Mums! The cricket season looms… have you ever questioned why players constantly scream ‘howzaat??!!’ Felt puzzled by a catch called a ‘sitter’ when clearly taken by a man standing up? Sniggered at the word ‘goggly’? Don’t know a ‘maiden’ from a ‘dolly’ and think a ‘flipper’ is something worn in water?
Before you know it, rugby season will begin again with vengeance, and suddenly you will be wondering why rugby players seem to feel no pain and why the game can look like one big wrestling match. Do you think that a maul is something a bear does to its prey? Snigger when someone is congratulated for their ‘big tackle’? And always assume that a conversion is something that happens in church?
Fear not… because three mums, just like you, decided they’d had enough. They joined up to write two comprehensive guides for spectators: Stumped by Cricket and Rugby Tackled. They wrote a piece of the autumn/winter 2017 issue of School House magazine:
Sport is an integral fixture on every school calendar and between them cricket and rugby conjure up two typical but very different vignettes of school life. One is a peaceful picture of boys and girls in their whites batting in the sunshine
on manicured lawns and the other is of sodden thugs thundering across boggy winter pitches. One is warm and soothing and the other is simply freezing. But if there is one thing uniting the two, it’s that for many mothers the rules of both are completely incomprehensible.
Well, that was our opinion – three mothers with nine sons between us who had watched a lot of sport over many years at Witham Hall, a prep school in Lincolnshire. We had supported teams but never recognised what they were
up to. We asked the same questions again and again and never really understood the answers. We searched in vain for a simple guide from which to learn, written in a way that gave us the information without choking us with the rules. And then finally, when we couldn’t find one, we decided to write our own A Mothers’ Translation guides – Rugby Tackled and Stumped by Cricket were born.
Explaining rugby is challenging because the rules are always evolving and the game is fast paced and dynamic, so we started by looking at the position of each player and explaining their role in the team. Then we unpicked the different ways a game of rugby can play out and the consequent scenarios. We found that diagrams and pictures helped and couldn’t resist poking fun at some of the clichés. We used anything that enabled us to understand and remember why the referee blows his whistle or why a ruck or maul happen or what really goes down in the heart of a scrum.
Junior rugby is a good place to start. Rugby’s governing body, England Rugby, has recently introduced new rules to make the game more accessible to a larger number of children. Greater emphasis is placed on learning to run and pass the ball and keeping the game flowing. Tackling, a technique that’s often intimidating for some children, is delayed for under tens, as is scrumaging and rucking.
Gone are the days when the tall child is quickly assigned the task of learning how to push in a scrum, or that the child who isn’t keeping up with the height of his peers is chosen to be the hooker. As children move through the year groups, they adopt more of the rules of the adult game, gaining confidence in playing along the way.
But before we tackled rugby, we cut our teeth on cricket. Most children’s first experience of the game nowadays is through kwik cricket, a game easily followed by spectators, which allows children to develop their batting, bowling and fielding skills. Children, in teams of eight, bat in four pairs for a maximum of 12 balls, regardless of whether they are caught or bowled out. In opposition, every child in the fielding team bowls six balls otherwise known as an ‘over’.
From these gentle and inclusive beginnings, players build up to the more complicated adult game. We covered everything they see happening on the pitch hoping that by the time mothers watch their own teens fielding at ‘cover’, they’ll remember some of the mysterious fielding positions and will appreciate why the umpire is waving his arms. If they don’t, then there are always our diagrams!
The psychology of the game is fascinating and with understanding comes admiration for the technical brilliance that underpins a player’s bowling or batting. We even try to explain cricket statistics, which, despite being a delight for many a fan, still leave us cold.
If the tone of our books is sometimes bemused, that’s because it’s how we felt as we began this project. But we hope that our book will help all mums, and maybe even some dads, to understand and appreciate the skills displayed by your glorious boys and girls in white, or that child flinging themselves across the touchline.