Sportsister chats to England’s cricket captain Charlotte Edwards on the state of the game, winning the Ashes and being a role model to young girls.
You have recently been named as one of the eight female players to receive a contract with the ECB to work for the Chance to Shine initiative. How important do you think this role is for you?
It’s massively important, we’ve worked a long time to achieve this. It’s a great step for the women’s game and for us as a team. With the year ahead, and the World Cup and the Ashes next summer, this gives us a great opportunity to have the security of a job and to be training hard, and ultimately having the time for what we want and for cricket, which is great.
How significant do you think the decision to give women jobs within the sport is?
For any young girl that’s now setting out for a career in sport, she can know now that she can get a contract in cricket. I hope that it will make them choose cricket instead of other sports.
I think other countries are probably now looking at England. We’re the first country to offer these contracts and I’m sure it will make Australia and New Zealand think that if they’re going to compete with us they will probably have to offer the same thing to their own players. It’s a really great step for us all, and for the team first and foremost. And I’m really looking forward to the role and getting stuck in now.
How exactly will the role work and will it allow you more time to train and play than your previous job?
I’ve always worked in cricket, and I’ve always been lucky to have really good employers, who have given me time off to play cricket, but some of the other girls haven’t had that.
We’re also going to be coaching throughout the summer term now, going to primary schools, secondary schools and after school clubs, and then into cricket clubs. We will be setting up girls’ sections at clubs and trying to get more girls playing cricket.
There’s no better role model than ourselves to do that, and the sort of response we’ve had so far from going into these schools has been massive, so we’re really excited about it. When I was younger I didn’t have these kinds of opportunities.
How do you feel about being a role model to young girls?
I think you realise going into these schools that the girls desperately want role models, and for us as England players, we’re the best kind of role models they can have.
So to go in there and show them how to play cricket is fantastic. If you can get even a few of them down to the local club it’s a huge positive for us. There are so many more girls playing cricket, which is brilliant – and we’ve just got to keep that rising. Chance to Shine is just a really, really good way of doing that.
Did you play cricket at school?
Yes, at my local primary school. So doing the Chance to Shine job is really close to my heart because I can remember myself all those years ago on the playground and now I am coaching in schools.
You once captained a boys team at under-16 level – how difficult was it for a girl to be accepted in a boys team, especially as captain?
I always say that those days of playing boys cricket were the most difficult but has probably made me the person, and player, that I am today. So I owe a lot to the guys I played with then, it was really hard being the only girl and being captain too, but without that experience I would not be the same player now.
The teachers were obviously very supportive?
I was just very lucky at school that I had teachers who always encouraged me to play with the boys, and always let me play, and obviously gave me the captaincy which was great. A lot of people would have shied away from that, but actually I probably was one of the better players, and they realised that and gave me the captaincy. I owe a lot to my school teachers and all the county managers that I played with.
What would be the advice that you would give to a young girl if she was thinking about taking it up now because you started at such a young age?
Obviously it’s great that I’ve managed to play for and captain England so I’ve pretty much done as much as I can in the game so far, but I’ve had to give up a huge amount to do it. Every minute of it has been enjoyable, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a lot of highs and lows in that time, but you have to work really, really hard and yes, you do have to sacrifice your nights out with your friends and so on, but ultimately this is what I wanted to do. I love what I do and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. So yes, you’ve got to be very motivated to do it. But like I say, I’ve travelled the world and I’ve got a lot out of doing it, which to me are huge positives.
Congratulations on retaining the Ashes, you managed to do what our men can’t. Do you find it frustrating that so much of the media coverage does get allocated to the men and your victories go relatively unnoticed?
Yes and no. I mean ultimately the boys bring a lot more revenue into the game and they have a lot more people watch them than us. But to us, to win the Ashes is amazing. So for us as an individual, we know we’ve had a great achievement.
Obviously we don’t get the recognition we probably should, but that’s what comes with womens’ sport unfortunately.
But we’ll keep playing away, and you know, in times to come we will start to get it. I think from when I started playing, the recognition we get now is much greater, so it’s fantastic really.
What kind of crowds are you getting at your Ashes matches by the way, for example?
We had really good crowds in Australia. In Melbourne we played in front of 30,000 at the Twenty Twenty, which was fantastic. It was played before the men’s game. And then at the Test matches we were probably getting between 2, 500 – 3,000 a day, which is really good for women’s cricket.
And did it get any televised media coverage out there?
It did, even the Australian girls were saying to us that they had never had that kind of coverage before. But the Twenty Twenty game at the MCG really gave them a boost. I don’t think you can loose on Twenty Twenty games, it just brings a new audience to the game and so long as we put on a good show for them they are happy.
Have you ever experienced any negativity being a female in the sports world?
I think you always get the same old comments – ‘Girls can’t throw’ and all that kind of stuff. I think more and more people are coming round to the fact that girls do play sport and that girls do play cricket and we can throw and we can catch! And actually, if you come and watch us, we are actually very good. You’ve just got to take the time out to go and watch it and give it a chance.
What would you say the most positive aspects are of being involved in sport?
For me being a role model for kids, and the fact that I’ve traveled the world. I’ve done everything you possibly could in the game, so I’ve had a great life out of it. It obviously helps when you’re successful, it’s more fun. But just being a role model to kids, just to see a smile on their faces. If we can encourage them to play sport, it’s brilliant.
And what’s next on the calendar for the England team?
We’ve got South Africa and India coming over this summer, and then we’ve got a World Cup in March in Australia. We’ve got a Twenty Twenty World Cup here next summer, and then an Ashes here next summer. So for the team it’s a massive year – 15 months of cricket that we’ve got to start training really, really hard for.
And who in your opinion are the rising stars in the women’s game?
We’ve got a lot at the moment. We’ve got Katherine Brunt, Sarah Taylor and Holly Colvin. These girls are all under the age of 20. It’s really exciting for me as a captain especially, that we’ve got these youngsters, who are performing international cricket at the moment.
We’ve got a young team, but they’re a great bunch to be around. And I think it helps that they don’t have that fear of failure, they just get on out and are quite naive about it. They get out there and play, so it’s exciting times ahead and there’s more and more coming through, so I think it’s a bright future for the women’s cricket team.
Louise Hudson, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
The England cricket team are sponsored by adidas, click here to read about their new kit. It’s the first time the women’s team have had a female specific kit designed for them.