When you think of cricketers, who springs to mind? Freddie Flintoff? Virat Kohli? Ian Botham? Of course they do. Media coverage, history, and to some extent gender stereotypes are what have made cricket a ‘male’ sport. But that’s changing. And Danielle Gibson wants to be part of that change,
“Men’s sport is just more widely watched and it is better to watch as it’s much faster, but I think it would be great if the women teams could get as much publicity.”
The number of young girls starting up cricket is rising. Danielle Gibson is an extraordinary teenager who is not only studying a PE and Coaching BTEC but holds an aspiration to become one of England’s top professional cricketers. But it has not been easy for her. You may be forgiven, when hearing stories of her early experiences, that we’re referring to a different century,
“At the beginning when it was just boys playing, I used to struggle, the opposition would come and be like ‘why is there a girl playing’ and say things like ‘you play cricket, so you can’t be a girl’, that use to make me think ‘maybe I should stop playing’”
Fortunately, Danielle had the resolve and family support to weather the slights and persevere. Danielle’s cricket career started at aged 9 when she would go and join in at her Dads’ weekly coaching sessions. Coming from a sporting family, Danielle was also a keen hockey and tennis player but when asked why cricket became the main priority, she doesn’t hesitate, “I prefer cricket because of the background from my dad, plus I’ve had more of a taste of the professional side of cricket and there are more opportunities in this sport for me than the others”. Fast forward two years and Danielle was already being noticed. Her Dad, Mike, is keen to list her achievements, “At the age of 11, Danielle was the first female to be selected onto the EPP (Emerging Player Programme) for Gloucestershire, quite surprising as she was freshly into the game”. Notably, she has also previously been awarded both Gloucestershire’s Bowler and Player of the Year.
The main difference I’ve noticed between genders is strength. Men bowl much faster than women, which means women have to be more technical
Mike felt the frustrations for his daughter when Danielle was selected onto the EPP, “Being the only girl and training with lads who are physically stronger and faster was quite challenging”. Once again she rose to that challenge. Danielle is pragmatic about the physical differences between male and female cricketers, “The main difference I’ve noticed between genders is strength. Men bowl much faster than women”, she pauses to ensure her meaning is not lost, “which means women have to be more technical”.
Off the field, the gender differences disappear. Men and women cricket teams follow the same basic review and training schedules. They both reflect on the game, have team meetings, look at stats, and think of ways to improve. As with any elite sport the defining factor is often mentality, “We like to look on the positives, even if we lose, it helps us to have a positive mind set”.
When asked how she would describe herself in sport, Danielle is quick to respond, “I see myself as an athlete more than a sportswoman because being called a sportswoman puts you in the stigma that you aren’t as strong, which is true but it’s just the way we’re built, we will never be as strong as men”.
It’s just the way we’re built, we will never be as strong as men
Many schools around the world still frown on girls getting involved in certain sporting activities. Arcane as it may sound inequality in something as apparently innocuous as school sports is rife and only serves to build on negative stereotypes. Danielle is impatient to tear those dogmas down,
I hate it when people say girls can’t get muddy, why can’t they? They have every right to, if they want to and it makes them happy then why not?
Why not indeed. Danielle has broken through the gender stereotypes some sought to impose on her as a child and is now on course to fulfil her dream of playing cricket for England. At 17 she has already played on Sky Sports for the KIA Super League Team Western Storm, shared changing rooms and team talks with England Captain Heather Knight. Perhaps this is only the beginning for Danielle Gibson. It will be if she has any say in the outcome.