I’m Kate, I’m 20, I’m female and I’m a qualified cricket coach.
The most interesting phrase in the above sentence is ‘qualified cricket coach’. What does it really mean? Let’s go through each word.
I have exactly the same, if not more, qualifications than my colleagues around me. I took the same courses as them, sat the same tests and passed the same assessments.
Cricket is my absolute passion, it’s the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning and keeps me up at night thinking of all sorts of new ideas and opportunities. I am so incredibly lucky to work within a career that I love.
To me a coach has so many different roles bundled up into one. I am a mentor, a guide, a motivator, a technician, a disciplinary, a comfort, a tactician and many more things. I care for every single player I work with and I do not coach girls and boys, or males and females: every player is different in many ways, and their gender is often irrelevant.
Now let’s think tradition.
The traditional cricket coach is a middle aged man: he shouts at players and believes he gains their respect by being authoritarian. He is upper class and has come from a background of money and cricket, usually through the private school system. Now, some of the best coaches I work with are middle aged men, but none of the best coaches I work with shout. They don’t belittle their players into doing what they want them to do, because we share the belief that the players are the most important people and it’s their development that counts – we will work our socks off to do the best for them. (I am not in any way saying that differing ages or genders can make better coaches, I am merely saying that the attitude of shouting at players is not one I believe in).
But I have none of the characteristics listed above. I am a young female from a working class background. When I was growing up none of my family played cricket, so I only started playing when I was 11. I also have quite different views on how to motivate players.
Has this difference in myself from the traditional coach helped or hindered me?
There has been so many instances when my ability to coach has been brought into question due to this difference. I often have comments from parents saying I am so young that I can’t possibly know what I’m doing. Thankfully, I work in some great teams that will back me up, but having worked in the same field for five years and holding all the relevant qualifications, of course it annoys me. I also do not come from the private education system and am therefore not seen to have the badge of class that it brings.
Then there’s the other coaches. Recently, I was at a coaches’ meeting where I was the only female. One member was leaving and he went around saying goodbye to everyone and shaking their hand. When he got to me he just walked passed. So I stuck my hand out for a handshake and wished him a safe journey. His face was a picture, because he didn’t know what to do, but social constructs meant he would embarrass himself more if he didn’t take my hand. I’ve had coaches that won’t discuss parts of our job in front of me because it might offend me: they seem to forget that I do that job too. I have had umpires go to talk to random parents at a match because they think they are the coach because they are male.
Then there’s the players. Most of the players see a coach that will do their utmost to help them, but unfortunately there’s one or two that don’t. The most cutting comment I’ve had from a player is when a male coach and I had taken a squad on tour. She told me ‘she wasn’t listening to me because I wasn’t her coach and was just there to look after her’. This just reeks of the stereotypical idea that females can only be the caregiver and should not be listened to for technical advice. Despite having the knowledge to share with her, I had been dismissed due to being female.
I am not the traditional cricket coach and have come up against some resistance for this. However, this will not make me give up my passion and the career I would like to pursue. All I ask is that I am treated the same as everyone else, because I don’t think the fact that I am young, female or working class has any impact at all on my ability to do my job.