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Young women say ‘yes’ to Cricket’s Yeah! Girls programme

Case Study: Impacts of the Young Women’s Activation Fund

Young women say ‘yes’ to Cricket’s Yeah! Girls programme

Case Study: Impacts of the Young Women’s Activation Fund


A cricket programme that’s been a hit with young women is reviving the sport

A programme designed, delivered and enjoyed by young women and girls has helped breathe new life into a sport that was struggling in terms of female participation in Aotearoa just a few years ago.

Yeah! Girls is a New Zealand Cricket (NZC) initiative designed to reverse decline in female involvement in the nation’s summer game – a plight highlighted in the 2016 ‘Women and Cricket’ report – known in cricket circles as the Beaman report after its author, strategic consultant Sarah Beaman.

Beaman found that 90 percent of the nation’s cricket clubs did not have girls-only teams, and 57 percent of cricket clubs did not offer cricket for girls at all. She concluded that female cricket had already died in many parts of the country, and was well on its way to becoming extinct nationally.

That grim prognosis prompted action from NZC, an organisation with a bold vision for the sport to be a ‘game for all New Zealanders’.

“Yeah! Girls has been an effective programme to engage with new communities, change perceptions of cricket and introduce girls to the game for the first time,” says NZC’s Cricket Network Transformation Lead Nicole Dunn.

Yeah! Girls was one of nine nationwide initiatives to receive a share of Sport NZ’s contestable $2 million Young Women’s Activation Fund.

The funding helped the programme grow from 683 participants at 51 hubs in 2019/20 to 3,096 young women ​​aged 10-17 attending 144 hubs in 2021/22.

“My daughter hates sports but loves Yeah! Girls”

The key to Yeah! Girls' success was attempting to remove the barriers that had prevented young women from engaging with the sport – a main issue being the perception that cricket was a long, boring and technical sport that offered little or no opportunities for young women to play among themselves.

It wasn’t that women and girls didn’t like the game – Beaman’s report found that 39 percent of fans registered in NZC’s MYBLACKCAPS database and 54 percent of the Super Smash TV audience were female – it was that they didn’t think participation was for them.

Yeah! Girls changed that.

“My daughter hates sports but loves Yeah! Girls,” said the parent of a girl who attended a hub in Wellington.

“I think it’s because you just focus on learning and fun rather than making her feel bad about not knowing what to do.”

So, how did it work?

Sessions were designed to be fun, active, engaging and short – lasting no more than an hour. The activators were themselves predominantly younger women, whom participants quickly came to view as role models. Many of the activities were non-traditional cricket activities, mixed with batting, fielding and bowling games and modified cricket games.

No experience was necessary, no uniforms were required, all equipment was provided and blocks lasted just six weeks, alleviating anxiety for the commitment-shy.

Yeah! Girls boasted a dedicated marketing campaign, enthusiastic activators and inclusive activities. Seeing that the programme had been designed specifically for them, young women and girls felt welcome in the sport – reversing a long-standing perception.

Crucially, NZC committed to a test and learn approach, adapting when things didn’t work as well as hoped.

A positive spinoff from the programme has been its impact beyond its participants. For the 2021/22 season, 82 percent of Yeah! Girls Activators were female with an average age of 21.

Young women are now not only participating in cricket but are actively involved in the design and delivery of it.

“Our Activators are our champions on the ground, driving change at the grass-roots level of cricket,” says Dunn.

In 2021, NZC established the Female Leadership Development Framework, with the aim of developing a more capable cricket network workforce with strong female representation.

Identifying key workforce tiers, alongside areas for development in both coaching and officiating, was key to providing the best opportunities for growth and change in the cricket workforce.

“NZC has a long-term commitment to women and girls’ cricket. Yeah! Girls is an important tool to grow our engagement with young females, and we’re excited to see it evolve over future seasons,” says Dunn.

At a Glance

What was the need or problem in the community?

Across New Zealand, cricket was not being offered in a way that engaged women and girls. Females made up a high percentage of spectators, but were seldom participants in the sport.

What challenges or barriers existed and how were they overcome?

Few opportunities existed for girls to play in girls-only teams and competitions. 90 percent of cricket clubs did not have girls-only teams and 57 percent of cricket clubs did not offer cricket for girls at all. The game was perceived as long, slow, dull and exclusionary.

What were the key success factors – and were they driven by an innovative approach?

Yeah! Girls was designed by females for females and delivered predominantly by young women to young women. It had a dedicated marketing campaign and was well resourced. The short, action-packed nature and absence of a season-long commitment made it fun and accessible, providing a new and exciting option to get girls active.

What outcomes were achieved?

Yeah! Girls is changing the way girls and their parents think about cricket, and also changing the face of the delivery of cricket. As a result of the Yeah! Girls programme, females are now not only participating in cricket but are actively involved in the design and delivery of it. By having females in leadership roles, young girls can see that cricket is an inclusive and welcoming sport for them.

What comes next?

In late 2022 NZC released its 'Women and Cricket 2022' progress report – highlighting encouraging progress across female participation in community cricket, governance and workforce and high performance.

NZC aims to continue to support the cricket network to provide opportunities to attract and retain good people in activator roles, which is a useful first step for many into a sport-specific job.

NZC is committed to the continual evolution and improvement of the programme. It plans to focus on engaging with a diverse range of communities and understanding cultural sensitivities towards participation. Planned initiatives include introduction of new equipment and Kilikiti Pate and Blind Cricket Sets. Find out more:

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