By Mr. Matt Decker (Leonard Wood)July 11, 2017
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- In her role as a supply noncommissioned officer, Sgt. Claudine Beckford does all she can to make sure her fellow Soldiers in Company D, 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment have what they need to accomplish their mission.
As one of 14 members of the USA Women's Cricket Team, Beckford is doing all she can to help her teammates accomplish their goal of advancing to the World Cup.
"We've been working on qualifying for the World Cup for almost a year now," said Beckford, who today is bound for Trinidad on what she describes as "a practice tour" before the U.S. team heads to Scotland, for the International Cricket Council Europe T20 Qualifier, scheduled August 5 through 20.
"It's a three-team tournament between Scotland, Netherlands and the USA. It's like a round-robin kind of qualification," Beckford said.
Originally from St. Thomas, Jamaica, Beckford, 28, grew up playing cricket, a sport that bears some similarities to baseball. Cricket is popular in many European and Caribbean countries -- but isn't well known among sports fans in the U.S.
"I started playing in primary school in Jamaica. I played in high school; I played for a club in Jamaica, then I played for the national team in Jamaica," Beckford said.
Since arriving in the U.S. in 2009, she's also represented the U.S. several times, playing on the national women's teams at the ICC championships in Bangladesh in 2011 and the Cayman Islands in 2012, where the U.S. team finished second.
"I'm an all-arounder, which means you bowl (similar to pitching in baseball), you bat and you field," she explained.
In 2013, while living in Florida, Beckford joined the Army.
"I joined on impulse," she said. "I was at a bus stop, and they had a sign that said the Army had 150 jobs. I thought maybe I would just go check it out. I called a recruiter about some information, and she asked me to come in."
Once at the recruiting office, she took -- and failed -- the pre-Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. But Beckford's competitive spirit wouldn't let her quit, and she passed the full ASVAB with high marks the next day.
"That's how I ended up joining the Army," she said.
Once she started basic training, Beckford didn't think she would continue playing cricket. However, as opportunities to represent the U.S. arose, she found herself trying to convince her superiors she was a world-class player in a sport they knew little about. Luckily, her profile on ESPN's cricket site, ESPNcricinfo.com, helped persuade them.
"I asked my first sergeant and my commander if they would allow me to play, but they didn't understand what cricket is," she said. "I told them, 'I'm really good at it,' and to Google my name. So, they went on Google and came back and said, 'Yeah, we'll allow you to play.' I was like, 'OK, that's good.'"
Since that time, Beckford said she has always received support from her chain of command, and she works hard to ensure her playing time doesn't interfere with her Army duties.
"I get the (cricket) schedules ahead of time, (and) I give myself enough time to plan accordingly for my job and get everything ready that the drill sergeant needs," she said. "I ask my coaches and my manager to send me all the details, so I can have all my stuff planned out, so it won't conflict."
Beckford was selected for this year's USA Women's Team in June after attending ICC Americas clinics in New York and Indianapolis.
While her opportunities to play and practice cricket on Fort Leonard Wood are limited, Beckford has played softball and her favorite sport -- soccer -- on post. She said being a Soldier has helped her become a better cricket player.
"Being in the Army makes me stay physically fit at all times," she said. "I play soccer three times a week, plus I do my regular PT daily, so that has made me more physically fit. When I got to cricket practice, I already know I'm physically fit, so I don't think about that aspect of my game -- I think about what I need to be doing, batting and bowling."
Beckford also believes being a cricket player has made her a better Soldier.
"Cricket is a team sport, but it's also an individual sport. It makes you use your brain a lot, and there is a lot of mental discipline that goes into it," she said. "I try to use that mental discipline to find ways to make my supply (duties) better, and hopefully make other companies better, because with what I do, I help other companies."
One thing that remains a challenge: Explaining cricket to coworkers and friends in the U.S.
"It's really very hard," she said. "When I try to explain it, and then they ask a question in the middle of my explanation, I usually just say, 'it's similar to baseball,' or 'go on YouTube and search for cricket.' That's the easiest way to do it."