Over the past few days, we have profiled the candidates for the League Director, Club Director and Individual Director positions. In this article, we continue our election coverage with profiles of the two candidates for the Female Player Director position.
In this series, DreamCricket will focus on some of the prominent candidates for the seven board positions. In a departure from past elections, DreamCricket will not take an editorial stance regarding the candidates that are contesting in the forthcoming election. Our goal is to provide you with profiles of as many candidates as possible.
Over the past few days, we have profiled the candidates for the League Director
, Club Director
and Individual Director
positions. In this article, we continue our election coverage with profiles of the two candidates for the Female Player Director
position. Nadia Gruny responded to our questions in detail and her responses are presented below. Absent a response from Erica Rendler to our emails, we are presenting her bio from our archives.
DreamCricket: When did you start playing cricket?
Nadia: I started playing backyard cricket with my brothers probably around age 8. Never played it seriously but was a big fan of the West Indies and Brian Lara since childhood. I started playing cricket in the US in 2009.
I came to the US in 2002 on a soccer scholarship. I played four years of NCAA Div-1 soccer while pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Marketing. I went to grad school immediately after and got an MBA and Master of Sports Business.
DreamCricket: What was your most special inning playing for the U.S.?
Nadia: I’ve got two! The game against Zimbabwe in the 2011 ICC Women’s Global World Cup Qualifier when I contributed a crucial 28 runs, at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium on live tv, toward our only win against a full member nation to date. My score was the second highest on our team in that innings. Catches never came my way but I fielded my heart out that day. And second, the 46 I made in Australia this year against a New South Wales XI. The ability to get runs against such a quality bowling attack groomed by the Cricket Australia’s Pathway Program and in the Australian conditions, was great reaffirmation of my abilities despite the limited exposure and opportunities in the US.
DreamCricket: Where do you see women's cricket going in near-term and long-term in the US?
Nadia: In the near-term (2-3 years), we will see some improvement because we’re getting more opportunities to work together as a team.
The ICC eligibility rules require a player reside in the country for 3 years so this stipulation will limit the change in composition of the team. In the near-term, the biggest change we will see is more girls taking up the sport because the tide is changing right now in the women’s game, here in the US and globally. I’m hosting a u14 girls tournament in two weeks. This will be a catalyst for greater adoption by girls and greater support by businesses for girls cricket. Also, as young cricketers look on at the USA national team getting more high-profile opportunities, that’ll attract girls to the sport. For example, the recent practice tour to Australia is an appealing opportunity for any budding cricketer to aspire to be a part of.
In the long-term (5+ years), we will have a decent-sized, competitive pool of home-grown players based on the youth involved now. Working with colleges to adopt cricket to become an emerging women's sport in the NCAA will be the rocket launch for girls and women to adopt cricket en masse. Depending on various factors, e.g., whether or not there is a tweak to the World Cup Qualification Pathway structure to allow a truly global representation of teams and more strategic application of funding toward the women's program in the US, we will definitely qualify for a World Cup before the men will.
DreamCricket: Describe your work in an administrative capacity within your club or league or organization?
Nadia: In 2008 I started volunteering with the Georgia Supreme Cricket League in Georgia to produce their annual magazines. I designed the magazine, wrote articles and took the photos accompanying those articles. I also assisted in securing advertisers for the magazine to ensure a profit was made.
In 2009, a Bay Area Cricket Alliance Executive Officer and I joined forces to form Firebirds, the first California women's hardball cricket team.
In 2011, recognizing the need to promote the women’s game exclusively on a platform, I launched the usawomenscricket.org website, USA Women's Cricket YouTube Channel, and Facebook Page. The platforms provide an aggregate of all things women’s cricket in the USA as well as original content I generate.
In 2012, after sharing my cricket story with Arianna Huffington, she requested her staff to give me a platform to give a voice to cricket issues in the US. I’ve written about women’s cricket to governance issues and globalizing the game.
In 2014, as a Program Director with a Florida youth organization, I’ve run a high performance program for our national women players for a year.
In 2015, I led the first crowdfunding campaign for Atlantis Cricket Club-NY women's team and together our team raised $5,000+ in 5 days. I also founded Love Cricket, a 501(c)(3) organization [in 2015]. At Love Cricket, we have built cricket nets in Jamaica, held cricket clinics at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Peninsula, and we are organizing an under 14 girls T20 tournament later this month.
DreamCricket: What were your most important accomplishments during your tenure as an administrator?
Nadia: At the Florida youth academy, I secured funding to run a year-long program for our national-level players. We held an indoor, 4-day camp in New Jersey with Robin Singh; a 2-day weekend outdoor camp of simulation games with Stephanie Power and Stafanie Taylor; provided funds to players for indoor lane rentals for a few winter months; provided fitness programs and video footage of players to help assess technical issues, and ended the year with a 4-day tour to Trinidad and Tobago to play against the national under 19 team. This was done to keep the fire burning for players while there was no national or international cricket.
I founded Love Cricket, Inc., a charitable organization whose mission is to enrich communities around the world through cricket. Akshatha Rao and I worked together to secure funds to build two cricket nets in the late Owen Graham’s Jamaican hometown, in honor of the great work he did as a coach in California.
At Love Cricket, Joan Alexander-Serrano, USA Cricket Women’s Selector, and I have teamed up to host the first ever national-level under 14 girls cricket tournament from June 16-17 in the main stadium at the Central Broward Regional Park. Girls from around the country are coming together to form two teams - Future Stars and Trailblazers. In addition to financial sponsors, we have been able to get the support of some of the greatest in the game to provide videos of encouragement to the girls. Players include Alex Blackwell, Sydney Thunder Captain and former World Cup winning Captain of Australia; Stafanie Taylor, Captain of the T20 World Cup Champions, West Indies; Suzie Bates, Captain of the New Zealand team; Charlotte Edwards, former World Cup-winning captain of England; and Shamilia Connell, West Indies opening pace bowler. Several USA national women players have also provided videos of support. We have also partnered with the Sydney Thunder Foundation for this tournament. The Women’s Big Bash League team has provided Sydney Thunder t-shirts as giveaways for all the girls.
