BELFAST – On the eve of the women’s Super Series decider, Ireland Women’s Team Manager Beth Healy was taking stock of her first 16 months in the role and how drastically different her expectations were from the reality of what she found – and how much she has enjoyed the challenge in spite of circumstances.
While cricket fans have enjoyed the sight of Ireland’s cricketers returning to play for what remained of the season after lockdown, there are a number of people working behind-the-scenes that have helped to keep the show on the road during challenging times. One such person is Beth Healy.
When she accepted the job in 2019, Belfast-based Healy envisioned travelling the world and supporting a team of high performance sportswomen through the trials and tribulations of international competitions and tours – little did she think she would in fact be taking people’s temperatures and organising virtual nutrition and psychology courses. 16 months into the role, she does not regret a day.
Speaking on the eve of the last round of the Super Series this Sunday, she was speaking about her role, what she anticipated coming into it and how it has panned out so far:
“My role involves managing the logistical operations of the senior women’s team during all tours and trips both domestically and internationally. I work with the Head Coach and Cricket Ireland’s Head of Operations on all team matters, such as dealing with travel, accommodation, transport, kit, equipment, match arrangements, function arrangements, and any other logistical requirement needed for the team and support staff when they are in camp.”
“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the players and their personalities – each player is unique and they are great athletes. Both the players and fellow team management staff were extremely welcoming from the start and they are a great bunch to work with, particularly Head Coach Ed Joyce, who I liaise with most regularly.”
“While it’s not a full-time position at this stage, it fits perfectly with my other role as an Event’s Manager for a sports management and consultancy company in Belfast. I find juggling multiple roles extremely enjoyable and rewarding – the chance to take on various different tasks and responsibilities, and seeing the end results is very rewarding. But my huge passion for sport makes my roles even more fulfilling.”
Holding a Degree in Sport and Exercise Science from Ulster University, Healy’s first operations in sport was with the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council:
“I had a year’s internship with the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council and really got a taste of the behind-the-scenes of team operations through preparing the national team for the Commonwealth Youth Games. Once I graduated, I was offered the job as one of the Games Team Managers during which I was preparing the Northern Irish team for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018.”
Cricket, though, is not a new sport to Healy, and she has found an ideal role that combines her personal and professional loves:
“I started playing cricket two years ago and currently play for Civil Service NI Cricket Club in Belfast – although work commitments mean that I’m not the most consistent player. I love the game and once I saw the job opportunity for Team Operations Manager for the Ireland Women’s Team come up, I knew I had to apply.”
Healy has had the opportunity, pre-pandemic, to tour with the squad – most notably to the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier in Scotland in July 2019 – but originally underestimated the role:
“That trip to Scotland was a great experience, despite the team falling just short of qualifying. What surprised me most, however, was how much stuff I have to carry on tour!”
“I remember when I was first given the two big management bags I thought: ‘I am definitely making these into only one bag’. However, lo and behold I still carry two 20kg bags full of stuff on every tour. Just when I think I will not need all this stuff, someone will ask for something – or something will happen – and I can actually say: ‘I have that in my management bags!’”
Bags on that trip actually provided a moment of mirth for Healy and her colleagues – well, most of her colleagues:
“Poor Rob, our Strength & Conditioning Coach on that Scotland trip, had his kit bag run over by the groundsman’s lawnmower. How the groundsman didn’t see it is still a mystery – Rob was not happy to say the least!”
While touring can bring Healy into sustained contact with the senior squad, oddly so did lockdown – in a virtual sense:
“Usually outside of matches and tours I would stay in contact with the squad a few times a month. I’d be checking-in with players, scheduling team weekends, training camps, fitness tests and other logistics items such as team kit and equipment.”
“During the months of lockdown though, my contact with the squad actually increased. Working with Ed, we created new challenges and tasks for the squad to participate in at home – scheduling different sessions each week. The sessions varied from the likes of nutritional, sports psychology, team building and performance analysis sessions. We even had the squad doing weekly Zoom-based fitness sessions, and for some variety we held team quizzes, which were very successful and a great laugh.”
“There was a serious side to this work though, it was vital that both team management and players kept in close contact to ensure the team is prepared as well as they can be both physically and mentally for once lockdown restrictions were eased and cricket resumed. At that stage we were still hoping that the ICC ODI World Cup Qualifiers would be held in late 2020, so we had to be as prepared as we could be.”
Once lockdown was lifted, Healy soon found herself adding to her duties as a COVID-19 Safety Officer for Cricket Ireland:
“I soon found myself at Stormont and Comber with the Belfast-based contracted men, pointing a temperature gun at their heads and recording temperatures every training session. Then when play resumed in the men’s inter-provincial series and women’s Super Series, I was juggling team management duties and COVID Safety Officer tasks at various matches. It’s not how I envisioned the role originally, but I wouldn’t change a thing.”
“Well, maybe I would change one thing and see international cricket resume, but I have made the most of the last six months and have come out of the season with much more intimate knowledge of the game and the players I work with.”
The women’s Super 50 Series concludes on Sunday, with the winner of the eighth match of the Series to be crowned champions for 2020. While crowds are not permitted, Cricket Ireland will livestream the match via its Youtube channel with commentary and multi-camera production.
The match starts at 10.30am, with the livestream to begin from 10.15am.
Featuring as part of the livestream broadcast will be 20×20 campaign elements, including guest commentators and players will play in the iconic campaign face paint stripes.