By Faye Hackwell
From being told to “wee behind a bush” because there were no ladies’ toilets available to being called “flower” as she’s been about to open the batting, Her Game Too Cricket’s new University Ambassador has experienced the good and bad sides of the game she loves.
Playing in both men’s and women’s leagues, as well as for her former university, means Charlotte Ashton is familiar with several different formats of the game and she is bringing her knowledge and understanding to the campaign to help develop our university partnerships.
Charlotte has loved cricket since being introduced to the game at the age of four through diamond cricket and she remembers playing after school with friends on sunny evenings being the highlight of her week.
After representing Leeds University during her time as a student in the city, Charlotte now plays in Yorkshire for St Chad’s Women and in a men’s league for Ben Rhydding Cricket Club’s Second XI, where she was originally part of the women’s set up before it was disbanded.
Playing for a men’s team, Charlotte has experienced some awkward moments, including being told she would have to “wee behind a bush” when playing an away game, because there were no female facilities.
“I wish I could say I hadn’t experienced sexism or misogyny in cricket, but, as someone who has played for nearly 20 years, I have witnessed some of this first-hand,” Charlotte recalls.
“I feel very fortunate in that I have never experienced anything dangerous - it’s more that I’ve had to deal with the constant frustrations and lack of consideration for my gender playing in a men’s league.
“There’s never anywhere for me to get changed, sometimes there are no toilets for me to use, or the ladies’ toilet is locked or out of order.
“I’m sure none of this is deliberate, and it’s linked to grassroots cricket not receiving much funding, but it is frustrating.”
Charlotte also sometimes feels patronised when she’s referred to as “love”, “flower” or “darling” during games – especially when she’s out in the field, focusing on playing.
But despite some negative encounters, Charlotte loves playing in a men’s league and has developed strong friendships with her male team-mates in a squad where she feels she’s a valued member.
She believes her negative experiences are things that can be changed through more consideration and empathy being shown and this is one of the reasons she wanted to become a part of Her Game Too Cricket.
Charlotte is passionate about university students getting the chance to enjoy cricket and she played for the women’s side at the University of Leeds throughout her studies.
“During that time, I was lucky enough to play for the MCCU Leeds team as well, which meant that I got to attend two times the amount of training sessions, as well as some early starts for strength and conditioning - which is very much not my thing!
“I was the society’s Covid-19 officer in 2020/21, so I have a pretty good understanding of the BUCS league and how the university unions and societies interact with one another, which is also why I’m excited to take on the role with Her Game Too Cricket.”
After a team-mate told Charlotte about the campaign, she knew straight away she wanted to become involved and use her knowledge and experience to help the movement grow.
“I’ve played for such a long time, in a real range of formats and environments, so I wanted to share my enthusiasm for women in cricket with others whilst championing a cause that is so important.
“As someone who has experienced the positive benefits of university cricket, not just in terms of my own development but through friendships, watching others come out of their shells, and social members deciding to try bowling, I want to share the good that cricket at university can achieve.”
Charlotte’s role as University Ambassador will include developing new and existing partnerships with universities, supporting universities that don’t yet have women’s cricket teams to looking into setting them up and connecting with female cricket fans as a point of contact.
“I’m hoping that as a wider campaign, Her Game Too can really establish itself as a leading cause and help to inspire people to speak out about sexism they experience in sport, whether that be as a player, a coach, a volunteer, or a spectator.
“I’d love to see the momentum keep growing and for our name to be pushed out there.”