In our 6-part series focusing on women in the Cricket NSW community for International Women’s Day on March 8 we look at how a Sydney club’s development of a Girl’s Leadership Program is designed to keep girls and women in love with cricket for life. #BreakTheBias

Kirsty Newbury has never bowled a ball in her life. She has never taken centre with bat in hand, either.

But the 46-year-old mother of two daughters might just play a more integral role in women’s cricket than the latest wicket taking superstar or batting prodigy.

Newbury is a volunteer at West Pennant Hills Cherrybrook Cricket Club in Sydney’s Hills District and she is the driving force behind a leadership program for teenage girls that she hopes will be copied by cricket clubs and associations near and far.

The program, that is offered to the club’s ‘Stage 3’ players, is designed to develop leadership and inclusiveness in a cohort of players that might not see playing for the Sixers or Thunder, or becoming the next Alyssa Healy, as a path they want to go down.

It’s about equipping young women with all the skills and resources around the game, so that when they find their niche in cricket, or in life in general, they aren’t lost to the sport.

“I came from a cricket family,” Newbury explains.

“My brother played and my Dad was a coach. My husband plays now and has played all the way through.

“My daughters are 16 and 14. The eldest, Trinity, has played in all the NSW Pathways competitions and played Brewer Shield for Northern Districts. She loves her cricket and wants to continue to improve down that pathway.

“My youngest, Halle, is more social. She just wants to show up, have fun and play on a Saturday. She loves cricket but she’s not interested in playing grade cricket or anything serious.

“So I started talking to other parents and people on the club’s committee and we realised that we wanted to create a pathway in cricket that wasn’t focussed on reaching the elite level.

“We also asked, ‘what are we doing to grow women’s cricket in our area?’ We want the game to be for everyone, even if it’s not on the field as a player.

“We had a beautiful group of young, fearless and talented girls with a great knowledge of cricket, but they didn’t necessarily want to continue into playing more elite cricket.

“That was our first goal, to create another cricket pathway. The second was to increase numbers in the sport."

With a background in teaching and her own firsthand family experiences, Newbury and a very supportive group of fellow volunteers set about creating a Leadership Program with a focus on ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’.

They put together workshops on areas like administration and committee, nutrition and wellness, inclusion, coaching and umpiring.

One of the most important parts of the program is the participants were included in the design of the course. The teenagers came together for four hours during their school holidays to explain what they wanted out of the program.

“We didn’t want to be too preachy. It’s about engagement. It’s about trying to create opportunities for girls in the future, but they have to be things that they can actually be interested in, and want to do, so that they continue to love cricket,” Newbury said.

“Women’s leadership is different to men’s. We have noticed through this process that the girls exhibit a real kindness and empathy and a desire to go along the leadership journey together, rather than to take it alone to better themselves individually.”

Humble to a fault, Newbury said the development and implementation of the program was a team effort.

“We couldn’t have done this without our Stage 3 parent group,” Newbury explained.

“They really are the reason I had access to the girls and they have been working with me to assist in initiatives along the way. They never say no to me and always put their hands up to assist, especially our coach this season, Darren McKeon, and our Girl’s Coordinators Suzanna and Grant Colburt. I couldn’t have done any of it without them.”

So far eight girls have been part of the program with up to 20 expected to participate next season. Moving forward the club plans to offer the program for their girl’s teams every year.

“We hope other clubs and associations start doing similar programs too because we can already see the benefits in the eight girls that have participated in our program,” Newbury said.

“I am a perfect example of what this program is all about. I have no technical cricket skills but you don’t have to play to love it and be involved in it.”