Barbara Daniels (English, 1986, Furness) is a self-employed consultant, coach, educator and former England Cricketer
Had it not been for cricket Barbara Daniels is convinced she would have been a head teacher by now, but she is equally convinced that had it not been for Lancaster University, she would never have made a career at the top of UK sport.
Daniels – one of Lancaster University’s Alumni Award winners in 2015 - helped England’s women’s team to win the World Cup in 1993, represented her country in nine Test matches and 70 one-day internationals and was vice-captain of England team from 1995-8, continuing to play until 2000. None of that comes without the confidence and determination to succeed.
“Lancaster University brought me out of myself,” says Daniels. “The sports teams there brought me on.” Now a self-employed consultant coach and educator, mentoring sports people from all over the world, she marvels at the way her three undergraduate years transformed her from a shy, homesick teenager into a top sportswoman.
Born in Shropshire and brought up in Atherstone, Warwickshire where her father was a head teacher, she picked on Lancaster because it was one of the only places where she could study both her favourite subjects - English and History. Her plan was to become a teacher like her father. Having only attended small schools, the college system also made her feel secure. Initially she admits she was terribly homesick, coming from a family of six children with three older brothers. Back home she had represented school and college at netball, athletics, as well as playing hockey for the county from the age of 13. Settling in at university was not helped by the fact that she often returned home at weekends to play county hockey.
After the first term, however, she began to make a group of friends and to play hockey at university and college level. She competed in the Roses competition and spent many hours on the tour bus travelling to away games. She says: “It was the sports teams there that helped me to establish my identity. It was a really useful place to learn to stand on my own two feet.”
Cricket did not really feature during her Lancaster days, even though she had made the Junior England team before coming to university. She made the English cricket team when she was 28.
She admits to having been a ‘swotty’ ‘A’ level student who expected to work hard, but relished a more relaxed atmosphere. A highlight was studying Victorian literature, backed by the history of the period. She also remembers being excited by a course in film by Jeffrey Richards, who was always dressed in black, with a neatly trimmed beard and transformed her view of films. She says: “The people on that module enabled me to meet other people who I would not otherwise have had the chance to meet.
“It was such a phenomenal learning experience sitting in a small tutor group. We really did get good value out of our course.”
One of her most memorable activities was an English Department retreat in the Lake District which enabled her to see lecturers as people and not just subject specialists, after which she was much happier to seek advice when she needed it.
The real egalitarianism she encountered at Lancaster was invaluable - with her first opportunity to get to know people from different cultures. Now she has been able to connect with Syrians, Afghans and Nigerians in a much more personal way through sport. She says: “Slowly I learned to articulate an opinion, how to hold my own and not to become upset if people disagreed - invaluable, given the nature of the work I do at the moment.
After graduation, as planned, she completed her teacher training and began working in Staffordshire. Her ambition was to become a head teacher, but at 28 she was picked for the England cricket team. Taking time off became an increasing problem, so in 1996 Barbara left teaching and became the first full-time Executive Director of the Women's Cricket Association, leading the organisation into a merger when the England and Wales Cricket Board was established in 1998. She is a Level 4 Cricket Coach and coached the England Women's Academy team for two years.
Coaching and coach education have been her bread and butter since 2004. She works for the International Coaching enrichment Certificate Programme which is funded by the US Olympic Committee, Delaware University and Olympic Solidarity. She helps individuals (particularly women) from different sports and countries to set up sporting projects in their own countries. This means working with mentees who may hold important positions in countries such as Mexico and Taiwan, but where there may not be an established sporting tradition. Some of her work is online or on WhatsApp, supplemented by a fortnight working with the participants on intensive mentoring at Delaware University each year.
She is also involved in golf, delivering on their Level 3 coach education programme and more recently with the Women’s Sports Leadership Academy in Chichester, mentoring about 40 women - half of whom are from places such as Africa and the Middle East. She has also started working with the International Paralympic Programme, including the Canadian Ice Sledge Hockey coach.
Since leaving Lancaster she has returned to coach the university football and netball teams, as well as speaking on careers in sport. She treasures her Alumni Award, and the connection it gives her with the university. She says: “Much of the stuff I am doing now has its grounding in the three years I spent at Lancaster.”