Story of Sian Kelly – From playing county in England to becoming Head Coach of Argentina

From playing county cricket for Warwickshire in England to becoming the head coach of Argentina women’s cricket team at the age of just 19 years, this multi-faceted personality has seen global cricket from close quarters. A wicket-keeper bat back in her playing days, she continuously challenged herself to do something new, even after she hung up her boots from playing.  

 

Female Cricket interviews Sian Kelly
Female Cricket interviews Sian Kelly

 

Female Cricket got in touch with Sian Kelly, an exuberantly talented cricketer turned cricket coach and cricket administrator, to know about her early days, shift from England to Argentina, and more.

1. Tell us about your early days in cricket as a player.

 

Sian Kelly's early days as a county player. PC: Twitter
Sian Kelly’s early days as a county player. PC: Twitter

 

I started off playing at Earlswood Cricket Club, a local cricket club that was and still is a very friendly, sociable, and progressive club that strongly supports women’s cricket. I also took part in cricket at the school level and then got involved with the county set up from 10 years old.

2. Your twin sister Marie also plays cricket. How was it playing alongside her?

It was great playing with Marie! We always had someone to practice with which was great, and knowing each other very well is also extremely helpful- sometimes when running between the wickets we would actually forget to call the runs since we could tell from our body language whether we’d be running or not, so we would love batting together. The only annoying thing was watching the scoreboard go up and down and not knowing how many runs each of us was actually on since the scorers would get confused (this was before the days of names/numbers on the back of T-shirts!)

3. Take us through your country’s cricket journey.

I played county age-group cricket from u10 all the way up to the women’s first team and loved my time at Warwickshire. Unfortunately, when I went away to university my participation in county cricket started to drop off, since I was at Oxford so it was difficult to take the time away. I still played there though and had great coaches.

 

4. Did you always want to be a wicket-keeper? Who is your role model?

Ever since I started playing I really enjoyed the role of wicket-keeper since you are always in the action. I think I would get a bit bored on the field. So it goes without saying my role model is Sarah Taylor, but also I’d have to say Amy Jones too who was 1-2 age groups above me at the county level. I always really admired her finesse, and would have to fill her shoes when she was not available or called up for England, so I definitely felt the pressure to try to perform like her!

5. In 2016, you moved to Argentina as part of a year abroad element to your university degree. How was the shift?

 

Sian Kelly with the Argentina Women's Cricket Team. PC: Twitter
Sian Kelly with the Argentina Women’s Cricket Team. PC: Twitter

 

It was a very big change for a number of reasons. Firstly, Buenos Aires is a lot bigger and busier than Solihull! In addition to this though you are thrown into a new language, a new culture, and different ways of doing things, from how supermarkets work to what you need to say to the bus driver when you get on the bus, to the logistics of cricket over there as well.

6. At just 23 years of age, you became the head coach of the Argentina women’s national side. How did you feel?

I was actually 19 and 1 month into my year abroad when I became the head coach. I felt a bit nervous of course, but also very excited to see what the girls could do and how I could help out.

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Sian Kelly coaching

 

7. What were the initial challenges that you faced as a coach of Argentina?

The initial challenge were getting used to the cultural changes. For example, in England, the timing and planning of cricket sessions is very strict, whereas in Argentina things are a lot more laid back and you have to be a bit more adaptable to changes of plans. So this was a bit hard a first, to not plan in detail for a session and just trust my instincts as a coach and go with it.

8. Not many know that Argentina inherited cricket before football from the English in the 19th century, however, over the years, the country has become more popular for football. How difficult was it for you to imbibe the cricket culture there?

As you say, there has been a cricket culture over here for a long time now, albeit a small one. We are continuing to work hard to grow this, and let Argentines know that in their off-season from Rugby/ Hockey, there is another sport for them.

9. Under your guidance, the ‘Flamingos’ went on to win the South America Championships. Did you expect it?

I had only just taken on the team when we won the South American Championships, so honestly, I had no idea what to expect. I had obviously been working with the girls for a couple of weeks and we had our own plans, yet I didn’t know anything about the other teams so it was a strange experience for me and one that again meant I had to try to adapt and pick things up quickly.

