Former Virden resident Jeanine Allers was recently part of Manitoba cricket history – and she is striving for more.
The daughter of Dona and Norman Barrate coached the first all-female team to play in the Manitoba Cricket Association High School Jamboree. The squad was formed at Brandon’s Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School and took on mostly male competitors.
“During the tournament, they were always positive and gave it their all,” said Allers, a Rivers resident. “It was truly amazing to watch, and I was very proud of their growth and love for the game.”
The Crocus Plains players hope to continue to develop their cricket skills on a new women’s development team for Manitoba through the Westman Cricket Association. Allers was approached last summer by MCA’s Ron Dipchand to start a women’s program in the Westman area.
“We are starting up in a few weeks when our equipment arrives from the MCA,” Allers said. “It is welcome to all and would love to welcome all ladies of any skill level.”
The Crocus Plains team came about due to 11 female student-athletes signing up for high school cricket at the school. Allers’ partner, Paul Ziesmann, had coached cricket at Crocus Plains in the past. He was told by Jeff Kasprick, who runs the school’s cricket program, that many girls were interested.
“When I heard of the interest from the Crocus team, it was a natural fit to work with these ladies and grow as a team,” said Allers, noting that she knew immediately she wanted to be a part of the program.
Kasprick told her that when the girls heard there was going to be a female coach, “the interest grew as it can be very intimidating to play on a boys team.” At the start, a curtain was used in the gym to separate the boys and girls in practice. Their female squad’s skill and confidence developed.
“Their growth in a few short months was truly amazing,” Allers said. “We started with tennis balls, to indoor balls and moved to hard ball. They knew to be a part of this tournament that they would have to grow quickly, and they rose to the challenge. At the end of May we started slowly mixing with the boys teams for half the practice to give them a chance to see what they would face at the tournament. Soon the thought of facing the male teams didn’t faze them.”
She said, “We had a cheer we would do, which was ‘Chak De,’ which means ‘we can do it.’ (in Hindi)”
Allers grew up playing cricket in the program her father, a longtime Virden Collegiate Institute educator, founded. In junior high and high school, she played “kanga ball,” a variation which uses soft plastic balls, plastic wickets and bats. Later she played the hard ball version of the sport for the Virden/Westman team. Allers and her sister, Maryse Catagas, represented their country at an international tournament in Grenada in 2002.
Her father started the Westman Cricket Association in 1994. He also had pushed MCA to have VCI students be involved in regulation cricket, rather than kanga ball. Eventually a pitch was developed.
Allers has long given back to cricket. While in high school, she coached a Virden Junior High team. Allers later coached women’s cricket in Winnipeg with her sister.
Anyone interested in the developing Westman female team can check the WCA Facebook page for more info or contact Allers at Westmancricketassociation@gmail.com. All ages are encouraged to sign up.