Published: 27 November 2020. Written by: Suzanne Baum
As England’s women’s cricket captain, Heather Knight, is on a winning run. Here, the 29-year-old talks about her passion for the sport, and why now – more than ever – keeping fit is so vital for the mind and body.
From playing cricket in her brother’s youth team to winning the World Cup, being awarded an OBE and playing over 100 One Day Internationals, Heather Knight is certainly on top of her game.
As one of Vitality’s Ambassadors, Heather is an inspiring role model when it comes to encouraging people to improve their health and wellbeing. We grilled Heather Knight over Zoom to listen to some wise words about what’s helped her achieve such a successful career and how we, too, can channel our inner athletes.
Never be put off by anyone telling you that you can’t do it
‘I started playing cricket when I was around the age of eight, back home in Plymouth. My brother, Steve, played for the local club and I thought: “If Steve can do it, so can I.” There was no girls’ side, so I just joined in and played on the boys’ team. I didn’t see myself as different, but I probably stuck out like a sore thumb being the only girl in the game.
‘Later, when I played for the men’s side, I’d get a few comments from the more – shall we say? – traditional older blokes, calling me “sweetheart” or asking if I did the ironing after a match.
‘The world of cricket has changed so much since I made my England debut in Mumbai 10 years ago. Then we played in front of a tiny crowd, and now a decade on (pre-Covid), our matches are a sellout. And the perception of women’s sport has turned on its head, too; it makes me so happy how mainstream it has become.’
Mind over matter is an important tool…
‘As an athlete, there are so many positives when it comes to sport, but many knockbacks, too. You have to learn to take them on the chin.
‘When I arrived in Australia this October, we had to quarantine for two weeks by ourselves in small hotel rooms. It was very difficult emotionally and felt like prison at times, but I learnt to cope by keeping my mind and body active to ward off the cabin fever.’
Savour every moment of success…
‘Winning a match gives you such a rush of adrenalin. For me, one of the highlights of my career was winning the World Cup in 2017. Leading the country to victory against India was unreal, and doing it on home soil was incredible; it leaves such a fantastic feeling whenever I look back on it. Being appointed an OBE in recognition of that triumph meant so much to me, but I did it for my family and to make them proud.’
Even 15 minutes of exercise a day can change things…
‘I have always loved exercise and, of course, being a professional player, I always have to be on top of my fitness.
‘However, even if you hate exercise or don’t have the time, you can still benefit from a workout. A 15-minute intense HIIT session can work wonders. I did it with friends on Zoom in the first lockdown, and it leaves you feeling energised and good that you have got your heart rate up and achieved something.’
Always be supportive, even at the top of your game…
‘As a captain, it’s my role to be in charge of the team but to also provide support for everyone. It is exciting being a mentor and being able to pass on the lessons I have learnt to the younger players who come into the game.’
Don’t let injury set you back. Stay focused…
‘The hardest challenge I have faced is the terrible injury I had in 2013 when I literally fell and did the splits. It was so painful. I injured my hamstring so badly it came away from the bone. The months of recovery and rehab were hard, especially having to miss out on a tour of the West Indies. But it was just a matter of trying to keep focused and get through it.’
The best advice I have ever been given…
‘To keep improving every day. Even though I am captain of the team, I still strive to play better at each game. You have to stay true to yourself and focus on the day-to-day. You don’t want to reach a point where you feel as though you have no more to learn.’
Always remember how lucky you are…
‘In professional cricket, you are always leaving one place and visiting another. Travel has played a huge part of my job, and I know how lucky I am to get to visit other places in the world. Of course, I miss my family and my partner when I do travel, which is why the first lockdown was so nice in some ways, as it was a novelty to be forced to be in one place and to actually spend proper time with them.
‘As a girl from Plymouth, to get to say I have played cricket at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro is a dream come true.’
Inspired by Heather Knight? Take a look at how Vitality is supporting women in sport and how you can get involved here.
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Photo credit: George Powell