I think there were a lot of people who put obstacles in my way, as a woman trying to get into cricket, and right back to primary school there were teachers helping me to remove those obstacles: pivotal people in my life who helped me get to where I was going. I was the captain of the boys’ cricket team in primary school, for example, and I think that demonstrates rather nicely how important teachers were in helping me on my way.
Perhaps the most important, though, was Ms Brown (now Mrs Jones). She was my tutor for the last three years of secondary school, at Ramsey Abbey [near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire], from 1993 to 1996. She was my PE teacher, too — rather young and someone I very much looked up to. I think her youthfulness helped her to engage with the kids. We felt like we had more in common with her than many of the other teachers, and she was very sporty and that really resonated with me. She didn’t just teach it, you know? She was it.
She played a big role in my life at that important age of 13 and 14, when I really felt I needed to decide what it was I wanted to do. I was good at other sports, but I was already on the England cricketing radar and she was pivotal at keeping me grounded. She insisted I play all sports – netball, hockey, everything, because back then cricket wasn’t necessarily on a “professional sport” sort of a trajectory. She knew that options were vital.
'I'm ever so grateful to her'
Ms Brown was a real rock in those years; years in which I really think it’s important to have that level of support. Years when things can go wrong or you can lose focus or lose the taste for something you’re good at. She understood my situation and had an uncanny knack of knowing when I needed to be pushed and exactly how to do that pushing. She was always very good with praise – she praised me when I needed it – and she knew how to get the best out of me. Thinking about it now, I’m ever so grateful to her.
She was also very approachable. Always had an ear for you. Great to talk to. When exams clashed with England games, for example, I never felt like I couldn’t approach her. And she would always be very honest with me: “Look Charlotte, you need to do this and not that.” Brave enough to have an opinion and to air that opinion with me.
I was picked for England while Ms Brown was a teacher of mine, and she was so incredibly proud of me. One of the nicest things she ever did was in 1993: she put me forward for the Sunday Times Young Sportswoman of the Year Award, and I received a letter though the post saying that I had been shortlisted into the final three. I didn’t even know she had nominated me! So we both went to London together, for the awards, and we spent the day in a room with some of the most famous women in sport. I think she really went out of her way to recommend me. I didn’t win, but I didn’t need to. The level of confidence that gave me, I can’t begin to explain.
She’s attended a lot of my games with her family and I’m sure she realises what a huge role she’s played in my career. But it’s been a while since I’ve seen her, so I think now might just be the right time to get back in touch.
Charity Chance to Shine and Yorkshire Tea are giving thousands of children the opportunity to play and learn through cricket (download their free teaching resources at chancetoshine.org/schools). Charlotte Edwards was speaking to Tom Cullen