As an independent player representative, I participated in the ICC/Sustainable Foundation Advisory Group/USA Cricket Association meeting to discuss contentious constitution issues and proposed solutions that were accepted by all parties and implemented in today’s constitution.
DreamCricket: What do you plan to accomplish as a director?
Nadia: My plan is to help USA Cricket become a world-class organization by focusing on the fundamental principles that will facilitate that goal. Most, if not everyone, is on the same page as far as what USA Cricket needs: a national youth cricket system, cricket in schools, facilities, contracted players, an organizational structure that works around the country, professional league system, sponsors, etc. I intend to focus on the principles that will ensure our activities are sustainable and scalable. I plan to focus on three major areas, among others:
1. Capacity Building to Ensure Sustainability.
I believe that our immediate USA (cricket and non-cricket) community needs to be utilized and developed by ensuring they receive first preference for opportunities. While having international personnel can be extremely valuable, there must always be opportunities for locals to be understudies and receive other opportunities for growth. International personnel often leave and there’s a chasm that we cannot cross in their absence.
In the upcoming under 14 girls tournament for example, we have engaged USA national player, Sugetha Chandrasekhar and Joy Jones, former USA national player, to coach the two teams. This sets the path of creating future coaching opportunities for them and developing a stronger, home-bred cricket ecosystem in the US.
2. Promoting Ethics, Diversity and Inclusion.
Diverse perspectives create better outcomes. Our competitive edge in the US Cricket Community is the wonderful diaspora we have that can help us make an exponentially bigger impact on cricket development if we are able to engage representatives from all groups. The great organizations are the ones who can be respectful of all stakeholders and who can be responsible in all organizational actions. An organization built with the right culture, is the organization that can weather any storm. Getting investors will always be easy for cricket. But doing the responsible thing is the difficult part.
3. Championing Equally Proportionate Opportunities for Women
While USA Cricket is not a federally-funded program, I will champion the adoption of the Title IX principles applied to sports. This includes but not limited to providing equitable opportunities to participate in sports; equal treatment of female and male athletes regarding equipment, travel and daily allowance, coaching, medical services, publicity and promotions, etc.
Numbers tell a story. So when we compare the percentage of the USA Cricket’s budget allocated to men versus the women’s budget, we must be a leader across the world in ensuring that our story in this regard is an extremely positive one.
There are several other focus areas including creating a stronger system of accountability for everyone from the top to the bottom, and thinking outside the box to encourage innovation and cross-promotion to create a new market of mainstream American fans.
Erica Rendler was first profiled on DreamCricket in 2010. A NCAA Division One field hockey player, Rendler had already scaled the tallest mountain peak in the lower 48 states and had made the USA women's team within one year of her introduction to the sport on a trip to Australia. After a tour of the Melbourne Zoo, she saw a match was in progress on the field outside. Wanting to be close to the boundary line, she stood behind the bowler's arm and became interested in the art of bowling. Upon returning to America, she joined the Western Firebirds.
“It was really nice,” Rendler told DreamCricket.com in 2010. “I just found everyone to be really friendly and the basic skills I already had from other sports in terms of fielding and throwing. So I think just batting and bowling were the two techniques where I needed to adjust things that I’ve done in the past.”
Prior to cricket, Rendler played soccer, swimming, basketball, track & field, softball and field hockey and she was good at every sport. “I just think athletically I’m definitely one of the top of the group coordination-wise,” Rendler told DreamCricket.com. “I don’t think there’s anything I can’t do so it’s just a matter of time before I can get better at something."
Rendler went into this year’s USACA National Women’s Tournament in nearby Cupertino, Calif., with a strong determination to prove herself in front of selectors. Despite her limited experience, she believed a once in a lifetime opportunity to represent her country could come as a result of her hard work.
“I knew there was a window of opportunity, just for a chance to even be selected to play nationally, that was a goal of mine,” said Rendler. “I thought it was kind of out of reach but that was certainly on my mind, at least play up to that level and be able to face players of that caliber and pretty much not make a complete fool of myself.”
“I think the more people that start playing, others will follow, in terms of American-born baseball fans,” Rendler said. “I always hear that Americans don’t have the attention span for a cricket game or it’s too smart of a game but there’s so many athletes now I see at the high school level and the junior high level, they can just pick up any sport and it’s gonna just kind of be this peer pressure thing. If a couple people start doing it, I think other people will follow.
“The thing I notice with cricket, once you learn how to play and understand it, then you’re really interested in every part of the game. But if you don’t know what’s going on, then certainly it’s more boring and easier to tune out.”
In 2011, aged 31, Rendler was the second highest scorer at the 2011 Women's World Cup Qualifier in her second tournament with 77 runs from 6 matches with a highest score of 36. In 2016, at the ICC Combines in New York, she remained in great shape and even beat Steve Massiah at a 2K race. Speaking to Peter Della Penna of ESPNcricinfo about the Combine, she said: "I think we had a group averaging about 20 and that's the key takeaway, encouraging others to get involved and everybody bringing a cricketer out so that we can increase the talent pool and continue to build up the national programme."
Picture of Erica Rendler: Courtesy USA Women's Cricket/Youtube
Picture of Nadia Gruny: Courtesy Bryan Vandenburg via ICC