INTERVIEW: Warwickshire Women’s Performance Manager Laura MacLeod

“It was a long time in the making,” says former England allrounder Laura MacLeod of her new role as Warwickshire’s Women’s Performance Manager.

“Back in January 2018, I was on a CPD [Continuous Professional Development] event for the ECB. The Warwickshire lads were in doing some fitness testing, and I happened to see Ashley Giles on the balcony and we started chatting. He said to me ‘Have you had a look at it?’ I said, ‘To be honest, no I haven’t!’”

“At the time I was thinking that I would want to go further in the recreational game and I didn’t really think about the performance side; but I looked at it again, and we had a further chat, and I decided that I’d go to interview.”

“So I had my interview, but Ashley and I agreed was that it would be best if I started in the winter, so it was 1st October 2018 when I started.”

Even though the new job currently means 5am starts to commute from Lancashire to Birmingham, MacLeod has no doubts she made the right move:

“It is the best decision I’ve made – to take that step across from the recreational game into the performance game – I’m thoroughly enjoying myself!”

The day-to-day role involves overseeing the 9 teams on Warwickshire’s performance program – from Under 11s right through to the county 1st XI, including doing some coaching for the age-group sides.

However this is likely to change substantially next year, with Warwickshire joining up with Worcestershire for The Hundred and the new “pro” regional setup:

“In effect the role that I currently do will not exist next year in the capacity that it is now – the role next year will only be the senior and the academy – they will obviously have some oversight of what goes on in the pathway but there will be no direct responsibility.”

But MacLeod is already thinking about how things will operate going forwards:

“We will be a new area for both the regional domestic structure and also the Hundred, and I want to make sure we hit the ground running.”

Being a “new” side, without an existing KSL franchise, is a particular challenge:

“Almost everyone else will be established and will have continuity and will have people in mind. We won’t have anything that is consistent but we might be able to attract a few people over to us.”

MacLeod sees the existing Warwickshire team as the foundation of the new squads.

“What we’ve been able to do in Warwickshire is attract the best players from the West Midlands so largely it will be those who are currently playing now, plus we will utilise the number of overseas that you can have, just to bring the quality up.”

In order to get the players ready for next year, MacLeod has been leveraging her contacts to get as many Warwickshire players as possible into the Super League this season:

“I’ve been doing a bit of almost ‘agent’ work with some of these girls to get them into the Kia Super League. So we’ve got 7 players now into the Super League and through my contacts and me speaking to the coaches, I can say ‘Have you thought about so-and-so?’ So that is really good – it will be great exposure for them…” She laughs… “So long as they come back!!”

The aspiration to put the Men’s and Women’s Hundreds on an equal footing is going to be an interesting challenge for those at the sharp end like MacLeod:

“I thought that when Kate Cross was asked the question recently she answered it really well – it is about looking back and asking ‘What improvements have we made from last year?’ And I’m already seeing improvements – there is a definite will and desire from [Warwickshire CEO] Neil Snowball and [Worcestershire CEO] Matt Rawnsley to endeavour to do whatever they can to ensure that the men and the women have equal access.”

And if not… they will have Laura MacLeod to answer to:

“I will be one of those people who will ensure that we get as much as we can and hopefully we will see some really good things next year.”