Ipplepen Cricket Club have been one of the clubs in the county at the fore front of development of girl's and women's cricket in their club. For several years the Women and Girl's section of the club has been an integral part of the club's development plan and when you visit the club on a Friday training evening you can see that the hard work has paid off, as the club has a rich base of female participants to the extent that they are considering entering the Devon Women's league and have for the first time entered single girl's teams into the South Devon Youth League to play against the boys.
Claire Hancock, who manages both the girl's teams, speaks very passionately about the club's decision to enter the girls into the boy's league, emphasizing the fact that they wanted to have meaningful match experiences and play a wider variety of opposition. The desire to move the older girls on beyond the pairs format of the girl's league was also an important factor.
Claire states 'We are looking at the bigger picture and although we want to win, it's actually about a lot more for the girl's this season'. Ipplepen are hoping that the older girl's will go on to for the backbone of the women's team next year as so it is vital for them to have had more experience of playing 11 a-side 'full rules' cricket. For the younger girls, we want them to have the opportunity to play hardball cricket matches at ages 9,10 or 11 but at a level that is right for them. Almost all of our boys start playing at that kind of age, so why should the girls not be given that opportunity?
When they entered the U12 girls into the boys under 10 league, the team came with mixed experience, but the majority of the team had never played a hardball cricket game before. Claire mentions the fantastic team spirit among the girls and the fact that the more experienced of the girls have been the key in mentoring and encouraging the other team members- supporting the less experienced members on their journey into hardball cricket. The team have played 6 games this season and although they have lost all but the very first game, Claire is proud and pleased at the progress they have made in all areas of their cricket - progress which only comes from playing in regular competitive cricket. Claire points out that 'We now have girls that can bowl the majority of their deliveries legally and who can protect their wicket and score runs, which is all topped off with an excellent team spirit and fabulous attitude towards their cricket.'
The under 14s team, like the under 12s, is a mixture of ability, with some girls being involved in the county set up and some still finding their feet and confidence. The team is complimented by some of the under 12 players who have relished the challenge of playing in the tougher age group. This team have played 4 games and won two and lost two, showing great focus and smart game play (except for 4 run outs against Torquay - but all teams have days like that!) and their support and encouragement for each other is a pleasure to see. In each game, every girl has the opportunity to bowl and the batting order is mixed up to ensure that everyone is included and gets the opportunity to learn and improve their match game on game.
It hasn't all been plain sailing though. Claire mentions that it is tough playing against the boys, who can be stronger and quicker with more game experience but she also mention that her girl's are a 'force to be reckoned with' and are intent on making a name for themselves in the league - and not only for their Ipplepen Chant before they go out to play.
On Sunday (the same Sunday of the World Cup Final), parents and spectators were treated to another match that went down to the last ball, with the under 14 girls sealing victory at the end. Running onto the pitch to celebrate, parents and coaches alike were filled with pride at the team that the girls have built. And this is the driving ethos at Ipplepen - to create teams that work hard and stick together to fuel the future of a club that is working hard to ensure it has a sustainable offer to all members of the cricket club.
Thanks to the forward looking league and hard working club, these girls have had the opportunity to play in games that have helped to improve their hardball cricket through meaningful and challenging games. These are the sorts of experiences girls should be having in their cricket to build and nurture a love of the game and show them that it is truly inclusive as a sport and we, as a county, continue to build and grow future female cricketers from grass roots up.