Asian Cricket Awards winner Amna Rafiq wishes to inspire others
Leicestershire County Cricket Club's Amna Rafiq shares her story with the Sports Gazette.
Amna Rafiq, 21, won the 'Behind the Scenes Award' for her work as Community Engagement Officer at Leicestershire County Cricket Club (LCCC).
As part of Women’s Sport Week we got to know a bit more about her, taking a look at the work she has been doing to create awareness for her sport.
On the award, Rafiq said: “It’s amazing to win the award, especially as a female up against two guys. I don’t see what I do as work, but this award is not only for me but for the whole Leicestershire CCC.”
Originally from Barnsley, she is a third year Sports Business Management student at Leeds Beckett University.
Sports Gazette: What is your role?
Amna Rafiq: My role is about exactly what it says - engaging with the community but doing so in creative ways.
It’s not about posting stuff through peoples’ doors and letting them know about cricket matches taking place at Fischer County Ground.
It’s making the effort and going the extra mile by reaching out to the locals of Leicester, ensuring that not only the flyer is getting to them but that they will attend the events.
When they arrive it is about making sure they have a great time which will make them want to return in the future.
SG: What has worked successfully to drive supporters?
AR: Given the mass south Asian population in Leicester for major matchdays we opened up a room to facilitate for prayers to take place.
This was successful during the month of Ramadan in particular.
SG: What are you doing to get more women playing cricket?
AR: My job is about making cricket accessible, in particular, for women of south Asian background to play. This is an area where the numbers are definitely low.
When planning sessions, it’s about ensuring they are catered for, if that means having a female coach than that is arranged.
All in all, it’s about getting more players, spectators and volunteers into cricket and using cricket as a vehicle to tackle many issues that occur within the south Asian community of Leicester.
SG: What’s your experience of the job?
AR: Getting to where I am currently in my job, might seem as it has been easy. But I have been in the job since I was 19.
Looking back I did do a lot of hard work early on which put me in a position to take on such a big role at such a young age.
SG: Why is cricket your sport and why are you working to change it for others?
AR: I have been playing cricket from a very young age. My brothers played at the local club so I played with them.
When I got to high school I was playing in boys teams. That made me realise I have to do something to create a girls team at my local club.
I did a lot of leadership courses and coaching in local primary schools to promote the sessions at the local club which was very successful.
Following this I became the only female at Yorkshire Leadership Academy. For this I had to volunteer 200 hours of my time towards cricket.
A lot of my hours were done working with the Yorkshire Cricket Board (YCB) at their events throughout the summer.
This meant that sometimes I missed many days of school and it involved travelling over 100 miles but I did it all for the experience.
SG: Give us an overview of your journey so far.
AR: I was awarded the 'Young Volunteer Award' on my 16th birthday in the NatWest OSCAs.
I continued to volunteer for YCB whilst at college and then got into university at Leeds.
This was around the corner from the Headingley stadium with most of my lectures based at the ground-which is an amazing view when the lectures get boring!
In my first year of my sports business management degree I applied for an internship with Yorkshire County Cricket Club to be a student marketing ambassador.
I was successful and appointed as the leader of a team of four other students. This was about marketing the first T20 game to attract a larger student crowd.
We teamed up with local organisations to sell the match as a student event, making it about more than just cricket.
After having a successful first year I was asked to stay and help for the rest of the T20 and also appointed for the following year.
Having worked with them and completing my studies, I knew I wanted to have a gap year, which would involve working.
This is when I came across the community engagement officer role. So, I applied for it and here I am now, over one year into the role.
On 1st September I resumed by education and I am now combining a hectic schedule of third year studies and working part time for LCCC.
SG: In what ways do you encourage others?
AR: Encouraging others is not even part of my job, that just comes to me naturally.
Luckily growing up I had the support of my family to access cricket and I want to pursue a career in sports.
So if I can act as a role model and encourage girls to go down the same route then I believe it is a job well done. To be successful the main thing is being happy in what you’re doing.
I have shared my story with the Muslim only girls school and at the end of it the girls have turned around and said we want to be like you, we want to work in cricket.
How cool is that, that in itself is an achievement because prior to that they didn’t know they could work in cricket without playing.
I have since then worked with these girls to develop their skills and they are going to be working towards coaching courses, with some being part of future leadership courses.
SG: What are you looking forward to over the next 12 months?
AR: Very exciting times are coming up for community cricket, with the new cricket unleashed, game wide strategy and the direction where it is all heading nationally is great.
Leicester is a host city for the Women’s world cup next year. There will be plenty of opportunities to be doing great things, using those matches to inspire the next generation, to bring in new spectators and offering volunteering roles.
I have been heavily involved with the girl’s team set up at Leicester Caribbean CC, which attracts 10 regular girls. Over the next 12 months I want to work to double that.
Also, I am working alongside Chance to shine, to assist with street projects for young adults.
I want them to be an example of good practice moving forward, working to ensure they are sustainable and constantly attract many girls.
The biggest task I will continue to work on is building and strengthening relationships to break down past and existing perceptions about Leicestershire CCC and letting people know how inclusive of a sports club we are.
Personally the next twelve months for me is about learning more about the game and continuing to work hard and prove to those people who voted for me for the Behind the Scenes award, that I truly deserved it and that the recognition has not made me ease down on my work but it is allowing me to continue doing everything I have already been doing.
SG: What sports do you enjoy watching?
AR: I am a big cricket fan and with brothers who share the same passion, we watch a lot of cricket. It’s really the only thing I watch on TV. Also, I am a big fan of athletics, so, if that is on I really enjoy watching that too.
I try to watch as much women’s football as I can, the cricket of course.
The netball is another sport I enjoy, I was the captain of the school team and played at regional level as well, but I never really took it beyond that, so, whenever I can catch a bit of netball I do.
It’s amazing that we get to watch women play on TV.
It’s the motivation to get up and do and play sports it’s also a realisation of how much women’s sport has come on and to be watching it on something like SKY speaks volume in itself.
I don’t think I do have any female role models out there but I have enjoyed watching Jessica Ennis-Hill at the Olympics this summer.
After having got married, gave birth and still perform the way she did was incredible.
I have come across many women that say life is over after giving birth, but wow, she’s such an inspiration. She has proved all of those people to be so wrong.
Well, I hope I can still be playing cricket after marriage and giving birth, even if it is for a local team and not to county level.