FEATURE: Cricket Taking Off At South Hampstead High School

In the wake of England’s World Cup victory last summer, one of the questions that was asked a lot was: would it encourage more girls to take up cricket?

For one school in London, the answer is an undoubted yes.

South Hampstead High School has recently reintroduced girls’ cricket to its curriculum, after many years of rounders being the main summer sport, and Head of PE Lucy Kench says that the girls are loving it: “We’ve had requests from girls to do more cricket, which is great. The success of the World Cup was a big thing for us.”

Back in the 1930s, South Hampstead High School was a hub of girls’ cricket; England’s Netta Rheinberg learned her cricket there. But somewhere along the way cricket was replaced by rounders – until last year when, following the Department for Education’s decision to remove rounders from the national GCSE curriculum, the decision was made to revert back to cricket.

Why? Lucy explains: “With rounders there’s not a lot of progression. If you play first team rounders at school, where do you then go and play rounders? There’s not very many opportunities.”

South Hampstead is also part of the Girls Day School Trust, a group of 24 leading independent schools, and in GDST schools across the country the feeling is that it is important to provide girls with more sporting options, beyond traditional ‘girls sports’ like hockey and netball. The key aim is to keep as many girls as possible actively engaged in sport in their teenage years and beyond; a range of sporting options is seen as the best way to sustain girls’ interest in sport.

At South Hampstead an indoor cricket club has run across the spring term. This will continue outdoors in the summer term, when Middlesex CCC will provide the girls with coaching. There is also a London GDST Cricket Hub which organises sessions for the girls with ex-professional female cricketers.

Girls Cricket at SHHS

Girls Cricket at South Hampstead High School

Girls from SHHS will also be attending the “MCC Women’s Day” at Lords next month alongside around 4,000 other schoolchildren to watch Middlesex Women play their first ever match on the main ground at Lord’s.

Generally the switch to cricket away from rounders has gone down well, but one issue has been getting teachers on board with the change. “Some people were really against it to begin with,” Lucy explains. “For some teachers who have taught rounders for lots of years, they find it very difficult to adapt the game.”

But GDST teachers have recently benefited from CPD training from Lydia Greenway, who runs nationwide coaching organisation Cricket for Girls and is helping them to understand the best ways to teach cricket to their pupils. “One of the barriers or challenges is getting teachers up to speed with the game of cricket, but also breaking down the barriers that it’s a complicated game, that it’s a technical game,” Lydia says. “And actually empowering them, giving them the confidence, and the skills and drills for them to deliver lessons. They’ve responded really well.”

CRICKETher recently attended a session at South Hampstead and the enthusiasm for cricket displayed by the girls – most of whom had never played cricket before this term – was evident. When asked what they most enjoyed about cricket, answers included: “Being in a team and working together”, and “You work in a team but you keep your own space, it’s nice because it’s not full on tackling and it’s more fun than other sports.”