Camila Oyarce: from being the only girl in school coaching group to the Chile national side

Cricket Chile recently got recognized by the ICC for having one of the best participation programmes in world cricket. Now Isaac Lockett talks to Camila Oyarce to find out about what it is like to be a female player in the country and to learn about the future of Chilean cricket.

Following Cricket Chile recently winning a regional award from the ICC for their ‘Mothers and Daughters’ initiative; Emerging Cricket spoke to national player Camila Oyarce about the game’s development in the South American nation, and her cricketing story.  

Cricket in Chile has recently seen an overhaul, with there being a new administration taking over the governance of the game in the country. The new board has given Oyarce confidence that Chilean cricket is in good hands and that the future looks bright. When speaking about the excitement that the new administration has brought to the sport, she reflects that the board ‘have big plans for the future of cricket in Chile’ and that she is ‘happy’ with who represents the nation in front of the ICC. The new administration has been been making progress with growing cricket in the country, with the restarting of the countries social media accounts and contacting a number of young individuals who had previously left the sport to reengage them with the sport. 

The award-winning Mothers and Daughters programme got women of all ages involved with the sport and provided a fantastic opportunity for increased participation. Not only were individuals being given their first introduction to cricket, but people who had previously felt excluded from participating in any sporting event were welcomed with open arms. The programme ran by Cricket Chile was a perfect example of how the sport can be used to create social cohesion and the power that sport can have within a community, as well as showcasing some of the exciting work being undertaken to grow cricket within the nation. 

‘Las Loicas’ team photo during 2019 (Photo: Cricket Chile)

The journey for a young cricketer any the country can be full of highs and lows, however, Oyarce’s undying passion and commitment has remained in abundance since her introduction to the sport. After being introduced to cricket at the age of seven during an initiative at her school, Oyarce was drawn to the sport compared to the others she had tried out. Oyarce was the only female participating in the cricket-based activities and although she had moments of frustration giving up was never an option for her. The time and effort placed into the sport were eventually rewarded with Oyarce being called up to the national team to represent Chile during the 2015 Junior South American Championships which took place in Peru. Now, Oyarce is a player for the national team, which is also known as ‘Las Loicas’, and domestically for Cricket Ñuble, but the journey is a perfect demonstration of perseverance and determination leading to success. During Oyarce’s journey through the sport, she has come to realise that ‘there were good days and bad days … but, every time I have a bat in my hands, I can’t think about anything apart from everything that I’ve achieved.

When asked about her inspirations in the sport and what has driven her to succeed, Oyarce paid homage to three women who have shaped her journey through the sport. Alejandra Zúñiga was Oyarce’s first coach and made a lasting impact on her development. Not only was Zúñiga credited for creating a safe environment in which children were able to develop their sporting talents but also allowed her children to dream big. Zúñiga, in the words of Oyarce, was able to open doors that other teachers and coaches had previously shut. In order for young players to develop, a country must have passionate coaches who are able to do more than just coach; instead, coaches have the possibility to inspire creativity and drive passion for the sport. A child’s initial introduction to a coaching environment is vital to ensure that the passion and engagement remain strong.

Without the initial coaching from Zúñiga, Oyarce may have lost interest in the sport but instead, she was able to progress to the national team where she met her role model Jeannette Garcés. Garcés is the current captain of Las Loicas who has become synonymous with women’s cricket in the country after putting so much effort into turning the team into one which is not only visible to the public but also visible. Oyarce says that Garcés would be a fantastic role model to the young women in Chile ‘she has been able to show the world all that a woman with the will to succeed is able to achieve, and gives me the confidence that one day I’ll be able to fulfill my dreams’.

Inspiration can come from a variety of sources and for Oyarce family has been an invaluable resource. Behind the scenes, Oyarce has been supported by her mother, Loreto, who only developed her understanding of cricket after her daughter was introduced to the sport. For a mother to support her daughter as much as Oyarce’s has and to enable her to follow her dreams has been a massive part of her cricketing development. No matter who it is, every young player will need somebody in their life to help them through their life in cricket. Not only can a caregiver help a child manage their ups and downs, but they are able to provide a child with unconditional support which is a key ingredient that enables dreams to become a reality.

Since her introduction to the sport, Loreto Oyarce, as described by her daughter, ‘is now part of the board of Cricket Chile, a certified umpire and although she has never played the game, she has as much passion for this sport as any player I know’.

The Oyarce family has shown what is possible when you have a passion for the sport and the drive to succeed. Cricket has become a key source of happiness for Oyarce, for her ‘It means waking up early with a giant smile after sleeping … because I know that I will be with my best friends, my family, and on a pitch where the only thing that matters is my desire to succeed. Playing cricket is everything, and I can’t imagine a future without it.’

Camila Oyarce walking out to bat for Chile during 2017 (Photo: Cricket Chile)

However, there are still improvements to be made in Chile. Despite Oyarce reporting that she has faced little discrimination for being a female, there is still a view that men are superior at sport and therefore will be better at cricket. Despite this view now being questioned, as more and more girls enter the sport, it is one that will be needed to be effectively campaigned against by Cricket Chile to ensure that cricket is a sport for all. When talking directly about the issue Oyarce reflected that ‘Most young girls (that know of cricket) see how fun it is, but it can cause them to be somewhat fearful, as at school they don’t learn how to hold a bat or throw a ball without bending their arms. Many believe that these types of things are only for the boys, but there are more and more girls who are realising that the men aren’t the only ones capable of throwing balls or hitting big shots, and that’s great’.

Alongside this, there is a need for the sport to develop some sport-specific facilities to ensure that there will always be a space to play cricket. Chile is a nation which loves its football and takes priority when it comes to booking facilities, therefore meaning cricket players are not giving ample opportunity to train. If cricket in Chile is to continue to grow into a major sport in the country, there will be a requirement for infrastructure to be put in place but this will not happen overnight and instead presents a step on the country’s journey to develop as a cricketing nation. 

Camila Oyarce is a prime example of what can be achieved on a cricket field through determination and hard work. With a new administration in place and individuals such as Oyarce involved in the sport who have such passion, cricket in Chile is not only in a positive position but it is on the rise.

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