Sidmouth CC's (SCC) Anthony Cox has been highly commended at the national ECB Grassroots Cricket Awards for his hard work building up the girls’ cricket section at the club.

The Inspired to Play Award recognises an individual who has gone above and beyond to open the game of cricket up to new audiences and, Anthony racked up an incredible nine nominations on his way to winning the Devon award.

"It's a huge honour to be recognised both by Devon and by the ECB, but more importantly by the parents and those that I've been coaching. It's inspiring to be given recognition for something that I love doing, it's amazing."

Anthony Cox was this year's Inspired to Play Award winner in Devon.

Anthony first started coaching 20 years ago when he gained his Level I qualification while living in the Bristol area, before moving to Devon where he initially took a hiatus from the sport.

"I've always coached. From a young age, I was surrounded by people coaching. My dad coached me, I grew up in a village cricket team where you were taught by all the players. It was a natural kind of thing for me to just see that as something you do, I've always been really interested in how the game works.

"I moved down to Devon for family reasons and I actually stopped playing for a few years when I had a young family. After a few years, I fell back in love with cricket and saw that Sidmouth CC were advertising for coaches and I thought 'do you know what? I've always loved coaching, so let's go for it'."

After joining SCC, Anthony gained his Level II coaching qualification, helped run the club's All Stars programme and coached in the junior section, before being approached to push the girls' section of the team.

Using the popularity of The Hundred and Dynamos' visuals and marketing as a way of enticing new players, Anthony ran the programme for eight weeks before it became apparent that more was needed in order to keep the momentum going.

"The girls suddenly went: 'this is a game for us'. I felt that if we stopped at the end of the summer and came back a year later that most of those girls wouldn't be with us, so I made the decision to just keep it going all through the winter. We trained in the spring and we came back this summer and created our first girls' Under 13 softball team.

"I've been really lucky to have a hugely enthusiastic bunch of girls. We've grown it from the 12 that came on board initially to over 25 now and it just keeps moving forward with its own momentum, which is fantastic.

"The girls just support everybody. It's an environment where they can all come, have fun, enjoy themselves and make friends, and also learn an amazing and amazing sport.

The challenge of keeping that momentum going and growing the girls' section further is something both Anthony and SCC are keen on.

"We've been working hard over the winter on plans, 'where do we take it, how do we keep making it interesting and relevant for the girls?' We're going to be looking to expand the girls' section this year. We're going to try and have under 11 and 13 softball teams, we'll continue our Dynamos and try and link it up more strongly with All Stars so there's a clear transition for all girls' Dynamos. That's our plan."