Whether you’ve played before, or never picked up a bat in your life, women’s softball cricket is for you, says Millie Behrens.
“There’s no pain, it’s all gain – a completely new, fast, fun social game that’s perfect for women of all ages and abilities.”
And Millie really knows what she’s talking about. In the past six months, more than 350 women from across the region have signed up to play the sport –which is spreading like wildfire throughout the country – at one of 180 dedicated festivals.
These festivals, launched by the England Cricket Board to encourage women to get involved in the sport of cricket, have brought women together to play and to celebrate being active and healthy. Each cricket board throughout England has been tasked with setting up festivals in their own region - and the success of this year means that the ECB is already looking towards next summer, and how they can expand on the idea.
“Unlike regular cricket, there’s no need for pads and helmets,” explains 22-year-old Millie, of Broomhill, the Yorkshire Cricket Board’s women’s softball cricket coordinator.
“The game is the same, apart from the fact it is played with a softball, and it is really aimed at women who haven’t played cricket before.
“The initiative is about getting women involved in sport, about encouraging them to be healthy and active, taking up a sport that is fun and inclusive and looking at a sport like cricket in a way that makes it more comfortable for beginners.
“It’s played more for fun, than competitively, it’s more accessible. It’s about getting everyone together and having some fun with other women, and is as much a social event as a sporting one.”
Millie has been playing cricket since she was 18. She has organised a number of softball cricket festivals in Yorkshire over the summer, and they’ve proven to be a big hit with women in the north.
“The last festival we held in Sheffield was attended by 85 women, so it was a great turn-out, really wonderful engagement from the women of the city,” says Millie.
“It is for women of all ages and abilities - we’ve had kids as young as eight or nine, and women well into their 60s taking part. Anyone can play this game, and if you’re willing to give it a go, we’re certainly not going to be turning anyone away.
“We’ve had teams from other sports coming along together to try it, so local netball teams, or bowling teams, and we’ve had lots of teams made up of families of women - mothers, daughters, sisters and aunties coming to enjoy a day of fun together unlike any other.
“Softball cricket is not like other sports, that require dedicated practices, or Thursday night training sessions. This is simply about signing up for a day of fun together, and everyone has a great time.
“The clue is in the name - our festivals are all about celebration and enjoying the game, whether you’ve played before or never picked up a bat.
“The games are quick and fun, and the festivals include plenty of other things to get involved in throughout the day. The colourful bats are perfect for smashing the ball with, leaving you with pure cricketing fun!
“Each of the host clubs tend to add their own individual flavour to the day, some with prosecco, others with coffee and cake, always with plenty of great music, so you’ll leave feeling brilliant.
“What’s more every team receives a free team kit bag and all individuals who sign up receive a free t-shirt on the day of the festival.”
And the summer isn’t over yet. There’s still time to try the sport for yourself at one of a handful of upcoming festivals, including a festival at St Chad’s, Leeds, on September 2; one at Long Marston, on August 27; and another at Holmfirth, on September 10. So gather up your female friends and family members and sign up!
Millie adds: “There’s no need to bring anything but yourselves – all equipment is provided for you on the day, including a free t-shirt, car parking, changing rooms, music and food.”
Visit Yorkshire Cricket Board for details.