kids

How to encourage a young girl to play cricket: An expert's advice.

I came from a family who didn’t play beach cricket. As a child I used to sit on my towel pretending to build a sandcastle, watching other beach cricket-playing families longingly wishing the ball would come my way and I’d get to throw it back and they might just ask me to join in. I loved watching the kids bowling their mum out, how competitive the dad always was, the occasional caught out on the first ball tantrum of the smallest child or the six of the eldest, smashed high right into someone’s esky.

I vowed that one day when I had kids that would be my family. And it is. I pretty well bought that beach cricket set on the way home from the hospital with my first born and every summer we stump up on our local beach for tip and run. It’s fun. I see other children watching us, and when the ball rolls their way, I invite them to join in. That’s what I love about cricket, anyone can play, its such an inclusive sport.

Belinda Clark, AO, is the Executive General Manager for Community Cricket, and it’s her mission to get kids all over the country, in particular girls, engaged in playing cricket. In particular, Woolworths Cricket Blast, which is the official kids’ program of Cricket Australia.

As the former Australian Captain of the women’s national team from 1994 to 2005, Belinda is one of the most highly respected figures in the industry – and she’s now using her love of the game to encourage young kids to get active too.

For girls, there’s been no better time to sign up. According to the most recent National Cricket Census, six in every 10 new participants are girls, with 619 new girls’ teams last season alone.

Despite that, there are still some challenges in getting girls to try something outside of their established social group, Belinda tells Mamamia.

Belinda Clark is helping a whole new generation of young girls discover cricket. Image: supplied.

"Girls often report they want to play cricket with their friends," Belinda says. "So if 'friends' aren't interested in sport, that can be a barrier. Encouraging them and emphasising that new friends will be made is important."

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Not knowing the rules is another block to girls feeling confident enough to join a team, whatever the sport might be.

"Girls often want to ensure they know the skills before they throw themselves into a game," says Belinda, who encourages parents to build confidence at home with basic hand-eye, and bat skills. Backyard and beach cricket is where it starts!

"Tip and run is the way to go," Belinda adds. "Games in the backyard and on the beach are some of the most creative. Let the kids make up the rules and you'll see what fun can be had by giving them a license to be creative. I love playing informal games with kids – it's fun, great for skill development and magically the rules ensure no-one person dominates for too long – hit a six and you're out!" That pretty well puts dad back on the field!

That's why Woolworths Cricket Blast is so great. It's a brand-new program launching across Australia this summer at more than 2000 centres - and it's specially designed to teach young players in short sessions over a set period of weeks. Junior Blasters sees kids five to seven years play a 60-minute game over a minimum of six weeks, the seven to 10 year olds play over the same time but for 90 minutes. The teams are smaller, there is a shorter wicket and there's more balls in play, and the games are short and action packed.

"Cricket is actually a simple game at its very basic level," says Belinda. "It gets more complex as you dig deeper, but in essence, it's about scoring runs and taking wickets. Woolworths Cricket Blast is a great introduction to the game and our new formats for juniors make it easier for kids to get the hang of it. It's a lot easier to understand and pick up than the video games kids play."

Girls are enrolling in Woolworths Cricket Blast in record numbers. Image: Brooke Mitchell/Cricket Australia.

Getting kids active and engaged in team sport is crucial for their social development, its also why Belinda is so passionate about the role of community cricket.

"Humans are social animals, learning how to work in groups, experience success and failure and developing the capacity to handle all this is a key benefit of team sport," she explains.

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Sport teaches our kids valuable life lessons, like how to collaborate and celebrate a win, but also how to be a good loser. In fact, as it turns out learning to lose is crucial to becoming an elite athlete.

"No-one wins all the time," says Belinda. "Life doesn't work like that. In fact there is a lot of research that suggests bouncing back from disappointment is often the skill young talented players are missing, which is a real problem. If talented children are left 'too long' without experiencing failure they can often drop out of the sport altogether."

That reminds me of a comedy sketch where the dad is taking his backyard cricket a little too seriously, sprinting down the pitch and fast bowling at his terrified kids. It's funny because dad is clearly the one who never learnt to lose! And the kids, well, maybe he's setting them up for greatness.

Along with developing resilience and physical fitness, playing team sport is a wonderful way for your child to expand their friendship group - whether they're a boy or a girl.

"Friendships developed in a team regardless of gender are often deeper because you rely on each other for support and success," says Belinda. "Establishing connections with people through a sense of shared achievement is important as it drives us to keep trying and giving our best. The team becomes bigger that the individual."

In a world that has become super focused on 'individual' achievements, it's such a gift for kids to feel the support and encouragement of their teammates. To learn to be excited when someone else does well. It's the ultimate way to bat up against some of the more negative aspects social media has on our kids.

Playing cricket teaches kids more than just the rules of a sport. It not only broadens their friendship groups, but also the friendship groups of their parents. Cricket clubs are a great place for community connection. And hey, did you know that kids whose parents play sport are statistically more likely to stay engaged in sport than kids of parents who don't? So maybe when you're signing up the kids for Cricket Blast, maybe you should sign up for adults' cricket too!

Belinda agrees: "It's great for young girls to see mum having a go."

It's easy to find the Woolworths Cricket Blast Centres in your local 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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