Lauren Winfield-Hill is an English cricketer who currently plays for Yorkshire, Northern Diamonds, Oval Invincibles, Melbourne Stars and England.
She made her international debut in 2013 and was part of the England team that won the 2017 World Cup. She has recently featured in episode two of Royal London’s ‘The Changing Room’ series, aimed at drawing attention to issues that matter in achieving diversity in cricket.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background, and your current role
I am professional cricketer, currently playing for Yorkshire, Northern Diamonds, Oval Invincibles, Melbourne Stars and England.
I was always a sporty kid at school. It was never just cricket for me, it was netball, football, tennis, everything and anything really. I started focusing all my efforts and energies solely on cricket when I was at university – I was training a lot more and it took up a lot more of my time so I couldn’t keep spinning the other plates. Back then, a full-time career as a female athlete didn’t seem a viable option, so I always thought “get your education and get a ‘real job.’”
From there, however, being part of the academy at Loughborough, I was able to get good a level of education and then was able to kick on and get into the England squad.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Not really, I think for me growing up, it was never an obvious pathway for females in sport full stop – not as a career – particularly in cricket.
I think, honestly, I almost planned not to be a cricketer, because it didn’t seem like an option at the time. The beauty of it was that, when I did graduate from university, I fell straight into an England contract and didn’t have to get a so-called ‘real job.’ But I think it’s one of those things where it always seems like a pipeline dream. I knew I loved sport. I knew I loved cricket. But it just wasn’t an obvious pathway for me.
There’s probably also a bit of self-protection whereby you don’t want to say, “I want to play for England” because then you think “what if I don’t make it?” There is always that element of doubt surrounding careers in sport.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
The biggest challenge in my cricket career has been being a female growing up in a boy’s world. I needed a lot of resilience to keep doing what I love, even though it can be so hard with so many little things that can make you feel like you don’t really belong. But I just stuck at it because I loved it.
It was so normal for me to turn up to a boy’s changing room and have nowhere to get changed, amongst other things, and I felt “well, I want to play, it’s the same game.” I think those sorts of challenges shape you well for different aspects of life and your career – for things like injuries, loss of form, de-selection, and just where you hit roadblocks – so I actually really value that. As a junior it wasn’t always easy, but I was robust enough and loved the game enough to keep going.
What do you think are some of the major issues facing women in sport and what can be done to correct them?
I think the first thing to recognise is that women’s sport has come a long way. I’m not denying the fact that it’s got a long way to go, but I think the gap is closing nicely. I think we need to keep moving in that direction. There’s lots of different ways but I guess it’s just trying to create that equal playing field, that equal platform exposure opportunity, and I think they go hand-in-hand.
If players get opportunities to play international cricket at the big stadiums, they’re going to have more opportunity to walk people through the door, to watch and to have more games on TV; when young girls see the women playing cricket, they then want to play themselves.
I think a big thing that could help advance women’s sport is boys and men championing it. As women, we support each other across sports and are great at rallying behind other female athletes, I think that when male allies back that message it generates more exposure and helps to lift everyone up. There are also touches like having signage outside stadiums, and female athletes on TV adverts that allow girls and women to feel “I belong here.”
How important are campaigns like Royal London’s ‘The Changing Room’ in affecting change?
Hugely important, because a lot of people wouldn’t realise where progress is being made and where it is needed without initiatives like it. A lot of people wouldn’t be aware of the challenges that girls and women face playing what is largely viewed as a man’s sport, in cricket, and shedding light on the smaller issues that can deter female players is really important.
I like to use my platform to raise awareness of issues the women’s game faces and to be part of making a change, so my involvement in Royal London’s ‘The Changing Room’ has been a great way of doing that.
There have been many campaigns to encourage more women into sports and exercise. What would your advice or tips be to get more women moving?
For those playing sport, bring a friend along. The beauty of sport is it’s great for your health, but it’s also connected to people. If you’ve got a person heading to the local cricket club, but they’re a bit nervous because they’re on their own, if you bring a friend down it helps ease those nerves – you know you’ve got a friend with you and you can then make new ones, too. That’s what makes sport so special.
When it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle, some people like to train on their own, but lots of people enjoy working out together, or even just going for walk with somebody else. Whatever it might be, there’s something active and fulfilling out there for everybody.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
The 2017 World Cup win will always be special, and it was great to win that at the home of cricket. But coming out of the [COVID-enforced] bio-bubbles at the start of the year, I wasn’t in a great place mentally – being able to turn myself around and start playing as well as I am at the minute doesn’t get the headlines and you don’t have trophies to show for it, but that’s something I’m really proud of. I’m having lots of fun and I’m enjoying the game like I did when I was a kid and that’s the biggest success – reconnecting with just playing, being that little girl at the club again, that’s what I love the most.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Play for the same reasons as you did when you were young; play out of love for the game, out of passion. Enjoy being part of a team, and don’t lose sight of that.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
I don’t think you should always focus too much on external goals you want to achieve. I’d love to play for England again; I’d love to win the Big Bash; I’d love to go back to The Hundred; I’d love to win another World Cup with England.
But I think the biggest thing is to not focus too heavily on those external goals and ensure you focus on your day-in day-out stuff well, the rest will take care of itself. You can definitely have background goals, but it’s important to enjoy all the bits in-between.
Find out more
You can follow Lauren on instagram: @laurenwinfield58.
Lauren Winfield-Hill recently featured in the Royal London series ‘The Changing Room,’ a three-part video series, in partnership with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) where players and officials discuss a range of topics that impact the game of cricket including, racism, faith discrimination, and gender equality. The entire series is available to stream at: www.royallondon.com/cricket