Anybody visiting the Andy Caddick Pavilion at the Cooper Associates County Ground recently may well have had the chance to meet Kate Steward who has joined Somerset County Cricket Club as their new membership and ticketing executive.
Steward is no stranger to Taunton having grown up locally and attended Castle School. Nor is she unfamiliar with the world of professional sport, because she played table tennis to international level and represented England at the 2002 Commonwealth Games.
Talking about her role at the club, Kate said: “I look after all of the members, and anyone who renews or takes out a new membership will deal with me.
“In addition to which I am involved with the ticketing side of things.
“It’s a good time for me to start because Somerset have launched their 2018 membership so it’s very busy and I have been dropped in at the deep end, which I have enjoyed.
“I’m guessing the job will be quite different in the summer when cricket is taking place when I hope I get the chance to go out and meet some of the members.”
Kate then explained how she got into table tennis.
“I started to play when I was about ten-years-old, because my clarinet teacher had a table at his house,” she said.
“My dad already played in the Taunton League so one day we went down to Wellington Sport Centre and I seemed to pick it up fairly quickly.
“Within a year I was under-12s’ national champion, which was the first thing I ever won.
“Once that happened I was picked for the England squad and went to various training camps, travelling regularly to Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham which was then the national academy for table tennis.
“From the age of 12 I started to play table tennis for England and stayed with my age group until I was 14 when I broke into the senior side.
“I played in the European Championships and travelled all round playing in various opens.
“Once I finished at Castle School I went and played table tennis professionally in Sweden for a couple of years which was a great experience.
“I also played for England in the 2002 Commonwealth Games held in Manchester, which in front of a home crowd was just amazing. That was the highlight of my table tennis career.
“Whilst I was playing for England I also got a contract to play professionally in Sweden, for a couple of years until I turned 18. I didn’t live out there, I just commuted.
“Table tennis was a minority sport then and I got to an age when I needed to decide where I was going. Although I was getting paid to play it wasn’t a substantial amount and you couldn’t really live off it.
“I decided that although I’d dedicated so much time to the sport, spending five or six hours a day, and I don’t regret any of it, I got to the point where I decided that I wanted to have a normal life.”
Life after table tennis
Steward went on: “When I first finished I did some coaching for a while but being in the South West I had to travel a great deal so ended up getting a job as a travel agent in Taunton which I did for three years.
“Then I met Lee Cooper and he offered me a job with Cooper Associates which was back in 2005. When I was first appointed there I set up the administration department, and I became manager, after that I became his PA for a number of years.
“I then had some time off to have a baby daughter and when I returned I became involved with the marketing side of the business.
“When Lee was appointed chief executive at Somerset this opportunity came along and I was very pleased to be able to take the job.”
“It is something quite different to what I have been doing, having been involved with the financial world for the past 12 years.
“Being involved in the sporting industry brings me back to what I used to do.”
How has she found working for Somerset CCC?
“I have found it very easy to come to Somerset and fit in, and everyone here is really friendly and accommodating,” she said.
“Everyone has made me feel so welcome and of course it’s different to where I have worked previously which is a refreshing change for me.
“I have really enjoyed my time here so far and looking forward to when the cricket gets going and I get the chance to meet some of the members.”
Does Kate miss playing table tennis?
“Yes I do miss playing for England and having that status where when you turn up for a tournament people know who you are and you sign autographs,” she said.
“It was nice to step away for a while but then after a time you miss it.
“I keep in touch with some of the England team members I played with and we meet up sometimes, but a lot of them live in the north of England.
“If it’s on television then of course I watch it and quite often its either people I know playing or commentating.”
Steward added: “However I am really enjoying my new job with Somerset and looking forward to when the cricket gets going and I get the chance to meet some of the members.”