We're fighting to make cricket more inclusive for girls


Sisters Honor and Cat Black loved playing cricket but hated having to wear boys’ sports kits, so they decided to do something about it. Here, the teenage sisters from Chichester, West Sussex, share their inspiring story…

Honor Black, 16, left, and her sister Cat, 15, have designed a girls' cricket wear line called Maiden. Left, Cat (centre) pictured with Maiden ambassadors. (Supplied)Honor Black, 16, left, and her sister Cat, 15, have designed a girls' cricket wear line called Maiden. Left, Cat (centre) pictured with Maiden ambassadors. (Supplied)

Honor Black, 16, left, and her sister Cat, 15, have designed a girls’ cricket wear line called Maiden. Left, Cat (centre) pictured with Maiden Ambassadors. (Supplied)

My first memories of cricket are watching my brother Jacob – Cat’s twin – play at our local team in Barnes, South West London. Our dad, Oliver, a businessman, loved the sport and was often encouraging Jacob to take it up. Cat and I would watch from the sidelines as they practised in the nets.

We were about six and seven at the time and watching our brother play, we wanted to join in. Cricket looked so much fun. Back then, I can’t say there was anything particularly special about the game itself – although I now love that feeling of whacking a ball for miles or bowling someone out. We simply wanted to play.

I joined first and then Cat joined a little later. As the only two girls in a squad of around 40 boys, we were treated exactly how you’d expect. They either ignored us, or they took the mickey out of us. If we got a wicket it was ‘a fluk’ or ‘a double bounce’. But we didn’t care. Cat, in particular, loved showing up the boys – especially the cocky ones when she hit a ball for six or took a wicket. But after a while, the respect grew from the boys and they started to realise that girls could be just as good as them.

Honor Black, 16, designed a range of girls' cricket clothing with her younger sister Cat. (Supplied)Honor Black, 16, designed a range of girls' cricket clothing with her younger sister Cat. (Supplied)

Honor Black, 16, designed a range of girls’ cricket clothing with her younger sister Cat. (Supplied)

For the first few years, Cat and I didn’t play matches, it was all about practising in the nets. But we moved to Chichester in West Sussex six years ago and joined our school team and our local club and that’s when we started taking cricket a bit more seriously.

But once again, there were very few girls playing cricket and no girls teams at all, so no proper coaching. In the end, some of the dads at the school said, “Enough is enough” and they started teaching their daughters how to play.

By the time we joined senior school, three other girls were also playing cricket – but again, in the boys team. I always felt like we were playing ‘a boys’ game’. We still loved it but there was one thing we hated – the kit.

Initially, it was the ‘see-throughness’ of the white kit that bothered us. When you’re standing on the boundary, waiting for a catch or to make a leap to stop the ball from going for a four, you often have to bend over or squat, right in front of the crowd. We were so conscious that everyone could see our underwear and if we had our period, that was particularly awful. Cat once had a ‘period incident’ in Year eight and was mortified.

Not only that, but the kit – which we often borrowed from the boys or was passed down to us from Jacob – was heavy, it didn’t fit well so was not particularly comfortable. I remember my mum having to sew up the bottom of the trousers as they were too long, while the waist was falling down around our knees. It had a ‘dragging’ effect, meaning that our play was affected.

Initially, it was the ‘see-throughness’ of the white kit that bothered us.

Last year, Cat and I were sitting around with our family complaining about how awful the kit was and it was Dad who said, “Why don’t you do something about it?” He’s a proud feminist and has always encouraged us to try new things. As a businessman, he had some contacts at a factory in Portugal who could make clothes, so we started looking into it seriously.

We did some research and found that 25% of girls say that ill-fitting sportswear makes them feel self-conscious and 44% say they wouldn’t wear sports kit if it was uncomfortable. What’s more, 35% per cent said they wouldn’t wear it if it wasn’t fit for purpose during their period, while 27% even said they wouldn’t wear it if sweat marks showed easily. So we realised it wasn’t just us who felt this way.

