The Invisible Hurdles

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Lisa McCabe is a member of the Cricket Victoria State Umpiring Panel. She is a product of the Bendigo and District Cricket Umpires Association and commenced umpiring Victoria Premier Cricket in 2017/18. In 2018/2019 she became the first female to win the prestigious Ron Wright Medal as 3rd grade umpire of the year as well as the first female to officiate a Victoria Premier Cricket final. The following season she became the first female appointed to the Cricket Victoria State Panel and just the second female to officiate in a Victoria Premier Cricket first grade match. Ever had a time when you’ve walked into a room and everything has stopped. No talking, no sounds just 20 to 30 pairs of eyes on you? That was my first ever umpires meeting on an August night in Bendigo. What is she doing here? Must be in the wrong room. One gentleman thought he would let me know that the CWA was meeting down the road. This is just an example of the invisible hurdles that girls and women face when entering the world of cricket umpiring. While it should be known, the challenges we face on field are exactly the same as anyone new to the umpiring game, it’s the other, invisible areas that for the most part no one would ever think about. Coming from the country, traveling to Melbourne for winter classes, while juggling a full time job was a little hurdle at the start. How was I to know that this was probably the easiest I would ever face? The next was to work out how I was going to fit myself into a very male competition in Bendigo. Bendigo cricket never had a female influence in any part of the competition. No female players, they had a 2 female scorers (both mothers of players in their respective teams) and definitely no umpires. It’s a huge hurdle to break through. No matter if you’re from the country or not, it’s the landscape that most female umpires have had to deal with in some way. I have experienced some umpires not wanting to umpire with me. They weren’t into it at all. But really, it was a blessing in disguise. I got to umpire an entire season with the same partner! How lucky was I? And the best reward was that I ended up with one of the best mentors I could’ve ever asked for. The Bendigo players were also supportive and patient. And to this day, are still there whenever I need I shoulder to lean on, or if I need some-advice on what a captain or player was expecting in that situation. Like I said, I got lucky, for the most part the community in Bendigo Cricket has been very supportive I never got to do a 2 day 1st XI game in Bendigo, which is a shame, as the reason I was given was that “ we believe that you won’t be able to handle the pressure, girls just can’t handle it” It was then I found Cricket Australia’s Umpire Educator Richard Patterson and Cricket Victoria’s then State Umpire Manager Jason Leonard Scott’s, offer in joining Melbourne’s Premier (Club) Cricket Competition. I would never have imagined how awesome this move would be. It opened the door to some of the best experiences of my life. With all the hurdles, they have come with some epic highs. If someone had said to me after I walked into that first meeting in Bendigo, that I would get the chance to live and breathe cricket (even if only for 2 weeks at a time), I wouldn’t have believed it. But through hard work and jumping hurdles, I’ve had the chance on a few occasions now. And I've made some of my best friends at the same time. Three of my best friends I got to meet while being at a Cricket Australia U18 Female National carnival, thank goodness for Canberra 2018! I’ve met some of my heroes, even had an award presented to me by one OMG! I’ve been front and centre with some of the Cricket’s next superstars and had the pleasure of giving Ellyse Perry her first wicket in Victorian colours! While it’s never been openly said, there are always the corridor whispers of the “ she’s only there because she’s a female”, “ we don’t get that opportunity so easy”, “ shouldn’t it be on merit, not gender”. Sometimes it’s deafening. But someone wise once said to me, “don’t worry about the knockers, prove your supporters right!” I’m proud to say I’ve got more supporters, than knockers. And to think, most of these barriers I faced before even stepping on a cricket field. Speaking to some of the other women umpires from around the country before writing this, one of the reoccurring areas that came up was the obvious challenge of female change rooms. Ahhhh it’s a hot topic at the moment, due to whether the game has funding for areas like this. While it’s never really crossed my mind, because as most umpire who have umpired with me, know I come pretty much match ready. But it is something that is taken for granted. Everyone has been so kind and lovely in approaching this issue with me, but if anyone has umpired at Greenvale no.4 oval, it’s pretty difficult for a female to get changed out of the boot of her car while the teams are warming up. Notch that up to a bucket list item. I guess what I’m trying to indicate is that, even though this isn’t an issue for most umpires, it’s a very real hurdle female umpire must face and find solutions, or alternatives- the best way to handle it the changeroom without making things awkward with her partner. It’s hard to believe that the easiest area is what happens on the cricket field. The appeals are slightly louder. The half chances are questioned more often because you are (in the early days) perceived as an easy target. But really, every new umpire gets these hurdles, so they are not specific to female umpires. I have had players tell me, they do try and test the girls out because they think we are nice. The little comments of “you did really well out there” and “ was good to see you stand your ground”, whilst coming from a good place, it’s a little frustrating because they aren’t saying that to my male partner. But the more people get to know who you are and what to expect from you, the way you go about your business, the frustrating little comments die down. With all the hurdles, nights driving to and from Melbourne and the many breakfasts eaten in the car on the way to a game, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Being an umpire, being a female umpire has made me a better person. I love this game, it’s been in my life as long as I can remember. I’ve made some beautiful friends and some big brothers I never knew I had. So, while some people would have the image that our road is shorter, it is. But the mountain is steeper and the invisible hurdles we have to break through, are there with every step we take.

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