Head of Girls' Games, Miss Barnes, talks about why the summer term may be a little different for girls these days...
You may know me as Head of Girls’ Games at Hill House School but you may not know where my love of sport comes from. My sporting roots actually come from my family whose first love is football. My grandad played for Lincoln City in the old Division 1 and my Dad was a pretty decent footballer too. I played through junior school, mostly with boys, up until I was 26. Joining Leeds United Ladies and Huddersfield Town Women amongst others. My other big love is hockey. I played in the National League for Wakefield Ladies and Durham University. I won a British gold medal along with my teammates at university, one of whom was Olympian Sam Quek.
You might recognise our coach, non other than our very own Mr Ross!
After graduating from Durham University, I taught at the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle before moving to Hill House. In both schools, there has traditionally been a girls’ summer programme of athletics, tennis and rounders. I love the summer term. All those months of training in the wet and the cold are finally rewarded with, well, sunburn in my case! I really look forward to the athletics events and sports days; perfecting baton changeovers, refining high jump technique and fine tuning long jump run-ups amongst my favourites! I also enjoy tennis. It’s great for developing hand/eye coordination and offers lots of opportunity for skill progression. However, both focus mainly on the individual. As a team sports advocate I believe strongly that the summer term needs something to keep all girls engaged!
So then comes rounders. Team sport? Yes. Fun? Yes. Offers plenty of opportunity for progression beyond school? Not so much.
Rounders vs Cricket
In terms of exit routes from school, prospects to play at a club level and beyond, there are more opportunities within girls’ cricket than rounders. Similarly, at university level, cricket is a much more accessible sport for aspiring young girls. How many universities are offering a rounders programme with any substance? Weekly fixtures and training? Personalised strength and conditioning programmes to support development? Girls’ cricket is televised, offers better funding and is more readily available for those who want to continue it into adulthood. This is why I am promoting cricket; opportunity and growth.
Have you ever watched a rounders match on TV?
Miss Dodds was picked for the England Rounders U16 team but she didn't attend the tournament. It was abroad and self-funded. She decided instead to focus on her GCSEs, making a conscious decision that representing her country was not worth her time. Probably due to a perceived lack of prestige associated with the sport and a lack of funding available. By contrast, the ECB is putting in time, effort and money into growing the girls’ game. I don't see the same from the national governing body for rounders.
There are a distinct lack of female role models playing rounders (if only Miss Dodds had flown the flag). Recently, the Women's Big Bash League was televised from Australia with a lot of international players, including British girls. They had travelled over for the professional Australian Summer League during the British off season and were being paid to play, a massive step for women in sport! If only I could bowl out the coronavirus, I was looking forward to this summer’s ‘The Hundred’, another professional set up where men and women were competing for equal prize money. The debate of equal pay in sport is perhaps a discussion for another day but I do think that we should be celebrating that females are now able to make a career out of sport.
I love how the ECB keeps coming up with exciting new formats to try and combat the conception that cricket is long and boring (if you have never watched a game of T20 cricket, I would encourage you to do so). I don't see the same effort from rounders. There appears to be no revamped formats to engage new audiences. I still dislike that you can travel to an away fixture, swing on your first go, miss it (no second chance), and run, just to be stumped out at first base! But you can be out straight away in cricket too, I hear you say…not necessarily. There is a fantastic school game called pairs cricket. If you’re ‘out’, yes you lose some runs, but you still get to stay in bat for a set number of overs. Plenty more opportunities to get it right and make improvements!
Isn't cricket just for boys?
No. Just ask Katherine Brunt, Meg Lanning, Stafanie Taylor, Ellyse Perry, all of whom have had successful cricketing careers.
Last year we introduced girls’ cricket to our summer programme. Its maiden term was successful and I was looking forward to developing that this year with a full programme of fixtures. With the girls’ rugby programme proving popular last term, I was excited to build on that momentum.
For all the girls I've taught over the last 10 years who have grown to love hockey, it has taken time. When they first pick up a stick in Year 3, it isn’t always an instant hit. Often they “can't do it, miss”! However, they grow to love it thanks to enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff, and we are certainly blessed with these at Hill House! Some older girls are reluctant to make the switch because they have grown to love rounders, but for the young ones coming through, I hope to nurture a passion for cricket. As leaders in physical education, it is our duty to instil within our pupils a lifelong love of physical education, something they can take with them beyond school games lessons. I believe that cricket offers that.
In my opinion, rounders is a sport that has stood still for too long. It has lost credibility with exams boards and is no longer assessed for GCSE. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy a game of recreational rounders – it’s perfect for a day at the beach or in the park, hopefully something we’ll be able to enjoy again soon. The girls undoubtedly have fun when playing rounders and I will not eradicate it completely. After all, sport must bring joy as well as opportunity. However, I am passionate that the girls of Hill House deserve the chance to take sport further, if they so wish. I’m not suggesting they will all be cricket professionals, but I would like them to have the opportunity!
We encourage girls to play with and against boys. Last year, we saw Niamh Doody partner Rocco Cook in the U14 Yorkshire Cup, amassing 164 runs, the school’s first ever century partnership and a new school record! We are very excited about our U15s entering the School Sport cricket event this summer and hopeful that we may still play some of the fixtures and tournaments planned. I am proud to be a part of a school programme that is forging the way for young girls.