Head of Sport, Sedbergh School
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The recent participation of a Year 12 girl in Sedbergh School’s First XI has been met with a lot of excitement and community support. Mahika is the first girl to have played in the School’s First XI – but not the first girl to play on one of Sedbergh’s boys’ cricket teams. In a sign of sport’s inclusiveness at Sedbergh, Mahika’s inclusion made few ripples within the school. A girl on the team is rare enough to be celebrated, but the interest is a celebration of Mahika’s achievement more than the breaking of any taboos.
A pupil’s place on the team is based on merit and irrespective of gender, the best eleven will always play, so it wasn’t really a decision.
Sedbergh’s Head of Cricket and respected coach, Martin Speight, says, “There would be a problem putting a player on who wasn’t good enough – but there was no hesitation in selecting Mahika.”
We’ve played schools before with the girls on the first team, but we haven’t had a girl at that level on our own team. Brighton College is one school that have fielded girls for maybe 20 years. I can honestly say that none of the boys on the opposition team were phased. Certainly, they may not have played against a girl before, but when you’re staring down the pitch and watching her speed and accuracy when she bowls, it doesn’t take long to understand why Mahika was selected.
From a logistical perspective, including girls on any of Sedbergh’s traditionally boys’ sports teams doesn’t present any challenges. Naturally, the School has boy’s and girl’s changing facilities, the School has coaches experienced in training both girls and boys and pastoral staff are always available for the team’.
School sports’ governing bodies are similarly pragmatic. Whoever makes the team can play. It’s definitely something that motivates Sedbergh’s girls. There are no barriers; if their playing standard makes them eligible for the team – then they are on the team. No question. No special notifications or reporting needed.
Martin has seen girls’ interest in cricket growing nationally and Sedbergh recently added coach and talented player, Arathy Jayapal to the School’s strong coaching team. Martin is sure we will see more girls make the team.
“As girls’ participation in cricket increases it’s natural that the standard will improve and we’ll have other girls in the First XI. Recently our U15 team really wanted Amelia, a very talented year 10 girl to play on a team we fielded, but I had to say no because she was playing on our girls’ team that day. Amelia is definitely one of our top four batters – regardless of gender.”
I believe more girls will follow, it’s aspirational. Whatever you do, you need role models. Somebody’s got to do it first. And as soon as someone does it first, more will follow. You see that at the moment on an international level with girls’ football in England. The standard has gone up and all of a sudden we’ve got girls around the country everywhere wanting to do football. I expect to see the same snowball here at Sedbergh. Mahika is in the first team. People think, well, that is amazing. We’ve already got more and more girls queuing up to do cricket and we’ve just appointed a new girls’ coach. We started with one team a few years ago. We’ve now got five teams.
For more information, please email Stuart Oliver at [email protected]