Upper Hutt to Hertfordshire, England, isn’t the most obvious journey for a cricket coach, but for Justine Dunce, it’s about all seizing the opportunity.
Dunce has always been based in Wellington, but thought it was time to have a look at what else was out there. She spoke to former Scottish international cricketer Kari Carswell who confirmed that there were always opportunities in England for female coaches.
Berkhamstead Cricket Club were one of the options presented to Dunce. They were looking for someone to look after their women’s team and develop their younger female players. She applied and part of that package was also to work at Berkhamstead School, with their young female and male cricketers.
Her husband Graeme has joined her in Berkhamstead for the English summer, a town approximately 40 km north-west of London and with the school year ending in July, club commitments will continue until the end of the season and many of those school children will come and play for the club during the school holidays.
“Sometimes, I can’t believe I’ve actually done it, but why shouldn’t I do it?” says Dunce.
“Going overseas at 50, it seems, is silly, but no matter how different, or what it is, just do those things that might come up and take a bit of a risk, take a chance. You never know what comes out of them,” she says.
“I suppose what it’s reinforced is that I actually just love coaching cricket. I love coaching full stop and cricket just happens to be the sport I coach in. I love interaction and when someone does something well.”
Back home in New Zealand, Dunce is the Cricket Development Officer for Upper Hutt United Cricket Club, where she supports 50 coaches across junior and senior teams. She coaches multiple teams herself and is one of the few coaches to take both a Premier Women’s and Premier Men’s team. She is also a Cricket Wellington Female Pathway Coach and a Coach Developer for the New Zealand Cricket Women in Coaching initiative.
Earlier this year, Dunce, a former White Fern, who played three Test Matches and seven One Day Internationals for her country, was awarded the Outstanding Contribution and Services to Coaching award at the New Zealand Cricket awards in Auckland. It was a well-deserved award for someone who has dedicated so much of her life to coaching and coach development.
“I took my son [to the ceremony] who was thrilled and loved the whole thing. There are some amazing people in the community. You couldn’t do without those people,” she says.
When Dunce returns to Upper Hutt after the English season ends, it’ll be straight into pre-season in September, with the new season starting in October. Dunce has been finishing her Level 3 Certificate in Sport Coaching and even with all her experience, it’s given her plenty of food for thought.
“It’s just re-emphasised that you can be a performance coach of any player, regardless of whether they are high performance or not,” says Dunce.
Netball, rather than cricket, was Dunce’s first coaching role, when she was just 15 years old. Her parents always coached, raising her to know how important it was to give back. She has also coached touch, basketball and swimming. For her, being a good coach, whatever the sport, whatever the level, is about making sure the athlete is at the centre of any decision being made.
“I can still apply a performance coach approach to anything. It’s just about those small improvements and helping them be better and I can do that with anyone, whatever level they’re at,” she says.
With her vast experience, Dunce is quick to recognise that development and success is relative and comes in many forms.
“You have your own goals, regardless of the outcome. You have your own wins. Sometimes it’s got nothing to do with whether you win or lose a game. Those small week to week things, that’s as good a focus as anything,” she says.
As a former player and current coach, Dunce is well positioned to analyse the development of women’s cricket here in New Zealand and how things are looking moving forward. With women players now receiving the same match fees as men across all formats and competitions, and equity in matters such as travel and accommodation, things are a far cry from when Dunce was playing.
“There’s just so much more cricket available [than when I was playing]. The pathway is quite well defined. There are opportunities to play in different countries. It’s really well supported from New Zealand Cricket even down to the club level. People are more aware of girl’s and women’s cricket now and the opportunities that are available. It’s really well run. We’ve got really good people in the community that are really positive about cricket with girls and women. It can only be on the rise.”