Support through Sport UK's Helen Barratt spoke to Rick Mason from Stoolball England ...
Hi Rick. So explain stoolball to us. How do you play, what are the basic rules?
Stoolball is similar to Twenty20 cricket, but it's easier to play and doesn't need all the expensive protective gear. Matches typically last about 15 overs, and each over is eight balls. Bowling is underarm, using the same ball as rounders. The bats are willow with a round face and a long sprung handle. Just like cricket, batsmen score by running between two wickets or hitting the ball for four or six. They can be bowled, caught or run-out, or even given out body-before-wicket.
Who can play stoolball?
Anyone. You don't have to be really fit to play. Children can start playing at around eight or nine, and some people play league stoolball right into their 70s! It's sometimes seen as a women's game and there are lots of ladies' teams and leagues, but mixed stoolball is popular too, usually with six men and five women on each team. In the mixed game, there are rules to ensure everyone gets a fair chance: half the overs must be bowled by women and half by men, and there's always a man and woman batting together, at least until you have only women or only men left to bat.
Where can you play?
Any grassy area will do in summer, and in winter we play in sports halls. All of the clubs are in south-east England at the moment and you can find them on our website at www.stoolball.org.uk. Stoolball used to be played right across England though, and we'd love to bring that back. There are schools dotted across the country which play stoolball, and we at Stoolball England can help anyone who wants to start a club or get their school playing. We can offer advice on getting started, lend you free equipment and, if you're in or near the south-east, we can usually arrange a taster session too.
What are the most important skills in the sport?
It's described as a striking and fielding sport, so a good batsman will have a range of shots while a skilled fielder will be good at stopping a fast-moving ball, taking catches and throwing accurately back towards the wickets. Bowling is an art too. Anyone can bowl, but an experienced bowler will vary their pace and spin to outthink the batsman.
What do you like about stoolball?
For me, it's the perfect way to spend a summer's evening or Sunday. It's great to be outside having fun and relaxing with friends, often in some stunning village surroundings. For others it's more about the competitiveness of the league, especially as there's now the exciting prospect of going on to play for England. We held the first ever England Ladies match in 2012, playing against a President's XI, which was a fantastic day. We plan to hold more England matches in 2013, for both ladies and mixed teams.
How did you get into playing?
I was always aware of stoolball as a child, but never played. Then when I started my first full-time job there was a staff league, so I joined one of the teams. I was dropped after one game, so I joined their league rivals and never looked back! I still play for the same team today.
What are the main benefits of playing stoolball?
If you want to get or stay fit then playing stoolball can be a part of that, but the biggest benefit is definitely the friends you make. Just about everyone I've met playing stoolball has been welcoming and friendly, not just on my own team but on opposition sides too, and several have become friends away from the stoolball pitch.
What would you say to someone to persuade them to give the sport a go?
I'd simply say don't be nervous, just give it a try. Most clubs don't expect you to be really sporty, and will welcome anyone who wants to play, no matter how good you are. There's no equipment to buy as clubs generally provide it all, so you've nothing to lose. Bring a friend and give it a go together!