in interest that big moments like the England women’s team winning the 50-over World Cup at a full Lord’s in 2017. Shortly after, the club won the national women’s club 20-over competition.
The progress of the junior section was dented in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic made cricket impossible. When it returned, it found itself in hot competition with other sports as everyone was making up for lost time. Suddenly, cricket competed with winter sports for the availability of girls.
However, Bishop’s Stortford’s girls bounced back in 2021, winning the county under-15 competition, and has now grown in numbers to more than 100 girls and a large adult playing membership. This has given the club an opportunity to run two teams and multiple junior teams from eight years, and young girls down to five welcome to join a group to suit them. Because of the high standard of players who play for the ladies’ first team, the club finds its players pulled into county and regional teams, ending up a victim of its own success.
The challenge for women’s teams is access to grounds, with almost all but the professional games having to be played on Sundays as the men’s teams play on Saturday. Bishop’s Stortford benefit hugely from the support of the committee and the whole club putting the women’s team first on Sundays for access to facilities and support from coaches to further the players’ ambitions.
There has also been a significant rise in women and girls playing in Saturday teams. Cricket was rocked by the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket report [to investigate racial equality, gender equality and social equality in English cricket] but Bishop’s Stortford are going some way to being ahead on eliminating inequalities, starting with easy access to cricket for women. There are still areas for improvement, but the club can’t rest until it truly reflects the population of the town and maximises access to cricket for all.
Attracting more players and growing the junior section with both state- and independently-schooled girls is key to achieving that goal. The door is open to players and others wanting to be part of the club and the women and girls’ section.
One success has been the establishment of cricket at Herts and Essex High School, where a teacher has stepped forward to be trained as a coach, and it’s been wonderful to see the school perform very successfully. Good cooperation between local schools and the club will be key to increasing participation of girls in cricket.
It was a big win to see a girl playing in the Bishop’s Stortford College first team in 2023 and I hope many more will follow. If primary schools see Herts and Essex, the college and others playing girls’ cricket then it’s hoped that they will encourage more girls to join in cricket in PE, and so it grows.
Stortford’s under-15 girls have been county champions for three years running now and the under-19s narrowly lost in the national 20-over final. The optimism of growing on this success for the future is strong and ideally the club will be able to field three ladies’ teams soon.
There has never been a better time to play cricket if you are a woman in Bishop’s Stortford and winter training begins on Sunday January 7. If you are interested in joining the club or want to find out more, contact Joe Clune via the club’s website at www.bishopsstortfordcc.com.