Karen Gibson: Former Hearts and Dundee physio opens up on new Cricket Scotland role, being part of 'quirky family' and that 'Flower of Scotland' moment
Trying to explain away an unexpected and, for many in the cricket-loving nation, unacceptable defeat to Scotland in qualification for the T20 World Cup Super12, he was stopped in his flow by Flower of Scotland.
It was being belted out with gusto from the Scotland dressing room, elated after a famous win.
"That was completely accidental,” Cricket Scotland’s lead physio Karen Gibson told Scotland on Sunday from her hotel room in the United Arab Emirates.
"We were in our own dressing room, I think the soundproofing wasn’t good enough there.
"We didn’t know the conference was going on and didn’t know they could hear us so we didn’t mean to be disrespectful to Mahmudullah.
"I didn’t know we would be doing that after the first win so we went into the dressing room and it was rousing.”
That game, that moment was the start of a pivotal period for Cricket Scotland, culminating in reaching the Super12, following up with wins over Oman and Papua New Guinea. There have since been defeats to Afghanistan and Namibia.
Still, it’s the latest big Scottish sporting moment of 2021, joining Scotland at the European Championships, beating England in the Six Nations and Josh Taylor defeating Jose Ramirez to become the first British fighter to become an undisputed champion in the four-belt era.
“Just working for your country is an honour,” Gibson, who took on the new role full-time in August, said.
"When we progressed to round two we had so many messages from back home. I wasn’t aware I knew so many cricket fans. The success thus far, progressing to round two, has sparked a bit of interest at home which is fantastic and it can only be a good thing for the game.
"I hope kids watching will go and join their local cricket clubs and have a go. They can be the next Richie Berrington or Kyle Coetzer.
"Getting to the next stage is really important for Cricket Scotland as a whole and their aim to gain full membership because they are still associate members. The amount of investment that brings is massive for the organisation as a whole.”
On a personal level, Gibson has entered “an entirely new world” after two decades working in football.
She worked at Rangers, Dundee, Hearts and latterly Inverness CT and Dunfermline Athletic. A season-ticket holder at Rangers with her dad since she was nine, a role in the game was the dream job.
"I used to see the physio running on and thought he was an absolute wizard because players would be on the ground one second then the next second they would be up charging around the pitch," she said.
"I had always wanted to be a physio in football. I hadn’t realised at the time there weren’t really any girls who did it in those days.
From being one of only a few to earn first-class honours on her course at Glasgow Caledonian, Gibson immersed herself in her trade. While at Rangers she also worked with the Scottish Women's national team, plus doing rotations with the NHS.
On moving to Dundee, Gibson sought to maintain a rounded skill-set working evenings in a clinic with former British Lions and Scottish Rugby physio Stuart Barton. And it was at Dens Park where she experienced one of her favourite moments in football in the 2010/11 campaign.
"It was my dream job, I loved every minute of it," she said. “I had the good fortune of working with a lot of great coaches, managers and players over the years.
"One of my favourite seasons was the administration season when we only had 12 players. They were galvanised and we went unbeaten from October until the end of March. We had a 25-point deficit and ended up finishing sixth in the league.
"You have to love it as much as I did because it is all-consuming and you give your life over to it.
"When I left Hearts I had offers of full-time roles at Championship clubs, but at that time I had a bit of time to reflect over the lockdown and I decided if it wasn’t the childhood ambition of Rangers then I would maybe try something new.”
It was through colleagues from her time at Hearts that Gibson made the transition to Cricket Scotland, helping out before landing the full-time role.
Having “never watched a cricket game” in her life, she was given “an intense crash course” by the team and even learned the ropes with help from former England batsman Jonathan Trott, who is part of the Scotland coaching set-up.
“It is literally a different ball game entirely,” she laughed. “I think I have got to grips with the basics.
"I had a go when we were rained off in Oman. I had a pretty good coaching team, the seam bowling coach, the spin bowling coach and Jonathan Trott. Originally I thought I’d be a batter but it seems I could be an all-rounder.”
Gibson has also been given a new challenge with regards to her day-to-day role.
"There are still the lower limb injuries you would see in football," she said. “It seems that the bowlers, their bodies are most under pressure with the speed that they are running at, the momentum carrying them into a twisting movement. They also stamp their foot down when they are about to release the ball so they get ankle impingements.
"They get twists in their knees, they have a bit of stress response on their lower back as they are going to bowl. We’ve had a shoulder injury out on the field with the way they launch themselves for a catch.”
‘Quirky little family’
The time away with the team has allowed her to immerse herself into a new sport, her new role, while getting to rub shoulders with some of the best cricket has to offer.
“I had success with the football teams I was with but this type of arena is another level. Due to Covid there might not be many fans in the stadium I’m told there’s well over a hundred million it is being televised to.
"I appreciate having made it to the Super12 we’re here with the greatest in the world. The boys keep laughing at me because I say hello to somebody in the hotel and they’ll say ‘you know that is the greatest fast bowler in the world’ and I have no idea.
"They try to explain things to me in footballing terms. When Jonathan Trott was here and I asked who he was they told he had won the Ballon D’or for cricket.”
“I think by the time we get home we’ll have been together in hotels for the best part of two months. We’re stuck in a bubble, we can’t venture out of the hotel other than to train or play. The team, they are like a quirky little family. They get on together really well, they look out for each other.
“It makes me laugh as I’ll hear cricket bats being thumped off the floor in the rooms above because they are obviously practising their stance or swing. They are obsessed.”
She added: "I probably came in with a bit of trepidation. But now that I am here and away with them I think it has been brilliant.
"They say you can’t change the way the wind blows but you can adjust your sails and I feel as if that is probably what happened to me a little bit leaving football and coming into cricket.
“I’m loving it.”
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