NEWS: Scotland’s Olivia Rae Launches Rae Cricket Coaching

Olivia Rae, current Middlesex player and former Scotland international, has become one of the first women ever to launch her own cricket coaching business – Rae Cricket Coaching.

The launch took place on Friday at North London Cricket Club, where Rae will be leading the girls programme, as well as working as part of the coaching team that coaches junior boys and senior men.

Rae Cricket Coaching offers coaching sessions for individuals, small groups and schools throughout London. Rae herself is Level 3 qualified and a former coach of the Scotland Under-17s, as well as the current Berkshire U17 county girls head coach and Middlesex county U11 girls coach.

“Rae Cricket Coaching is bringing all my coaching experience together,” Rae told CRICKETher at the launch. “I’m using the tagline Refine, Adapt, Excel, which is something that I’ve developed over the 12 years I’ve been coaching.”

“We look at refining what people already have, because everybody’s got something. It’s about being able to adapt to different situations, whether that’s tactically, technically or mentally. And we believe that will make you excel at what you do.”

“I believe mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation, so that’s a really big part of what we’re doing – integrating basic mental skills into sessions. We use player diaries for instance for players to reflect, and that’s something they will get used to doing throughout the sessions.”

In a still male-dominated profession, it is great to see a female coach like Rae seeking to make use of her long experience playing and coaching in both women’s and men’s cricket.

“Our ethos at Rae Cricket Coaching is about creating an all-round cricketer,” Rae says. “We can benefit boys, girls, men and women in that respect.”

“Sometimes as a female coach, you can feel like you’re coaching for all women. Because if you mess up they’ll say ‘women can’t coach’. But I’d like to take it away from gender – hopefully the boys can look at me as someone who’s played a high level of cricket, someone who sometimes turns out and plays men’s cricket as well, and who knows what I’m talking about.

“I hope everyone I coach will look at me for my experience – it’s not that I’m a female coach, it’s that I’m a good coach.”

Rae is also part of Middlesex’s squad for the forthcoming season and will continue to play, alongside her work with Rae Cricket Coaching. We look forward to seeing her on the county circuit, and wish her every success with this latest venture.

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NEWS: Sophia Dunkley Wins Cricket Society’s Most Promising Young Female Cricketer of the Year Award

20 year old Sophia Dunkley is this year’s recipient of the Cricket Society award for Most Promising Young Female Cricketer.

The award, made on the recommendation of Clare Connor, is awarded annually for the young female cricketer who showed the most promise in the preceding 12 months. It has run since 2002, with previous winners including Nat Sciver (2013), Heather Knight (2010) and Katherine Brunt (2004).

Dunkley, who made her England debut in November at the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean, experienced a breakthrough year in 2019. Coming in at number 7 for Surrey Stars her opportunities were sometimes limited, but her innings of 66 off just 43 balls on the opening day of the Super League marked her card in the eyes of England coach Mark Robinson. Against Western Storm she claimed 3 for 18, including the scalps of England captain Heather Knight and tournament leading run scorer India’s Smriti Mandhana.

Out in the Caribbean she also experienced success, going in at 48-5 in England’s group match against West Indies and rescuing the innings with 35 off 30 balls.

She has recently been with the team in India and Sri Lanka, claiming her first international wicket in the 2nd T20 against the Sri Lankans.

The award will be presented at the Cricket Society’s annual lunch today, where Sophia’s mum and Head of Middlesex Women’s Cricket Danni Warren will accept the award on her behalf.

NEWS: Lydia Greenway’s Cricket For Girls Launches New Educational Resource

Lydia Greenway’s coaching organisation, Cricket For Girls, has this week launched a new online cricket coaching programme, which aims to give PE teachers and coaches the confidence and knowledge to deliver quality cricket coaching to girls.

The Cricket for Girls online resource provides a full scheme of work with supporting lesson plans, videos and resources to enable teachers and coaches to deliver a full term or season of cricket.

It will cross the age and ability spectrum, from softball to hardball for Year 5 upwards. The first level of the resource, “An Introduction to soft ball cricket”, will be available to pre-order on Tuesday 26 March and will be officially released on Monday 15 April.

The resource has been developed in consultation with schools across the past 18 months, based on discussions about what they need in order to introduce cricket programmes for girls. The key emphasis has been on providing a resource which is designed specifically for girls, a lot of whom are experiencing cricket for the first time at school and who therefore need a different approach to boys of the same age, tailored specifically for them.

Speaking at the launch of the resource on Thursday, Lydia Greenway said:

“The journey into the game for a female cricketer does not have to follow tradition. Nor should it. Girls’ cricket in schools has a blank canvas – we don’t just have to repeat what’s been done before.”

“This resource provides a fun, engaging and inspiring way of delivering cricket in schools.”

“Our aim is to break down all perceptions, challenges and barriers when it comes to cricket, and in doing so revitalise the sport.”

NEWS: Counties – “We Will Continue Playing County Cricket From 2020 Despite ECB Plans”

In response to ECB plans to restructure women’s county cricket from 2020, several of the counties who will be relegated to “feeder county” status are planning on launching their own league in order to keep women’s county cricket alive below the top division.

The ECB’s restructure would see only the top 10 counties fielding senior county women’s sides in the new 1-division Women’s County Championship, with all other counties serving as “feeders”, developing age-group players who will then join their closest full county side.

Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire are the counties currently involved in the plan, which would see a new East of England Competition set up, contested by the 6 counties.

“We are still going to play county cricket,” one Hertfordshire official told CRICKETher. “Removing county cricket doesn’t make any sense when we are trying to grow the women’s game.”

