RICHARD Robinson’s first year as head of grounds at Yorkshire County Cricket Club has had benefits both on and off the field for his team.

The relaxed atmosphere that the Keighley native has engendered, which should not be mistaken for casualness or slackness, has led to glowing feedback about the pitch his team prepared for the Ashes Test at Headingley last summer.

However, it has also had benefits for the people working under him, and no-one more so than Jasmine Nicholls, who, as an England race walker, is ribbed by Robinson as being “a media star”.

Robinson’s ability to coax Nicholls out of depression speaks volumes for the culture that the Bradford Premier League’s record run-scorer (a landmark that he is set to lose to Richard Gould this summer) has generated.

In an honest interview during Yorkshire’s rain-hit opening three-day match against Leeds-Bradford MCCU at Headingley, 28-year-old Nicholls confessed about the problems that troubled her as she moved beyond her teenage years.

She revealed: “It was mainly darkness inside my head. It was probably stress and anxiety, but I have never been officially diagnosed with any of that.

“I was bullied by a couple of friends who I was really close to and, when I think about it now, I lost confidence. It would be when I was 19 or 20 at (Leeds Beckett) university and I found it really hard. I isolated myself quite a lot.

“Richard kept talking to me quite a bit and brought me out of myself. I feel quite a bit more confident now.”

Nicholls, who started working at Headingley just after Robinson began last spring, added laughing: “A year tomorrow (March 26) was my first day, Richard got the job and recruited me, and the interview with him was weird because I got told off. I called him Robbo and he said I should call him Mr Robinson!

“The best bit about the job is when it is sunny, but the job has completely changed me and my life. I love being out on the square and doing pitch prep - the simple things like cutting grass. You can switch off and off you go . . .

“It has put me a few steps forward with my mental health, which I really struggled with in the past. It has helped me massively. I was really quiet and shy before I got to know Richard a couple of years ago and he has definitely brought me out of my shell quite a lot, and doing media stuff like this I talk a lot more instead of just sitting in a corner being quiet.”

Originally from Leicester, Nicholls moved to West Yorkshire in 2013 to go to Leeds Beckett, which is where the national centre for race walking is based, so the move to Leeds made sense.

She added: “I graduated in 2016 and got a job at Sports Park Weetwood (the University of Leeds complex which is where Yorkshire’s Second XI, Yorkshire Academy and Leeds-Bradford MCCU play) and it was there that I got to know Robbo, sorry Mr Robinson, a couple of years ago and it has snowballed from there.

“The environment that he has created in the garage and working here has changed not only me but the other guys who have been working here for longer. His laid-back attitude has reflected on everyone else. It is very relaxed and chilled out even when it is a bit chaotic.”

As for what got her into race walking, it was like many youngsters - a teacher who had a passion for one particular sport (think of John Rodwell and volleyball at Buttershaw Upper School for example).

Nicholls explained: “I have been race walking since I was at primary school as we had a teacher who did it. I tried all of the sports and thought ‘Race walking. Why not?’ so I have been doing it for a long time.”

But working at Headingley has not meant that race walking has finished for Nicholls.

She said: “We don’t work as much in the winter so I am able to fit it in. I took a break for a couple of months last year, but started again in September and the hope is to build enough fitness to keep them both going (work and race walking) this year. I will soon be able to tell.

“Game-days are tougher to fit training in as you can be working for 13 hours a day but I am willing to give it a go.

“I have represented England, but never made GB standard, which is something that I would love to do but we will see how things go with work and training.

“Representing England in 2021 has been my highlight so far when I was English champion at open age.”