Jenny wants to bowl women over
AS England women’s cricket team romped to victory Down Under against Australia in The Ashes, one pioneer has taken on the challenge of promoting the sport to girls and women in East Lancashire.
Lancashire and Read player Jenny Laycock, 25, has been charged with the task of explaining “wides” and a “googly” to an audience brought up on hockey and netball.
And although two local players, Arran Brindle, from Barnoldswick, and Kate Cross, from Bolton (her dad David works for Rovers) play in the victorious England team, the grassroots women’s game has been largely overlooked.
In her capacity as Lancashire CC’s women’s development officer, Jenny aims to change all that. But first she must tackle the prejudices and misconceptions.
“Cricket has always been a male-dominated sport and in my early days of playing sexism was rife,” she says.
“I learned to rise above it. In the Ribblesdale League 10 years ago, it was pretty horrible at times. Some would purposely bowl slowly, when I prefer it faster because it’s easier to hit.
"They used to try to put me off my game asking me if I was ‘wearing a box’ and joking that girls should be making the tea. At 12 or 13 that kind of behaviour from grown men can be intimidating. But when I started getting them out, they stopped taking the mickey.
“Now, I like to think that they see me as the cricketer who plays at Read, not the girl who plays at Read.”
Jenny, who lived opposite the Read ground and started playing at nine, is inspiring as a person and sporstwoman, but getting women interested in a game they generally regard as boring and blokey is an enormous challenge. She has, however, already converted a friend.
“She’s a firefighter who plays hockey, tennis, football and badminton, but she’d never been interested in cricket. She had nothing to do last summer, so she gave it a go. Now she’s hooked. Cricket is competitive and requires timing, stamina and a certain amount of psychology. It won’t appeal to all, but to anyone who already enjoys sport I’d say ‘give it a try’ you will be surprised.”
A Girl Guide troop in Mellor was similarly unenthusiastic when Jenny visited. “I told them that when I was young I never wanted to go to Guides, because I preferred the Scouts but wasn’t allowed to join, so if they could convince me to join the Guides then I would convince them to play cricket. Most said they didn’t want to do it, but by the end they were all smiling and saying they were going to give it another go,” she says.
So, is women’s cricket more genteel than the male sport? Jenny laughs: “Absolutely not. The women’s game is more technical and the men’s requires brute strength. I usually win the psychological battle on the bowl spin. Men try to hit the ball as hard as possible, but I try to out-think them so I bowl a bit slower and wider, so they can’t reach it.”
Jenny is engaged to and lives with Read player Frank Barden, an engineer.
Jenny is setting up two teams in Blackburn in partnership with Queen Elizabeth Grammar School. A bid for funding has been submitted to Sportivate, a £32million National Lottery funded programme that aims to capture the excitement of sport by providing opportunities for teenagers and young adults.
Free sessions are being held in QEGS’ main gym on Monday. Girls aged six plus from 6pm to 7pm and aged 13 plus from 7-8pm.
Comments are closed on this article.