CRICKETher understands that the ECB are aware of the plan and are attempting to limit it to an Under-21 age-group competition, in keeping with the new restructure.

However, the counties feel this would defeat the purpose of the competition, which is to ensure that older players continue to have opportunities to develop their abilities. One senior county executive said that they would play overage players even if an age limit was imposed by the ECB.

“We don’t want to interfere with the ECB’s new structure, and we will schedule our county matches so that they don’t clash with the ECB’s fixtures,” he said. “We aren’t waging war on them – we just want our girls to continue to have the opportunity to represent their county.”

It will be difficult for the ECB to force the issue, given that the new competition will formally be played outside of their direct jurisdiction, and will be independently funded by the counties from sponsorship and fundraising.

Several existing county players have already expressed disquiet about the restructure, which will see them restricted to playing club cricket – seen by many as a backward step. In the East of England, where the club structure is almost non-existent, those involved in county cricket are particularly worried that many players will be forced out of the game altogether come 2020.

“This is being driven by the players themselves,” one official told CRICKETher. “They want to carry on playing county cricket. If there isn’t that step up, they are much more likely to drop out when they turn 18.”

Should the Eastern Counties be successful they may well inspire similar independent county competitions around England in other areas where club cricket is struggling.

NEWS: County Players And Coaches Feel Proposed Restructure Is “Backward Step”

The ECB’s planned overhaul of women’s county cricket, whereby from 2020 only a top tier of 8 or 10 counties will participate in the County Championship, is sparking concerns among players and coaches that it will stymie the development of the sport.

The proposals would mean the end of the careers of approximately 250 senior county players, who the ECB hope will move into the club structure from 2020.

However, the weakness of the underlying club structure in some regions of the country effectively means that some of these players may be lost to cricket for good.

One player from a Division 3 county said:

“I understand the intent, but can’t help that feel a lot of women like myself will suffer.”

“Some of us are perhaps ahead of the varying standard of women’s club cricket, and were finding our feet in Division 3 and 2. To make these feeders and have a select few ‘elite’ sides, where the net will be cast wider and subsequently, numbers harder to compete with, I fear my hopes of competing at a standard suitable for myself will dwindle.”

“I feel this is a backwards step.”

Another, responding to the proposals on Twitter, labelled the move a “massive shame”: “Been playing county senior cricket for 10 years and to see it end will be pretty rubbish”.

CRICKETher understands that the proposals were presented to those working in the current women’s set-up at four consultation meetings held around the country in 2018.

However, while these meetings presented an opportunity to provide feedback on the proposals, some working in county cricket feel their views have not been taken into account.

One county coach told CRICKETher:

“I think the narrowing of a growing market could do a lot more harm than good. It would strangle the rapid organic growth and increase in quality that we were witnessing at the coal face.”

“There is some wonderful cricket going on in Division 2 and 3. That is a result of hard work and natural growth and evolution of the women’s game that is going to be squashed.”

NEWS: Bidding Process To Decide Which Counties Field Sides In Women’s County Championship From 2020

More details are coming to light regarding the ECB’s proposed restructure of women’s county cricket from 2020.

CRICKETher understands that the top 10 counties will be decided by a bidding process, whereby counties will put forward expressions of interest and the ECB will then grant hosting rights to the strongest proposals.

The top counties will be supported by 10 Academy “hubs”, and will play in a one-division Championship, while the old Division 2 and 3 counties will simply serve as “feeders”, developing age-group players who will then join their closest county side.

Revenue from the ECB’s new TV deal will be used to enable the top 10 counties to offer professionally staffed set-ups. Players will also be remunerated, though this will likely fall short of fully professional pay, at least initially.

While the bidding process is ostensibly an open one, it seems logistically unlikely that the 8 “Hundred” counties will not feature in the new Championship – not least because this will limit the amount of travelling which the top women’s players will need to do.

CRICKETher understands that Sussex are confident they will be one of the selected counties, given their extensive facilities at the Aldridge Cricket Academy funded by millionaire Sir Rod Aldridge, which leaves just one spot in the top flight remaining.

The traditional prominence of the southern counties in the women’s game means that large areas of England are likely to be unrepresented in the new Women’s County Championship.

Current players who represent the counties which are not successful in the bidding process will be encouraged to play club cricket as an alternative.

NEWS: Heather Knight Says New Women’s Domestic Structure Is “Bittersweet”

Heather Knight has said that the ECB’s plans to restructure women’s domestic cricket from 2020 are “bittersweet”, given that this will likely mean the end of her team Berkshire’s chances of continuing to put out a senior county side.

Knight has represented Berkshire since 2010, moving there from Devon to advance her cricket in the top division of the Women’s County Championship, and took over the captaincy shortly afterwards. She has subsequently remained loyal to Berkshire even in the 2018 season, when they were relegated to Division 2 of the Championship.

Under the ECB’s new plans for an 8 or 10-team top flight women’s domestic set-up, Berkshire will be one of the counties which will serve as a “feeder” but will no longer field a senior women’s county side.

“I guess it’s a bit bittersweet,” said Knight. “It’s got to happen, the Hundred is going to be great for the women’s game, and if they get the set-up right it will create that safety net, because at the moment you’re into the abyss if you lose your contract.”

“I’m sure Berkshire will be involved as some sort of feeder for one of those hubs, whatever it might look like, and be involved in the youth development. It’s what’s needed to move the game forwards in this country.”

Plans for the new set-up are still being finalised but the aim is to bring in a semi-professional structure by 2020, in order to ensure there is some fallback for players like Tash Farrant and Beth Langston when they lose their England contract.