kids

Why Alyssa Healy is the role model our young girls need right now.

It’s a hot day in North Sydney. The bowler runs in to bowl and releases a fast-paced delivery, the batter steps in to defend the wicket, the ball glances the edge of the bat, the wicket keeper takes flight, hand outstretched and in an incredible display of skill manages to pluck the ball out of mid air. The batter is caught out. The wicket keeper is Alyssa Healy. And she’s a girl living her dream: playing cricket for Australia.

When Alyssa Healy started playing cricket it was still considered a game for boys.

“I started playing when I was seven,” says Alyssa, who jokingly refers to herself as “a bit of a tomboy”.

“We had just moved to Sydney and one of my friends at school asked if I wanted to come along and try this cricket thing down at the local club. It was called Kanga Cricket – now it’s Woolworths Cricket Blast. My friends didn’t follow through and I grew up playing as the only girl on the team.”

That’s the first barrier to girls playing cricket. Very often their friends don’t want to join in, and for many girls this can be an initial deterrent to taking the sport on. Thankfully now, junior team sports programs like Cricket Blast are filled with both girls and boys, from ages five to 10.

The official kids’ program of Cricket Australia, Woolworths Cricket Blast is a brand new program being delivered across more than 2000 centres around Australia. Kids of all abilities are taught how to bat, bowl and field, while making new friends.

And yes, they have All-Girls Cricket Blast teams too. It’s come a long way since Alyssa joined an all-boys team when she was younger.

“I grew up playing as the only girl. I played with all boys,” she tells Mamamia. “Nowadays there are lots of all-girls teams but when I was growing up it didn’t matter to me. The boys my age really accepted me.”

Alyssa Healy
The great Alyssa Healy in action. Image: Getty.

Coming from a cricket-playing family certainly went a long way to instilling a love for the game for Alyssa.

"My dad played for Queensland and my uncle played for Australia," she tells us. Yes, Ian Healy was a test wicket-keeper from the late 1980s until 1999. It seems that ferocious courage to pad up and face the ball runs in the genes!

"I loved the game of cricket at a young age," Alyssa recalls. "I didn’t think I was going to be at the level I am now. I had the cricket ball in a footy sock in the backyard I used to hit around. I used to go with Dad to his training and try to get a catch. I was an active kid."

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Alyssa acknowledges how her dad’s engagement with her really kept her passion for the sport alive, from throwing her countless balls to coaching her teams. But it's been her own talent and skill that, at only 28 years old, has already made her one of our great cricketers of today - regardless of gender.

"The female game is a lot more technical and has a lot more skill," Alyssa says. "The boys are renowned for hitting the ball a long way and being physical. In the past, female teams weren’t full time. It was a hobby. It’s changing now. Women are bowling faster. And now, women can play 12 months of the year."

So how does a young woman find role models in a sport where the role models are men?

"I saw men a lot on the TV playing cricket," Alyssa says. "My favourite player was Ricky Ponting - I wanted to bat like him. When I was exposed to women’s cricket, everything changed for me. My dad took me to Rosebowl series, it was England versus New Zealand - I saw Julia Price take a hanging catch in front of first slip - it was incredible to see! I got to meet the Australian team and to see them in the flesh.

"I realised that these women could be my heroes. For me that was the moment when I realised I could have a future in cricket. Now, I am living my dream."

Cricket not only builds resilience - something Alyssa says is crucial to making it as a professional athlete. But it also offers young girls and women a chance to engage in a sport which isn’t about what you look like.

"I think sport plays a good role in balancing that stuff out. Cricket isn’t the prettiest sport going around – we wear long pants, spikes and helmets. It’s not about what you look like - it's how you do your job, and being a part of a team, it's a real leveller," Alyssa explains.

Alyssa believes that the rising profile of the Australian Women’s Team and the rebel Women's Big Bash League is only going to encourage more girls to get into the sport.

"This summer there is going to be a lot more women’s cricket on the TV. All our international games are on the TV, but for us to know that young girls and young boys are watching us on the TV is amazing. It’s crucial for girls to see women playing so they can see a future for themselves.

"I love that young girls can see Meg Lanning, Ellyse Perry or Beth Mooney playing and realise that their dream could become a reality."

Alyssa Healy is living a spectacular life - a life that was seeded when a little seven-year-old girl joined her local cricket club. No-one could have known that was to be her life path. Sign your daughter up. Who knows, one day she might be a role model for other girls too, wherever her dreams may take her.

To find out more about the Woolworths Cricket Blast centres in your area go to www.playcricket.com.au.

This content was brought to you with thanks to our brand partner, Woolworths Cricket Blast, the Official Kids Program of Cricket Australia.

Woolworths Cricket Blast is a fun and brand-new program for kids of all abilities to learn new skills and play Australia’s favourite sport. A perfect introduction to cricket for kids ages 5-10, Woolworths Cricket Blast sessions run for just 60min and teach kids how to bat, bowl and field, all while making new friends. Woolworths Cricket Blast is delivered at over 2000 centres across Australia, find your local centre at playcricket.com.au and sign your kids up today.

Woolworths Cricket Blast, the Official Kids Program of Cricket Australia

Woolworths Cricket Blast is a fun and brand-new program for kids of all abilities to learn new skills and play Australia’s favourite sport. A perfect introduction to cricket for kids ages 5-10, Woolworths Cricket Blast sessions run for just 60min and teach kids how to bat, bowl and field, all while making new friends. Woolworths Cricket Blast is delivered at over 2000 centres across Australia, find your local centre at playcricket.com.au and sign your kids up today.

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