 

Belgrano Cricket Club in Buenos Aires hosts most of Sian's national team and children's sessions. PC: BBC.om
Belgrano Cricket Club in Buenos Aires hosts most of Sian’s national team and children’s sessions. PC: BBC.om

 

10. While coaching the senior national side, you were also involved in developing the junior section of the women’s game. How did you manage both?

Very long days!! The cricket season for me here tends to be very intense, with long days and lots of traveling around to here there, and everywhere. Fortunately, the school’s coaching doesn’t clash too much since it is during the day and also continues throughout the year in some schools. And then the national side coaching tends to be during the evening, with the exception of some 1:1s. With club coaching I now have a dedicated team of coaches who run women and girls cricket in the various clubs in Buenos Aires with me rotating between all of them, so I don’t have to be in the same place at the same time!

11. It is known that you have played a pivotal role in the revival of Chile’s national team. Take us through that.

At my first South American Championships, I noticed that Cricket Chile’s women’s team wasn’t present and I was going there next after my 6 months in Buenos Aires, for the remainder of my year abroad. I found out what had happened to the women’s team and started to put the feelers out there to see if people would like to return. I met with the captain and she was keen for us to try the project, so we managed to get some of the ex-players back as well as bring some new players through advertising at my university and I coached them each week. We came up with the new name and logo, and re-forged links with the men’s teams and it went from there!

 

Sian Kelly with her students. PC: Twitter
Sian Kelly with her students. PC: Twitter

 

12. At present, you are the women’s development officer of Cricket Argentina. How has the experience been so far?

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It’s been a great experience; I love watching the girls find out about cricket and begin to love the sport. It’s great for me to see more and more girls getting to know the sport for the first time, but even better to see some of them coming back now for their second or third season.

13. Since you have played cricket in England and now you are a part of Cricket Argentina, tell us about how cricket is different in both the countries?

I think just the size really. Cricket is embedded in England and there are clubs everywhere so it’s easier to tell someone who wants to start where they can go. Over here sometimes you can get people who are interested, but it is not feasible for them to join the club that is closest to them. On the same note, obviously, we live in a city here so the cricket pitches tend to be more towards the outskirts, meaning that you have to travel pretty far to get to your local cricket match.

 

Sian Kelly with her county cricket teammates
Sian Kelly with her county cricket teammates

 

14. You are also working as a part-time volunteer at equity sport. Can you share your nature of work?

Yes, Equity Sport is a brilliant organization that is tackling inequalities in sport on both a global stage as well as smaller more targeted campaigns. As a volunteer I help out with research where possible, and just try to provide my support and voice, sharing their campaigns and trying to spread the word about the wonderful work they do.

15. Recently you completed a three-year strategy plan for Cricket Argentina, which was focused on developing cricket for women and girls. Considering you designed the plan in your second language, can you take us through this exciting journey of yours?

Yes, this was a big challenge for me but one that I was excited to do. Looking at things from a positive perspective, the pandemic allowed me to have the time to really get into it, and really assess what would be good for Cricket Argentina and how we can assure that we are building a future for women and girl’s cricket here. Women and girls’ cricket has been gaining momentum here and there were lots of ideas floating around therefore it was good to put pen to paper and map out a plan.

 

 

16. What is your future goal?

I would love to work in a sports consultancy working across a range of projects in different sports.

17. What is your advice to the aspiring coaches?

Keep refreshing your skills, keep learning new drills, new warm-up games, and new ways of thinking as I think being able to excite your players and making training enjoyable is a great start.

18. One message that you would like to give to the young and budding women cricketers

Cricket is a sport for you! It is no longer women playing ‘men’s’ cricket, but an inclusive game for all. I also think its important to remember to enjoy yourself (which is sometimes pretty hard to do when you’re fighting for a place in a team, or playing in extremely important games) but you play best when you play with freedom, so if you can give yourself a little bit of freedom to relax and not care so much if you got out stupidly, then that goes a long way.

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