Cat and I were sitting around with our family complaining about how awful the kit was and it was Dad who said, ‘Why don’t you do something about it?’

I thought about my friends who were really into tennis. I had often noticed how smart they looked in their kits, their shirts were fitted, they wore skorts – like skirts but with a shorts panel inside – that gave them confidence and comfort. That’s what we wanted.

We also wanted the trousers to have a big wow factor – to have shorts built in them so there was no ‘see-through’ and to fit perfectly. We added poppers to the hems so you can adjust the length to suit.

Cat Black on left and older sister Honor on right. (Supplied)Cat Black on left and older sister Honor on right. (Supplied)

Cat Black on left and older sister Honor on right. (Supplied)

We visited the factory to try out different fabrics and chose one that was really lightweight, stretchy and wicked away moisture. We had a great response from everyone we spoke to and lots of encouragement about being young entrepreneurs but I sometimes get the sense that people might be a bit cautious of the fact we’re so young. But the only sexism we’ve found is on the pitch!

It was our grandpa Thomas who helped us come up with the name Maiden. We’d drawn up a list and he said this was clever – because it captured that it was for women and also about cricket (a maiden over is six balls where the batsman scores no runs). So Maiden was born.

When the lorry arrived with all our new kit on, I remember thinking, ‘Have we really done this? We’re just schoolgirls!’

It’s been a really interesting experience and we’re thrilled with the new kit. I remember seeing the lorry arrive and sent Cat a video of all these boxes with our kit in them and thinking, ‘Have we really done this? We’re just schoolgirls!’

But when I first saw the kit and tried it on, I couldn’t believe how comfortable it was and how well it fitted. We really hope it will make a difference for girls playing our sport.

Cricket in schools is now being offered to girls and it’s come a long way, but there is still so much further to go. We need more female coaches and umpires as well as accessibility to pitches and matches. We want to have no limitations on which schools are playing which – and one day we hope girls can play in the Cricket World Cup if they dream of playing at the highest level.

Honor Black, left, and Cat, right, wanted their cricket whites to have built-in shorts and not be see-through. (Supplied)Honor Black, left, and Cat, right, wanted their cricket whites to have built-in shorts and not be see-through. (Supplied)

Honor Black, left, and Cat, right, wanted their cricket whites to have built-in shorts and not be see-through. (Supplied)

The reaction to Maiden has been fantastic and most of the responses we get on our Instagram account are things like: ‘Thank goodness someone has finally done something about girls’ kit.’ We can’t believe it hasn’t been done before.

One of the things I’m most proud of is that we’ve started the Maiden Ambassador programme where cricket-loving girls can sign up to be ‘Maiden Heroes’ and we arrange events and educational talks with sporting legends. We just want girls to feel like they are part of the bigger game and to feel that there’s a real ‘sisterhood’ in cricket. Because women’s cricket has taken off in the last couple of decades – perhaps not as much as the Lionesses in football – but it’s still popular and we want to encourage that.

We just want girls to feel like they are part of the bigger game and to feel that there’s a real ‘sisterhood’ in cricket.

Sport helps girls not only in terms of fitness but also in terms of confidence and competitiveness in the world of work. We did a survey and found that 70% of girls enjoy playing sport, but too many girls give up sport in their teenage years and that’s a real shame.

Although I’ve got exams coming up next year, I’m still going to be playing a lot of sport – I still love tennis and netball too. But I will always love cricket. I’ve got a match next week and I’m playing in the adult team where some of the men are in their 50s. They can’t believe that a girl of 15 can bowl them out – but I can and I have! And now I have the kit to help me play even better.

Maiden is available on Maiden-cricket.co.uk.

Read more

Campaign featuring women’s rugby stars in lingerie branded ‘regressive and sexist’ (Independent, 3-min read)

New research reveals extent of sexist discrimination in football (Sportsbeat, 3-min read)



Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top