Olivia Rae was born in county Durham and took up cricket from playing around on the side-lines of her brother’s cricket practice. She played for Durham County from the age of 10, moving to Scotland in 2010, moving to The University of Edinburgh to study.
She created history by becoming the first girl to play cricket in Durham School and never looked back since then. She went on to play 76 International Matches for Scotland. She soon found her calling in cricket coaching and moved to London, UK in search of coaching pursuits. She coached at Lords in the MCC Academy and currently plays for Middlesex women’s cricket team. Olivia also founded her cricket coaching company which runs internationally.
Team Female Cricket caught up with Olivia to understand more about her cricket journey. What Olivia has achieved in her career at this young age is absolutely remarkable and she is an inspiration for so many female cricketers out there.
Excerpts from the interview
1. Tell us about your childhood cricket? How and where did it all start?
My cricketing journey and love for the game started at the boundary line of my brother’s cricket club, Durham City CC, at the young age of 4 and soon enough, it became my club too. I represented Durham County Women’s Team from the age of 11 as a bowling all-rounder.
I got a scholarship to Durham School and was the first girl to play cricket for the school in its 500-year history.
Fast-forwarding a few years, I got accepted to train with the prestigious MCC Centre of Excellence at Durham University and became vice-captain of the Women’s first team. I moved to Scotland to study for a master’s degree, began training with the Scotland Women’s team and earned a debut in 2011 v Japan. I am so proud to say I achieved 76 Scotland caps to my name and really grateful for my time with the team, as well as playing Scottish club cricket for Carlton CC.
Unfortunately, the demands of trying to secure coaching work and keep playing cricket at a high level took a huge toll on my mental health. A tough decision led me to relocate to London to progress my coaching career and be closer to my family for support. I was so happy to be given the opportunity to coach at Lords in the MCC academy and train with Middlesex women’s first team, who I currently play for.
2. What made you make the shift from playing international cricket to coaching?
Dreams to continue to play for Scotland faded as my new coaching and playing commitments in London had to become a priority in order to earn a living income and still play the game I love. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the strides the women’s game has made now globally and locally, in terms of playing opportunities and how women’s players are supported. Opportunities for women to be paid to play and increasing awareness in how to support players with their mental health will hopefully mean that others won’t have to make such tough decisions.
3. Who were your inspirations whilst growing up? What made you stick to this sport?
Growing up I was always surrounded by cricket. I remember going to stadiums to watch and listen to the test match special with my grandma. I saw how cricket brought my whole family together and soon enough that built the foundation of my dream of becoming a cricketer.
4. How did coaching happen?
Growing up I wanted to be involved in the game in every way possible and I also had a passion for helping people so when the opportunity arose to coach that was bringing everything together for me in one place.
I started off my coaching journey in 2004 when I was 17 and became level 3 qualified in 2014 and I have had the opportunity to coach from the grassroots level to the international game.
Most recently I was invited to be one of the coaches on the inaugural Tendulkar Global Academy Camps. I coached a Premier women’s team in New Zealand, assisted the Hong Kong Women’s team, and was Head Coach of the Scotland U17 Girls’ team for 3 years.
5. You started your own cricket coaching business i.e Rae Cricket Coaching. What was the idea behind taking this plunge?
Through my personal opportunities traveling across the world, I was fortunate enough to meet and be a part of a number of coaching cultures that built the foundation of Rae Cricket Coaching.
Rae Cricket Coaching is an Inclusive coaching program that gives equal opportunity for players to develop the technical, tactical, and mental aspects required for playing cricket.
I’m motivated to make a difference to a player’s all-round game and to help to develop the person, not just the cricketer. I aim to instill confidence in a player to believe in their individual skills and individual character. To have unwavering self-belief. I aspire to help the players I work with to become mentally prepared; to be able to adapt to game situations especially when it’s not going their way. This can also be applied to life. The end result? A happy cricketer who is technically competent, tactically wise, and mentally prepared.
6. How does Rae Cricket Coaching differ from other coaching/training academies?
We believe we differentiate ourselves based on 3 key points:
a. Mental Preparation
b. Integrating life skills
c. Create independent thinking cricketers
We believe that mental preparation is equally as important as physical preparation. We are based in London and deliver our programs internationally. Our programs can support players to achieve their goals, whether they have just fallen in love with the game or they are playing representative cricket.
7. What was your experience like playing county cricket for Middlesex?
Representing Middlesex women’s first team has been a great opportunity, the professional and supportive culture of the women’s set-up has been second to none. We have a team culture where everyone has the ability to thrive and there are always opportunities for me to continue growing and developing my game.
Alongside representing Middlesex cricket and Rae Cricket Coaching, I am also studying a doctorate in education exploring how emotions affect decision making particularly in cricket.
8. What are your future plans, any upcoming projects that you wish to work on?
I am currently focusing my time on developing and growing my game to hopefully enable as many playing opportunities to play at the highest level possible. After my playing career, I am looking forward to mentoring and supporting other athletes across the game, utilizing my experiences. I see this as an opportunity to give back to the game which has given me so much.
9. How important is the mental health aspect in cricket?
For me, mental health is as important as physical health in any sport and in life. As much as you train and prepare physically, I also believe it’s important to prepare mentally. I strongly believe there should be an aspect included in training at every level of the game which addresses the mental preparation and mindset.
I became a Mental Health First Aider with the hope of making a significant difference to athletes dealing with Mental Health by increasing the support available to them. Through my own personal experiences and knowledge, I also hope to equip coaches with the tools to create an environment that protects not only the physical performance of their players but their mental performance too.
10. Now that ‘The Hundred’ is canceled, how do you see it impact the domestic cricket in England?
During such an unusual time for the world and not just cricket, it’s so important to maintain the perspective of the situation as well as hopeful for 2021 when The Hundred returns. I’m sure The Hundred tournament was going to do wonders for female players and the female game. Above all, I think the number one priority at the moment is the welfare and safety of all players and that any support is provided that may be needed.
— Female Cricket (@imfemalecricket) April 30, 2020
11. What’s the pathway in England to the national team? How can a 5-6-year-old girl get into the national team? What are the steps?
Cricket has come a long way in England and Wales, for a young girl looking to get involved in the game, ECB has their entry-level program ‘All Stars Cricket‘ targeted for 5 – 8 years old and the new next step of Dynamos Cricket for 8 – 11 years olds, all looking at the fundamentals of cricket and having lots of fun along the way.
From there onwards, there are a number of junior sections for young girls in a number of cricket clubs across the UK. From here, regional teams within the county, county selection, and then the newly founded 8 Regional Centers of Excellence across the UK each having a County Host and other counties feeding into them. This, along with The Hundred is where your performances can earn you a recognition to get into the England Squads.