Today is Mothering Sunday.
To mark the occasion, we spoke with Claire Nicholas to discuss motherhood and the role it plays in the life of a cricketer.
Claire has played a massive role in Western Storm’s success over the years in addition to being a full-time teacher and a mother.
We chatted to her earlier this week to discuss a number of topics including motherhood, cricket and how the two can dovetail.
When did you become a mum?
“I became a mum in 2016. Our first son, Harri, was born in October of that year. It feels like a lifetime ago now and it seems like he’s always been here. It was a really exciting time in my life because I’d just turned 30, so it was a great year.”
“My partner Rachel and I have got a second child on the way now too. He is due on June 2nd and hopefully everything will go according to plan. We already know that he’s going to be a boy so Harri’s really excited to be having a baby brother. Hopefully we’ll have another cricketer in the family.”
What is the best bit about being a mum?
“I love the moments when Harri achieves things and reaches those milestones like their first steps, their first words, their first day at school and things like that. Life is so busy that you could potentially overlook some of these things, so you just have to take stock of those special moments and enjoy every one of them. When Harri learns something new or does something that I’m really proud it feels great. Children can amaze you every day.”
How difficult is it to be a mum, a full-time teacher and a cricketer, and how do you manage to fit everything in?
“It’s fair to say that there’s quite a lot going on in my life. The last year has been even more hectic with online learning and everything else that’s been going on. It is quite challenging, but we managed to do it. There’s no magic formula for being able to fit everything in. I’m really lucky to have a really supportive partner at home. She’s played cricket at a high level herself, so she understands the commitment that goes into it. It’s important to have a good balance and because we’re both teachers we are quite organised.
“Our lives are quite well planned and organised. Some people might think that’s a bit boring, but it definitely works for us. It means that we can get the right quality of time for all three aspects of my life. Family is obviously the top priority though.
“Everyone in cricket has been really good though when it comes to my situation. Western Storm in particular have always been absolutely amazing when it comes to understanding my circumstances, which are a lot different to everybody else’s in the squad. That was from day one of the KSL. I’ve also had good support from Cricket Wales and being given that flexibility has also really helped us out at home.”
Has it been even more difficult to juggle all three in Lockdown?
“I think it’s been more challenging and as a teacher, a parent and a cricketer you have to be flexible and think outside of the box. Obviously, you can’t go to the gym or train with people. You also have to fit training around delivering live online lessons and also homeschooling. You just have to change your mindset. I’m the sort of person who likes to finish things when I start them and if I don’t finish something, I’m pretty hard on myself. It’s meant that I’ve had to take up a more relaxed attitude to certain things. I have to tell myself that it’s not the end of the world if I don’t complete every task that I set myself for the day. Having that flexibility and adaptability has been key. Hopefully there’s a light at the end of the tunnel now and we can start getting back to some sort of normality soon.”
Do you think that it has become more acceptable to be a mum in professional sport in recent years?
“I definitely think so. Perhaps the view of old was that deciding to have a baby could be the end of a career in sport for you because your priorities change and you body changes, but I think that we’re a lot more clued up about how pregnancy effects the body nowadays. Now we have strength and conditioning coaches who know how to best work with players both during and after their pregnancy. I don’t think that becoming a mum should be a barrier to playing the sport that you love.
“Amy Satterthwaite is playing for New Zealand and she had a year off. She’s now back playing better than ever. It’s definitely become more widely accepted and I hope that a lot more female athletes will not see motherhood as an end to their sporting careers. If I can inspire just one person to take that step then I’d be really proud of myself.”
With the women’s game evolving the way that it has in the last few years, do you think we will see more players taking time out to focus on motherhood?
“I hope so. Everybody has a life off the field, and I think that the relationship that the professional players have with what is now their employer will help with that. A lot of the players are quite young, and pregnancy is probably the last thing on their minds at the moment but it is good to know that cricket will still be there for them when they get back if they decide that they want to have a family. It has to work with your team and your region, and Western Storm have been absolutely amazing with me.”
In the past, has being a mum ever hindered your sporting career?
“Only this year, but that’s because I’m currently heavily pregnant! Obviously, that has meant that training has been a bit difficult. Before that though, it’s never really been a problem. You have to make choices and prioritise things. There have been a number of instances when Harry has been ill on a Friday night and I was supposed to leave for a match on a minibus with Wales for a county match on a Saturday morning. I would then have to have that conversation with the coach. I think that if you are open and honest, a solution can always be found. I’ve never felt that it’s been a barrier.”
How supportive have Western Storm been during your time with them?
“From day one they’ve been brilliant. I remember back in the early KSL days the Head Coach, Trevor Griffin came to a welsh session in 2017 when Harri was only a couple of months old. He told me who he was and that he’d love for me to train with Western Storm. He made it clear that he knew I had a family and that Storm were more than happy to work around that. It’s been the same since Mark O’Leary took over as well.
“I had a conversation with Mark and Lisa Pagett (Regional Director of Women’s Cricket) at the start of last summer and told them that I was going to be having treatments and things towards the end of the season and that I didn’t know if I could commit 100% to the season and they were absolutely amazing. They made it clear that they would play me if I was available and that they would support me if I wasn’t. They always tell me that my family has to come first, which is great.
“Western Storm is like a big family and they’ve been brilliant. I started my treatment at the end of the last regional season and things didn’t quite go according to plan towards the end which meant that I couldn’t play in that last match against the Vipers. That was really difficult but the understanding and support from Western Storm was always there. They have supported me all the way through this pregnancy as well.”
How supportive of your desire to play cricket was your own mum?
“She was proud of me. She always used to come and watch. She didn’t really have much of a clue what was going on though. She’d always be there and when I was playing boys cricket at the age of eight and nine she was very protective of me, especially when some of the boys would try to take my head off with the ball. She was really proud that I was able to challenge certain stereotypes and prove that I was good enough to be on that field.”
What are your plans for 2021?
“When I became pregnant and when I had gone past the 12-week mark, I had conversations with Welsh Fire because I had a Hundred contract. Hugh Morris was hugely understanding and really lovely. He told me that the door wasn’t closed and that family had to come first. Obviously, I won’t be able to play in The Hundred this year, but with regards to Western Storm it all depends on how things go. If all goes to plan with the birth and my recovery, I might be available towards the end of August. We will just have to wait and see how my body heels.”
You played a major role for Western Storm throughout the KSL. The structure of the women’s game has now changed. How impressed have you been by the development of the game in the last few years and how do you see it developing further?
“If you’d have asked me 10 years ago if I’d have thought that women’s cricket would be anywhere near where it is now I would have said ‘absolutely not’. The investment and the time that has gone into developing the women’s game has been huge. You can see that in how the KSL progressed year on year. The introduction of professional contracts has just taken the game to the next level and it means that the standard of cricket across England and Wales will continue to improve. It also means that you will see a lot more players competing for those England places. That’s the way it should be. The launch of The Hundred will also act as another steppingstone for the women’s game and hopefully things will continue to grow from there.”