There were no hard balls, no intimidating pace bowlers and definitely no long days in the field. Instead, over 100 women and girls played cricket THEIR way in an effort to get females out there having fun, getting moving and trying something new together, whilst also changing perceptions about the game.
Research conducted by Sport Waikato in partnership with Sport New Zealand reveals that nationally, women and girls participate in sport and physical activity less than their male counterparts. Currently, women participate less than men when physical activity (excluding walking) is measured over 7 days, 4 weeks and 12 months. Equally, girls (15-18 years) are dropping out of sport quicker than any other defined group. Yet despite an obvious gap between the participation of males and females, insights also suggest that women and girls recognise the benefits of being active and possess an overall desire to be more involved – 65% of women are interested in trying a new sport and recreation activity or doing more of an existing one.
It was these very statistics that formed the catalyst for Sport Waikato’s newest initiative This is ME®, which aims to grow physical activity participation among women and girls by increasing the quality and quantity of opportunities for females to participate in ways that are relevant and exciting to them.
“When we look at why women and girls participate in sport and physical activity, we hear them talk about fitness and health, enjoyment and opportunities for social interaction. Unfortunately, however, a competitive sporting model doesn’t always align with these aspects, and alongside personal barriers such as ability related concerns and fear of judgement, women and girls can often struggle to find their place in sport. Therefore, it’s really important for sport and physical activity providers to understand the need for alternatives and opportunities that meet the needs of females,” says Sport Waikato CE Matthew Cooper.
A collaboration between This is ME® and Sport Waikato, Northern Districts Cricket and Hamilton Cricket Association saw the development of the This is ME® Backyard Smash, a modified cricket opportunity for women and girls with all proceeds from the event donated to Hospice Waikato. With no outs, soft balls and smaller fields, the event was inclusive, fun and offered opportunities for females to get active with friends in a social and supportive environment was premised on participation versus performance.
“Growing the women’s game is a key focus for cricket nationally and in our region, both at competitive and social levels. The Backyard Smash represents an opportunity to connect women and girls with a modified form of cricket based on an informal and inclusive backyard style that promotes having fun with your friends - with none of the intimidation factor of the hard-ball game. Social players are a key part of any sport, as are females, so it’s important that we’re finding ways to create those opportunities for women and girls to be involved and to find something about the game that they can engage with and really enjoy,” said Eimear Richardson, General Manager – Community Cricket, Northern Districts Cricket Association.
Twelve teams participated in the landmark event which was comprised of secondary school aged girls, local businesses including PWC and Hamilton City Council, parents, friends and former team mates, with $1500 raised and donated to support the work that Hospice Waikato do in the community. It was the first time this style or format of cricket has been offered to Waikato women, and the first time that females have been permitted to play in such an event on Seddon Park, one of New Zealand’s most prestigious cricket grounds and the home of cricket in the region.
Vicki McLean from the Star Maidens team was full of praise for the event. “We had a really awesome time tonight. It was great fun, there were so many laughs, the team did really well, and all the girls out here tonight were amazing. It was a really fun night and we’d love to do it again sometime soon. That would be awesome.”
See more photos from the event