Lydia Greenway is a retired English cricketer with four Ashes wins and two World Cups to her name. Having retired this summer, Lydia made her England debut in the first Women’s Ashes Test of the 2003 tour to Australia and went on to represent her country a further 224 times, scoring over 4,000 international runs and taking a total of 121 international catches, over a 13-year span.
Now the coach and Director of her own coaching company ‘Cricket for Girls’, Lydia works hard at promoting the game of cricket and encouraging more women to become coaches of the game.
After retiring from playing cricket in June this year, how is life treating you and do you miss competing?
I certainly miss pulling on an England shirt, and I don’t think that will ever change. I spent a bit of time commentating on the women’s series in the summer against Pakistan, and more recently on their winter tour in the West Indies, it felt strange watching the team warm up and not being involved! However, I have found there are so many more exciting opportunities and challenges than I thought there would be and I am thoroughly enjoying myself!
Am I right in saying you are now a coach, how have you found the transition and has it been a natural one?
Yes that’s right. I have recently set up my own coaching business called cricketforgirls.com. I have always been involved in coaching, even whilst I was playing. I was, and still am a coaching ambassador for the charity Chance to Shine. They do a huge amount for grassroots cricket and have provided so much opportunity for youngsters who may never have had access to cricket.
However, I still feel that a lot more can be done in terms of providing more opportunity for girls to play cricket. Not just giving them the opportunity to play and be coached, but providing them with the opportunity to play and be coached by inspiring female coaches. I have seen firsthand the impact it can have on young girls when a female coach walks in to lead their session. The barriers are suddenly shattered and it suddenly makes it ok for the girls to get involved! This is something cricketforgirls.com wants to provide, particularly in schools for girls who have never played before.
I’m also passionate about bridging the gap between club and county players by providing extra opportunity for training. have also launched two academies in Kent, with plans to open another in the Midlands. These are for girls at club and county level who really want to improve and develop their games.
What experiences from your playing career are most helpful in developing yourself as a coach?
I think from a young age you remember the coaches who make sessions engaging and fun, especially at grass roots level. For me it was always about match play! I think young children pick so much up from fun games. Of course there is always room for technique but I think that comes at an older age and when children start to get a bit more serious about it.
As I started to get better I worked with two coaches in particular who helped me become an England player. One thing which stood out was how simple they kept it. I think that was because they realized how I worked as a player and that keeping it simple seemed to work for me. As I develop in my coaching career I don’t want to lose sight of that, the importance of recognizing how different players work and adapting to them rather than them adapting to you. It may also be a bit boring but I don’t think anything can replace repetition when learning a new skill.
Why do you think there aren’t more female coaches in cricket, especially as the ECB’s Director of England Women’s Cricket is female?
It really is a tough one and one I probably can’t answer in a few sentances! One thing I would love to see is perhaps more programs within the county set ups offereing coaching opportunities to the female county players. I spent a lot of time in Australia playing and one thing the states did extremely well was provide part time and full time roles for their female players to coach in the locals schools and clubs. I realise this doesn’t provide opportunity for non-players but it is a good starting point.
A lot of counties have started to do it, in the form of using the female players as an ambassdors and I think this is a really good starting point. Another thing some counties have done is run female only coaching courses, I have helped run some of these and they have been really well attended.
Lastly, I think it also comes down to numbers. The amount of females playing cricket compared to men is much lower so in that regard it is natural there won’t be as many female coaches, however that shouldn’t mean that the opportunity isn’t there for female coaches to develop.
Why do you think not many female players go on to become coaches?
At the moment the women’s game as a whole isn’t professional (apart from the England Women), and therefore it would be hard as a female coach to make a living out of it. I think as we see competitions such as the Kia Super League develop and start to become more professional it may be that females see it as a genuine career opportunity. We have started to see it already, with two head coaches in the Kia Super League being female so there is no reason as tournaments like this progress and develop why that number can’t increase.
Do you think it is important to have played cricket at a highest level in order to become a successful coach?
Another tough one! To a certain extent I think coaches need to understand what players go through mentally, and obviously playing to a good level will help this, especially with cricket having a huge emphasis on mental side of the game. I think as you go up the performance pyramid a coach can help players if they can understand certain aspects around that, and playing at the top level would help. But, some of the best coaches I have played with haven’t necessarily played for England, they’ve just had a really good understanding of how the games work, as well as a brilliant understanding of the people they are working with.
At grassroots level, I don’t think there is any need to have played the game at all, as long as coaches have an understanding of the game, the main thing is about inspiring and providing beginners with an engaging session.
What piece of advice would you give to other female cricketers who are unsure what to do when they retire? And would you recommend going into coaching?
I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I retired, I had prepared for it in terms of studying for a degree and other qualifciations whilst I was playing but it was hard to know what I enjoyed doing outside of playing cricket. One thing I made sure I didn?t do was dive in and commit to just one thing, I gave myself a bit of time to try different things to help me find out what I enjoyed, so I guess that would be my advice. Give yourself time to find out what you enjoy doing before commiting.
I would without a doubt recommend coaching. Former players from any sport would have so much to give back to give back and are hugely valuable especially in women’s sport where number of coaches are perhaps a bit lower. On a personal note it is also extremely rewarding working with young players passionate about the game and so eager to learn.