Rounders International and Role Model

An outstanding sporting all-rounder, she was first spotted by national selectors aged just 13 during a match at her school, Sheffield High. “I was lucky to be at a school that encouraged the sport at a high level;” she said.

“Then aged 19 I played for the England Under 21s and senior sides. Frustratingly, rounders is still stereotyped as a child’s game but at international level, it’s really tactical and exciting to watch and getting increasing amounts of media coverage. It’s still a minority sport and even as internationals, we pay most of our own expenses. It’s such an explosive game though, really fast and addictive.

“In the England squad you have to run a complete rounder in about 9 seconds and there’s no time for hesitation when you’ve hit the ball. It’s also pretty physical. I’ve broken fingers about 20 times and my right shoulder bone was fractured when I was hit by a ball. When you really hurl it, the ball travels around 60 mph over 7.5 yds, so it’s faster than in cricket.”

Dana, whose Palestinian father and English mother, a Muslim convert, are “hugely proud” of her achievements, recently set up her own league team to try to encourage young players and give them the same opportunities she had. A local celebrity and a role model in her community, she gives talks on stereotyping and has also encouraged scores of her pupils at Dinnington to play the game to a high level; several achieving national selection at different age groups including sixth formers Lauren Brown and Lauren Hobson who are both in Dana’s England Under 18 squad. As a top-level coach and umpire Dana has also helped to design several national coaching courses and believes the game’s camaraderie and accessibility is its real strength.

“I’ve played county-level football, netball, hockey and athletics,” she said “but Rounders England has certainly been the most understanding when it comes to cultural and religious sensitivities. Some men at the mosque said it wasn’t appropriate for a Muslim girl to play football and in netball there were objections to me wearing the hijab. One umpire even refused to start a match at a big netball rally because of my headscarf. After 9/11, I encountered a lot of discrimination – I was thrown off a bus on one occasion and had cake thrown at me, weirdly.

“I’ve found absolutely no discrimination with rounders, although on the adult team the only slight problem is when the others go for a drink after matches and don’t immediately understand why I don’t come with them.

Both at school and in my competitive sports career, I feel my job is not just about being a rounders international and a PE teacher but as a Muslim breaking new ground and creating awareness of our religion and culture. I’m open to all sorts of questions and I find the best weapon is humour. Kid’s sometimes have a joke asking ‘Have you got a bomb, Miss?’ or ‘What colour’s your hair? You’ve got really nice hair, Miss; why not get it out more?’ and I try to answer them truthfully and have a laugh at the same time.”

Sally Jones, Sportsister
Source: The Women’s Sports Magazine

Watch Dana in action at the England V Wales Home International on July 24 at Stafford Cricket & Hockey Club 10.30am until approx 4.30pm.

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