Over Cricket Club's Jane Reeson wins outstanding service award from ECB
When Jane Reeson first went to Over Cricket Club, little could she have imagined the relationship that was to develop.
It was back in 1984 that a romance of a very different kind first took her to the village side - her then current partner was the captain of the first team.
But while that bond may have been ended, the love between Reeson and Over has gone from strength to strength ever since - highlighted by winning #Raisethebat award in the NatWest Outstanding Service to Cricket Awards (OSCAs).
Reeson’s first role at the club was as the fixtures’ secretary, and in the 80s it was about convenience as much as anything else.
“In those days, you had to come into Cambridge and go to Fenner’s to arrange your fixtures with your opponents, sat around a big table,” she explains.
“It was in the days when you did your own fixtures, and they weren’t done electronically.
“As I lived in Cambridge and everybody else lived in Over, I said I would do it because it was just down the road for me.
“The relationship parted and I carried on with Over, becoming their chairman because nobody else wanted to do it and the club was likely to fold.”
They are just two of the roles that Reeson has held at the club, with others being the welfare officer, player and umpire.
It could have been so different, as the temptation may have been to walk away when the relationship finished, but that was never on the cards.
By that point, the bonds were too strong and a real fondness for the game had developed for Reeson, who had not previously been a cricket fan, instead being a swimmer and diver.
“I just got the cricket bug,” she says. “I didn’t like cold weather so football was ruled out because it was a winter sport.
“Cricket was a summer sport so I could go and sit in the sunshine, and have a drink with friends and just work that way.
“I trained to be an umpire, so I’m a qualified umpire and can go out and umpire the games.
“It’s nothing for me to go out on a Saturday if they’re short, I will just turn out because I couldn’t see them not have a full team.
“I field on the boundary, but that’s fine by me, and if I have to bat, I have to bat, it’s not a problem.”
The camaraderie has been one of the most important things that cricket has given Reeson, as well as the bonds that have been forged through Over and further afield, such as through volunteering at the ICC World Cup at Lord’s.
“Great friendships - lifelong friendships in actual fact,” she says, when asked what cricket has provided.
“There were people in the club that were 13 or 14 [when she first joined], that are now married with children.
“I’ve just watched them grow, develop, get married and have families - they call me mum, that’s just how it is.”
Reeson has seen the ups and downs with Over, which centres around the number of players.
When she first started, they had four men’s teams - and she was in the fourth - but now they are down to two.
But it tends to follow the population growth in the area.
“When the birthrate goes down, probably five years later you then find you haven’t got the youth coming through because you don’t get the youngsters coming into cricket,” explains Reeson.
“We had quite a lean spell about 10 years ago when we didn’t have a good youth section, but that has now picked up because the ECB introduced All-Stars which was for the little tiny ones, from four upwards.
“It was to try to close that gap to get them young. Where they would have gone to football, All-Stars was to try to do a young cricket thing and we’re now seeing those guys coming into our 13 and 14-year-old section so it paid off in the long run.”
It is not just about Over though.
Reeson is the secretary of the Cambridgeshire Cricket Association, assistant county welfare officer for Cambridgeshire, director of Cambridgeshire Cricket Board and also runs the Cambridge Business House League.
“People think that sport is the season only that it is played in, but believe you me it is not,” she stresses.
“During the winter, we’re doing all of our training, all our meetings to plan the following season - it is 52 weeks of the year.”
You can get an impression of Reeson’s get-up-and-go attitude and it was evident to a far wider part of society during the first national lockdown in the spring.
Having been furloughed, there was never going to be a point of just staying indoors and doing nothing so she made the decision to help the community, and this was something that led to the NatWest award.
“I have to have something to do, so when I got furloughed in the first lockdown, I just wanted something to do,” she says.
“I looked locally to my own village to see what I could do to support, and I ended up being in a group that was collecting prescriptions, would go and shop for the vulnerable and elderley, really just to keep myself busy.
“It was part of where all of this came so not only was I volunteering but I was also trying to keep the cricket season alive, and then when we went back to work I was trying to do all three.”
On returning to work at Clarks in Lion Yard, her boss approached to take a picture as they were looking to recognise people that had volunteered during the lockdown.
Having done so, when outside the store meeting and greeting customers a customer caught her by surprise.
“Somebody came up to me and said ‘congratulations’, so I said ‘why, what have I done now?’,” explains Reeson.
“She said hadn’t I seen, and I had been nominated for a Local Heroes Award in Lion Yard, and was one of the five recipients of that, which I didn’t know about.
“Somebody then within cricket took that, and nominated me for the NatWest OSCAs award using that information, which was how I got nominated.”
A video to announce the award, which was broadcast during the Vitality Blast Finals Day, described Reeson as an “absolute gem”, “the heart of Over Cricket Club” and “the mother of Over Cricket Club”.
When it is put to her the impact the efforts and volunteering has on people’s physical and mental health, in what appears to be something of an extremely modest trait, she plays it down.
“When lockdown was on, just getting a game on was important for so many people’s mental wellbeing because so many people have mental health issues and found it difficult being in lockdown,” she says.
“It’s what drove Martin (Livermore, CCA competitions secretary), Keith (Coburn, CCA chairman) and myself to get the game on.
“When you are so involved in sport, it just becomes second nature because you want to do it.”
As for the future for Over, you just know that Reeson will be a central figure for many years to come and what that may look like could be boosted by the developments in the area.
“What we’re looking at now is that Northstowe has started to become occupied so between Longstanton and Over, we’re hoping that we can gain some more players from that,” she says.
“We picked up four new players last year from the Northstowe development so hopefully we can do the same again this year and just get some new people in.”
With Over at her heart, you know that Reeson will do all she can to help the club.