Former England international Lydia Greenway wants to provide coaching for female cricketers of all abilities and ages. We had a chat about what she can offer and why it’s important that young girls have female role-models.
While Charlotte Edwards’ international retirement may have been the big story in women’s cricket last year, we also saw the England career of another batting stalwart come to an end. After over a decade at the top, Lydia Greenway called time on an international career that saw her win four Ashes series and two World Cups.
Greenway played over 200 international games and earned a reputation as both a reliable and innovative batter, and an ideal teammate. Now that her playing career at the very highest level is over she’s decided to pass her knowledge on to the next generation of female cricketers, setting up Cricket For Girls, a programme that has something to offer to all female cricketers.
Was coaching something you always had your eye on?
It was never a case of saying, ‘When I retire, I want to set up an academy’, because when you’re playing you don’t really engage with life after playing too much – in fact you put it off as much as you can! But my passion is coaching girls and getting them into cricket. There’s such a demand for opportunities and to keep up the development of the game. When I did retire, I started getting requests from clubs, so off the back of that, this just made sense. It’s all happened quite naturally.
How did it shift from coaching in schools to having your own academy?
When I retired, I thought I’d set myself up with some coaching and some speaking in schools. I sold it with my name, but I soon realised it doesn’t necessarily matter who you are – if you are female and you are coaching cricket, you are naturally going to be a role-model. So I thought the best way to develop that was to get more female players and coaches on board, and to try and cover a larger area of the country, offering it to schools, clubs, counties. That’s how it materialised.
How have you found doing something different to playing?
To be honest, I’ve loved it. In terms of actually running the business, my degree had a bit of business and management involved, so that’s been great. Challenging, but really rewarding as well. It’s great having so many different dimensions to the new job, but for me it comes down to what you’re actually doing it for. When a club are trying to get a girls’ team off the ground and they’re unsure how to do it, you can really see the impact you’ve had in helping them develop, and it’s so rewarding. That’s what it’s all about, working with girls whose ambition is to go on and play for their county, or even England one day, and getting to work with a range of ages and abilities.
So are there a number of clubs and schools coming to you for your expertise now?
Yeah. Initially it was me getting in touch saying, ‘I’ve retired from international cricket, I’m trying to get into coaching, do you want me to come down and run a few sessions for you?’ That snowballed once the website was launched, and the social media got going. It just goes to show how much the women’s game is growing in profile.
Does it feel weird when you walk in and these youngsters are looking up at you? For some of them you’ll be something of a hero.
I don’t know if they see me as a hero! It’s more that the girls get a female role-model, someone who is going to come in and help them develop their game. In the academy, we hold masterclasses aimed at providing access to female cricketers, young and old. We had Laura Marsh come down and run one of our academy sessions, and those girls have only seen her play on television, but suddenly they’re training with her, asking her questions. It’s about making the players and coaches into role-models who are more accessible than they may have been in the past.
And I guess it normalises women playing cricket? Some of the girls may not have been able to speak to and spend time with female sporting role-models before.
Definitely. Over 10 years ago, cricket was still perceived as a men’s sport. Now, a female coach can walk into a school and the girls can think , ‘I can give this a good go’, instead of just seeing it as a boys’ sport because they only have a male coach. There are loads of brilliant male coaches out there – we had James Kirtley come down and work with the bowlers, where the girls had video analysis of their actions, for example – but having a female coach can only break down barriers.
How does it compare to when you first started playing? Do you think you can maybe keep some girls in the game who would otherwise drift away?
I hope it’ll help the girls who just enjoy the game, and enjoy playing it with their friends. A lot of the girls in the England team played boys’ cricket when they were younger, because they were good enough and could hold their own – but that’s not for everyone. With the opportunity to play girls’ cricket, the game could suddenly open up to those who might not have stuck around. There’s a huge amount of talent out there, and hopefully this is something that will help them, and keep them playing the game.
With the World Cup coming up it’s a huge year for the women’s game, how much of a part could that play in increasing the sport’s popularity?
I think we’re hoping for a bit of a Wimbledon effect. The ECB have had a huge advertising campaign on the London Underground, it’s amazing – hopefully this can draw in some people who might not have seen much women’s cricket. The final at Lord’s is going to be a huge occasion, and obviously I’m hopeful the England girls can do well. As a nation, England just loves winning things. If you’ve got a team and they’re doing well, the British public are great at getting behind them. It will be fantastic for the players, as well – that’s the sort of thing that you dream about, playing in a World Cup final on home soil.