Joanne joins the Wheatsheaf team

WOMEN and Girls cricket has been placed firmly on the front foot in Cheshire following the appointment of a specialist coaching officer dedicated to developing the female game.

Joanne Herbertson has joined Cheshire Cricket Board as a Development and Coaching Officer (Women and Girls), and hopes her new role will inspire the next generation of club and county cricketers.

Joanne, who performed a similar role for Northumberland Cricket Board before relocating to Cheshire recently, is excited about the prospect of enthusing and recruiting new players to play competitive cricket within the county.

She said: "There is a huge pool of talent in Cheshire - I didn't realise just how big the county was until moving here - and I want to tap into that talent and get more girls actively involved in cricket.

"The challenge is getting that transition from enjoying cricket at school, to joining a local club and then staying with the sport through their teenage years. I am motivated to try and close that gap between the school and club environments wherever I can.

"There seems to be a very good structure in place already for Women's cricket in Cheshire. The Women's League is certainly one of the strongest around, with three divisions and teams from all over (and even outside) the county taking part.

"I want to help develop cricket from grass roots up. My view is that the Women's League should be populated by women, with strong junior competitions beneath this to support it, and when the players are ready they will naturally make that transition."

Joanne has a wealth of experience coaching female players, having led the Northumberland County Age Group squads at Under 13, Under 15 and Under 17 level.

She has already begun working on the Cheshire Girls Excellence Programme, and this summer will take charge of the Girls U13s alongside manager Andrew Jackson.

"I have really enjoyed the Excellence sessions so far," said Joanne.

"There are some really talented girls, and they all seem motivated to improve.

"That gives me a huge buzz and is the main reason I got involved in coaching in the first place. I love working with people, and the idea that you can create relationships and help people achieve success.

"Sport gives us some of the highest highs and the lowest lows, and you can learn a lot about somebody from the way they react when placed under pressure. I like to keep people motivated and reaching for their goals.

"It's great working with players who have achieved some success at representative level. They really wear that county emblem as a badge of honour. I love seeing really passionate people.

"I'm also a massive games coach - I really believe in conditioned games that help the player solve problems for themselves rather than being told what to do all the time. It's that player-centred approach that I find works best, particularly when introducing young girls to the game."

Working alongside fellow Cheshire coaches Jess Lewis and Raffaella Rodighiero, Joanne is pleased to see some positive female role models for the Cheshire girls to look up to.

"One of my biggest challenges in Northumberland was getting other women involved in coaching," she revealed. "We even put on a Coach Support Worker Course solely for women in an attempt to get greater exposure among the clubs, with mixed results.

"Here in Cheshire there are already plenty of role models for the girls to look up to, both in terms of coaching and the administration of leagues. I have been working alongside Jess and Raffaella, both excellent coaches, and have also witnessed some of the great work Sarah McCann and her team have done to develop the Women's game.

She added: "It's such an exciting time to be involved and I can't wait for this new adventure."

A qualified coach in several sports including football, badminton and gymnastics, Joanne has performed a variety of roles since graduating from Northumbria University with a degree in sociology and politics.

She spent time working and living abroad, before returning to the North East to concentrate on her true passion - inspiring people (young and old) to achieve their goals through sport.

She revealed: "I didn't go into coaching straight away after leaving university. Initially I worked on the administration team for a company of land contamination consultants, but it wasn't really what I wanted to do!

"There was a lot of travel involved, but I spent most of my down time planning my next coaching session, so sport was never far from my mind.

"I then spent some time in the USA coaching football before coming back to the North East to coach full time in schools and clubs across a range of different sports, including badminton and gymnastics.

"Two years ago I was fortunate enough to be offered a part time role developing Women and Girls Cricket for Northumberland Cricket Board, and this was quickly extended to a full time role.

"I really enjoyed my time there and made some good friends.

"Moving down to Cheshire is a new chapter for me, and everyone has made me feel very welcome. I just want to get started now and to try and make an impact where I can."

To learn more about Women and Girls cricket in Cheshire click here. You can follow Joanne Herbertson on Twitter: @jo_sports