When a girls’ under-14 team represented Weybridge Vandals CC in Surrey Cricket Foundation (SCF) Indoor League last autumn, it brought to life a goal that has been dear to the club from Walton-on-Thames for some time – fielding a girls-only XI of their own.
“We’ve got a long way to go, but in the last year, I’d say we’ve gone from it being sort of a hope, a plan, a vision to much more of a reality,” says Graham Hills, the Club Captain.
2023 was a record-breaking year for women’s cricket in Surrey, and Weybridge Vandals CC was one of the many clubs supported by the Foundation in the county that saw impressive progress in their women and girls’ section.
While it was a “breakthrough” moment for the club, Hills says that their journey began from “very small footings”. It had not always been smooth sailing in the previous years for the Vandals, with their efforts to start a women and girls’ section often going unrewarded.
Consistency, however, is what they put their faith in, repeatedly investing energy in the SCF’s programmes and cricket taster sessions to the point that they became one of the busier All Stars and Dynamos Cricket hubs in the county last summer. “It was off the back of that, with the help of club volunteers, we got the opportunity to build the girls’ squad and were able to enter the indoor league in the winter.”
A taste of competitive cricket has galvanised more interest in the team, and the club is now excited to feature in the Tier 2 Softball League – a new competition organised by the SCF – alongside hosting a multitude of girls’ cricket festivals next spring.
The Vandals are determined to prepare well for the summer and keep the fire within the girls’ cohort alight. They have put in place weekly, girls-only indoor net sessions throughout the winter, which will transition into outdoor practice in spring.
Graham is grateful to the SCF for creating a formalised structure in women and girls’ community cricket, where “it is all put on the table”, making it simpler and easier for clubs to grab opportunities and join various leagues.
He adds that the Foundation also helped his club “understand the art of the possible and what growing girls’ cricket requires.” Enacting on the feedback they received, the Vandals recognised the criticality of introducing female leadership in the club. “The arrival of Liz Singleton as the co-lead of the women and girls’ section,” says Hills, “has been hugely important. Liz has been able to make sure that the girls feel supported and can grow in confidence, and at their own pace.”
“It’s a very supportive club,” comments Liz. “I think the position that we’re in now from where we were before I first joined four or five months ago, has been really positive.”
“We trained on Monday and the girls loved it. We just need to keep that momentum up so that they’re enjoying the game first and foremost, and if they want to carry on and do it more seriously, that’s great… but if they’re having fun and gaining those skills, I think that’s really the first hurdle to building the girls contingent up.”
“Cricket is a very enjoyable sport and I keep coming back because of the things I’ve learned!” says Dineesha, who plays in the Softball team. “I enjoy batting the most… the atmosphere is really fun and everyone is really friendly!” adds Grace, another new joiner to the girls’ team.
In the summer of 2024, the Vandals are hoping to celebrate their centenary season by building on their progress and delivering the vision for their women and girls’ section, making it an integral part of their club’s story from now on.