Coach: Claire Varcoe
After spending time sitting on the sidelines, Claire got bored watching her brother and decided she would play cricket herself. A healthy sibling competition meant that Claire was soon playing regularly in boys cricket games and when Laura Foley started the ladies' team at Plymouth she was a regular contributor with the bat and in the field.
Claire took on the role of captain in the team when she was only 17 and has never looked back since. With years of captaining experience behind her, the early days of learning have given way to a great joy of seeing the team constantly evolve and grow. Claire comments that her greatest joy is seeing the young new players coming through into the team and growing on skill and confidence.
Claire considers herself very lucky. When she started to play cricket, chances to play at a higher level were few and she feels that living in Devon helped her to have the opportunity to play and captain in Cape Town for the Devon Ladies' Development Squad, the highlight of her cricket career. Claire sees that girls now have more chances to play to play: " They can be part of Dynamos and see girls' and ladies' teams playing so they have a pathway to take to develop their skills and play at a higher level, which is such a positive for the game"
From the age of 18, Claire has taken on a coaching role at her club. She started with the under 11s team and then later moved over to coaching the ladies side. "If i can pass on knowledge that others don't have to help them improve even just one aspect of their game, then I feel I have achieved my goal. I hope that in my role, I will inspire young girls to do the same and create a cycle of women's coaches at the club and beyond"
"It is my chance to give back to the game that has given me many opportunities. The more women that are visible at club level and beyond can only be a good thing to make others think that they can coach as well"
Claire shows young girls that playing is important, but with captaincy and coaching, they can fulfill many roles in cricket
Sheila Harding: Administrator and Scorer
Sheila developed a love for cricket through her grandfather and father and when she was a child would score some of the games. She played cricket at school, but as chances were limited for girls to play, she went on to play tennis. Only when her son started playing did Sheila come back to cricket at Topsham St James (then called Exeter St James) and once again she took up scoring - it was easier and less stressful than making teas!
Since that time, Sheila has given many hours to further cricket for youth, men and ladies across Devon - taking on many roles in the background to allow the smooth running of the season for all. Currently Sheila takes on the following roles: Results Secretary for the DCL; Results Secretary and Girls league Coordinator for the East Devon Youth League; Hon Secretary and Membership Secretary for Topsham St James; South Devon League fixtures and results secretary; Play Cricket Administrator; and lastly scorer for the Devon Dumpling, the MCC and Topsham St James. Sheila has been the 1st team scorer for Topsham St James since 2007 and has scored every match except one - and that is because she was scoring at Lords!
Sheila is a great advocate of girls' and women cricket and currently helps to coordinate both those teams at Topsham St James. She remembers the ladies' team starting in Topsham St James in 2000. Until then they had been a nomadic team made up of hockey players, and they did not become full voting members of the club until 2006.
In her time at the club, Sheila has seen great changes in the women and girls game. She sees that there are so many more opportunities for girls to progress in different aspects of the game - both on and off field. She hopes that the future of the game continues to grow in the right spirit and that women continue to enjoy the game and take part in whichever part of the cricket would they like.
Talking about her career highlight as a scorer, Sheila talks about when she scored in the box at Lord's for the MCC Regional Tournament. Afterwards she joined the other officials for a meal in The Long Room. "I just kept thinking about what my father would have thought. Women were not even allowed in the pavilion when he was alive and watching cricket, let alone in the Long Room eating a meal" How far we have come.
Sheila at the entrance to the scorebox at Lord's
Umpire: Marilyn MacQueen
Marilyn McQueen remains the only practicing female umpire in Devon. She has recently taken the role of Education Officer in Devon and is an advocate of recruiting more women into the world of officiating.
Marilyn grew up in Kent and attended a girl's school where the summer sport was cricket, which was unusual at the time. Seeing that she had a talent for the game, Marilyn's father got her practicing in the garden and at school she was soon a regular player, taking the role of wicket keeper. Cricket was later replaced with football and squash as she moved school and there was little opportunity for Marilyn to play. Clubs were not used to female players and although she went to watch her father play, she would only ever be asked to make up numbers if they were short - and then only allowed to field.
Her move to Devon changed that, as there were a number of ladies who played hockey during the winter and then took to the cricket field during the summer, which meant the ladies' game was quite active. Initially she played for Torquay Ladies, but later moved to Brixham, when she impressed the Brixham captain by simultaneously taking a catch as keeper and being hit in the face with a ball, putting her tooth through her lip and needing pitch-side treatment.....and then returning to finish the game.
Her move to Okehampton and job in the police force saw her play for several different local ladies' teams, enjoying all her cricket experiences. But when pushed, she said her cricket career highlight came when playing for the men's team on the Police force. With her team out in the field, a gentlemen came out to bat in a cravat. He was a very accomplished batter and was hitting the ball around the park, running the fielders ragged. Marilyn was fielding at long on and the gentlemen played a shot high in the air...over the bowler and over the umpire. Marilyn knew how much the catch would mean to the team and steadied herself...took the catch and the team celebrated. The batter was furious, not because he was out, but because a lady had caught the ball. After some questioning about Marilyn's eligibility to play, he reluctantly left the field.
20 years ago, as injuries came in, Marilyn took to the field as an umpire. She enjoys every moment of it. When asked about her experiences, she commented that she rarely gets 'hassle', but would appreciate it if coaches and managers took time to include player etiquette as part of their training, so they don't feel the need to emulate behaviour they see on screen.
When asked about the changes she has seen in the women's game, Marilyn talks about the time she was part of the security detail for the ECB and spent time with the England Women's team. Speaking to Charlotte Edwards, she commented " I wish I had been born 20 years later", as she would have loved the opportunities that women and girls have now.
Marilyn would love to see more women umpires and hopes that there will be a day when it is not unusual. "It is good to give back to the game. It would be great to see umpiring in cricket as acceptable as female referees in football and rugby. It is a pleasure to stand in the middle and watch the women and girls play, see them reach their potential and go on and achieve what they want"
If you would like to find out more about female cricket in Devon, follow the links below or contact or Women and Girls Development Officer, Ann-Marie Presswell