Pull To — Cricket player and nursing assistant — on encouraging local women to play sports
Pull is a bowler and captain for her club team, CCC Fung Wong, a team comprised primarily of local Chinese women players. She is also a member of the Hong Kong National Women’s Cricket team, which requires her to attend practice six times per week as well as attend travel tours oversees. She does all of this while working as a nursing assistant at a hospital in Hong Kong.
Pull was first exposed to playing cricket through a Funday event in 2011 while she was still in secondary school. Even though she enjoyed the sport, initially Pull was reluctant to take cricket seriously as she didn’t want to spend her Sunday mornings playing. Yet, when she subsequently received a personal call from one of the women on CCC Fung Wong inviting her to practice, Pull went … and she’s been playing cricket passionately since. This call was important to Pull as it led her to recognise what potential she had.
Pull now has been captain for three years and is heavily involved in recruiting more local players to join her team and introducing the sport of cricket to women and girls in Hong Kong. Having been in this role for a few years, Pull recognises it is not easy, and in spite of the challenges, Pull continues to do her best to promote the sport in Hong Kong.
We caught up with Pull to ask about her experiences promoting the sport to women and girls in HK and traveling for tour.
Photo from: HK Cricket(This interview has been edited and condensed for length.)
What have been some of the challenges you faced in trying to encourage local women to play cricket? What are your reflections about this?
In the past I’ve heard women say they don’t want to play cricket competitively; if they do not anticipate traveling for tour, they see no point to attend practice. You see, practices and competition can take up quite a lot of time: practices are two hours long, and one competition can take at least three to four hours.
It used to be a rule that women could only go to practice if they competed, and that only the competitive players could travel overseas for tours, but now this has changed and anyone can join tour overseas. With this I hope we can encourage more women to play without seeing cricket as being a super competitive sport.
There also seems to be this image that if women work, then they cannot fit sports into their lives. For example, at work when my colleagues found out that I play cricket, they would always ask me if playing cricket was exhausting or toilsome. They would also ask if playing cricket paid too little to survive on. I guess in the local work culture there is less acknowledgement of work life balance and it’s less ingrained that sports is a good way to de-stress.
You’ve been playing cricket since you were in secondary school. You played squash and then switched to cricket. What do you enjoy about the sport?
Unlike squash, which is more an individual sport, I enjoy the team aspect of cricket. I like that there is a lot of strategy where we can plan, think, strategize and constantly make changes that will influence the outcome of games. It’s a game where you never know who will win until the last minute. It’s also a sport where it’s not the tallest or strongest who wins all the time.
I enjoy learning how to target the weaknesses of other teams, as well as learning to set goals and be motivated. I like to watch other teams play, and even though in Hong Kong we do not get to watch women’s cricket on TV, I can still find online videos and learn through that.
You captain a local team so you’re familiar with the landscape of sports (at least cricket) for local women. What are your thoughts about this?
From what I have observed, the players who are from overseas are more likely to have been exposed to cricket through watching the sport on TV and not only through participation. In Hong Kong, our women don’t watch sports on TV. Partly because we don’t have the sport being broadcasted on TV, and partly we don’t have that culture of women watching sports from a young age. I do think that we need to watch competition – whether it’s on TV or live – in order to learn a sport.
Our foreign players in Hong Kong also have family members who introduced the sport to them, but it’s unlikely the case for our local players. Our local players have to discover the sport ourselves.
When our local players play against foreign players, I feel that we lose on experience. More of our women start the sport in their teens whereas oversees, many of the girls who play would have started before they were ten years old. So by the time they are in their teens, they would have accumulated more years of playing experience. For our women who start in their teens, they really have to push themselves to catch-up to that level of play and experience.
How did you become captain of CCC Fung Wong? What do you enjoy about being a captain?
I guess I became a captain because I played a lot so I accumulated a lot of experience. I was by then on the Hong Kong squad so I was practicing with the national team several times a week for two hours per time and then playing with CCC Fung Wong. When it came time to choose a captain for the team, I didn’t expect it but my teammates chose me.
And I love watching others go from being beginners to knowing how to play!
You’ve been on the national squad since 2012 and been on tour with them a few times. What have been some of your memorable moments?
I remember going to Sri Lanka and being so excited to see so much cricket everywhere – and not just of people playing, but also of cricket players on ads and posters everywhere. Everyone plays cricket it seems, even our taxi drivers! It was a shock to me to go from a city where few people know about the sport, let alone play it, to being in a place with the sport is so ingrained in the culture.
But I was also sad when I realized the sport is quite gendered. You see very few girls play in public. I was speaking to a man about it and even though he loves cricket and he has a daughter, he wouldn’t encourage her to play. The funny thing is, he encouraged us – our team from Hong Kong – to play! He said the Sri Lankan culture is still traditional and he wouldn’t like his daughter playing for fear of how it would be perceived by other men and boys. He didn’t want her to be seen in public with short sleeves and be so exposed.
How did this make you feel when you learned that girls have fewer opportunities to play cricket in Sri Lanka?
I found it strange because cricket is such a strong part of their culture and yet women are not really encouraged to participate. There’s stigma against women playing and the men seem to discriminate against women who play. It seems unfair.
And then I think back to the situation in Hong Kong. I see there is a perception that women don’t know how to play cricket. There’s a perception that cricket is a man’s sport and people are surprised that women play. I’ve seen and heard some men say condescending things to women on the cricket field. And it is so much harder for a woman coach to be accepted in the community. It seems like the women need to earn the respect from men; that men need to see women can play before they acknowledge what we can do.
What challenges have you faced as a woman playing cricket?
When I first played on CCC Fung Wong, I also played with the men (the CCC Pioneers) because they needed an extra player. I’ve been in many situations where my abilities as a female player has been questioned, because the men’s game is faster and the bowls with more spin.
Also, I’ve been called a tomboy simply because I play sports. I don’t understand why.
And then of course, women always get the lesser quality fields and worse times to play at.
What do you think needs to be done to promote the sport to more women and girls?
First I think we need to train more girls who already know how to play to go and coach. When they become coaches they can go into schools and introduce the sport there. We’ve done that at several schools in Hong Kong and the parents at some of these schools have been very enthusiastic.
When we have coaches they can coach at various Fundays around Hong Kong. When parents see their children enjoying a sport, they ask how their child can get involved. That’s a positive sign.