FEATURE: Performance pathway key to Derbyshire women’s cricket thriving
“When I took part in my first session at school, I had no idea women even played cricket.”
Those are the words of Derbyshire’s current women’s cricket captain Lauren Tuffrey, and are all the more remarkable given the sessions to which she refers only happened 12 years ago.
Since then, women’s cricket has enjoyed a rapid boost in popularity.
The success of the England team in becoming world champions in 2017 has aided that rise, and although that was their fourth world crown following wins in 2009, 1993 and 1973, it was perhaps the most high profile given the more widespread coverage the sport now deservedly receives.
Indeed, the month of June is ‘Women’s Big Cricket Month’, with initiatives taking place all over the country to help get more females involved.
So it’s perhaps not surprising to now learn that, under the guidance of Tuffrey and a number of other experienced coaches, youngsters from right across Derbyshire are looking to follow in the footsteps of the likes of 21-year-old Sarah Glenn, now an established member of the England side in all formats and with a promising career surely ahead of her.
The young players are part of a performance pathway devised by the Derbyshire Cricket Foundation, a dedicated charity that provides an inclusive range of projects and activities to help inspire all members of the community.
The pathway sees players, some as young as eight-years-old, receive training at either under-11, under-13, under-15 or under-17 level, with the aim of then progressing to the Derbyshire first team and perhaps beyond.
And for 23-year-old Tuffrey, coaching on the pathway means a lot to her given it’s a route she herself took.
She said: “I was a bit different to many others as I actually joined the pathway at 15-years-old. I’m from, and based, in Doncaster and hadn’t been able to get into the Yorkshire setup, but was offered trials with Derbyshire and it worked out well.
"Our players get exposure to high level coaching and opportunities at a young age. The structure is giving them more opportunities and they know that if they work hard they could progress to be a pro, as some have done before them.”
One of the key aspects of the pathway is that of the 100-plus players that are part of it, many are spread out right across the county, including the Derbyshire Dales and High Peak.
That sees the training sessions held in places including Ilkeston, Wirksworth and Derby itself to help reduce travelling times for some players, although Tuffrey explains their dedication is such that wherever the training is, all players usually attend.
She said: “Some will travel for two hours after school just to train, even the younger ones, so it’s great to see them make that effort.
"The girls in the High Peak often have to travel the furthest but they’re usually the first to say they’ll be there!
"They know how much it means to play for Derbyshire. There is a real pride for the shirt and it’s great to see it. I’ve always worn it with pride and that’s instilled in the youngsters from the start.
"Quite a few of the senior women’s players coach – we only have two or three male coaches – and although I mainly work with the under-13s, I also help with the other ages sometimes too.
"I feel I’m probably playing at the highest level I’ll get to, so coaching is a way for me to hopefully keep my options open in terms of working in the game at a high level and I’m applying to do my level three coaching at the moment.”
With Tuffrey spending much of her time travelling and coaching during the week and then also playing for Derbyshire each Sunday, she then dedicates her Saturdays to playing cricket too – but for a men’s team.
She currently captains Chesterfield’s men’s third team in the Derbyshire County Cricket League, where she has played for the last five years and for whom she is a regular star performer.
And she feels her experience in the men’s game helps her when it comes to playing and coaching with Derbyshire.
She said: “I used to play for a club in Sheffield and had a friend at Chesterfield who urged me to go along and it instantly felt better than my old club and I’ve been there ever since.
"I don’t see too many other females in the Derbyshire County League although there are some.
"We encourage our young players on the pathway to get into the Sunday teams but if they’re comfortable playing men’s cricket on a Saturday then they should go for it.”
Tuffrey says she is well received throughout the league despite it being so male dominated.
She added: “You get the odd comment from individuals here and there but I’m very lucky in that my team are all brilliant and will back me to the end of the earth.
"If you're in the right team environment it doesn’t affect you as much and I try and let my cricket do the talking.”
You can find out more about the Derbyshire Cricket Foundation Performance Pathway, which is sponsored by RDS Global Ltd, by visiting www.dcfcricket.com. The Foundation also has a social media presence on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.