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The future seems to be getting brighter for women’s sport

PUBLISHED: 08:43 08 March 2018 | UPDATED: 08:43 08 March 2018

Cassie Craddock after scoring against Norwich City. Picture: ROSS HALLS

Cassie Craddock after scoring against Norwich City. Picture: ROSS HALLS

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Across the county women and girls are taking part in a bigger range of sports than ever.

Ipswich Town Ladies player Cassie Craddock. Picture: ROSS HALLS Ipswich Town Ladies player Cassie Craddock. Picture: ROSS HALLS

They are players, coaches and supporters, they are physiotherapists and trainers.

To mark International Women’s Day, we speak to two women who are making an impact on their respective sports at a local level .

Harriet Welham from Bury St Edmunds is a key part of the National Cup-winning Ipswich Basketball team.

For her, women’s basketball and women’s sport more generally are constantly improving.

Ipswich Town midfielder Cassie Craddock scoring her 10th goal this season. Picture: ROSS HALLS Ipswich Town midfielder Cassie Craddock scoring her 10th goal this season. Picture: ROSS HALLS

“It’s massive for our area and it just keeps on getting better and better, especially from an Ipswich Basketball point of view,” she said.

Additional media coverage and increasing match attendances have changed the way the players are viewed in their local communities, especially by younger fans.

“We don’t see ourselves as role models,” says Harriet, “but this season we have had to.”

As well as being a player and role model for Ipswich Basketball, Harriet is also a coach and helps to recruit new players for the squad by going into primary schools and meeting youngsters.

Harriet Welham in action against Derbyshire. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA Harriet Welham in action against Derbyshire. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

It’s a job she loves doing and one which she knows is integral to getting more girls involved in sport.

“We get to take people under our wing. Girls don’t tend to go out of their comfort zone, there are so many distractions but if they stay until they are 16 they stay for life.”

As well as getting women involved in the playing aspect of sport, Harriet knows that good female coaches are also key.

“It’s so important. Girls do respond better to female coaches and I have been lucky to have women coaches, they are so rare.

Harriet Welham is one of the stars of Ipswich Basketball. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA Harriet Welham is one of the stars of Ipswich Basketball. Picture: PAVEL KRICKA

“If we increase them we are going to increase the number of women in sport.”

For Harriet this aspect of her basketball life has become as important as playing on the court.

Her future remains inside the club: “Coaching has become a big part of my job and my life,” she adds.

“I want to focus on the club, keep recruiting and take them to the next division. I want us to do well.”

“It’s a lot to take in at my age but I love it.”

For Ipswich Town Ladies midfielder Cassie Craddock women’s sport is often about balance particularly between work and play.

Cassie says she is lucky for now. She works in the City but is still able to play for Ipswich Town.

Many aspiring players aren’t so fortunate.

“There’s a lot of girls in our system who have to make a decision between playing and looking after their families,” she said.

She realises that choice will become hers forcing her to pick between the sport she loves.

For Cassie the only way this will change for women is if more investment is put into women’s sport now and for future generations.

To secure this investment Cassie says that sports like football need to show that they have an increased appeal, even on a local level.

“It’s hugely important,” Cassie added.

“We have seen what the likes of Lucy Bronze (England and Lyon right back) and Steph Houghton (England captain) have become, even if we can just take a small portion of that.”

Cassie cites the case of the Lewes FC team as an initiative that she particularly respects. The club pay both their men and women the same amount in a campaign which they call Equality FC.

“We have the opportunity to be treated fairly, equality is important,” she said.

Whilst she doesn’t expect to be receiving the same pay as the Ipswich Town men any time soon, she believes that this could be an ideal to be achieved in the future.

This equality extends to the viewing of the women’s game as more of a distinct entity from their male counterparts.

“We are passionate about football and Ipswich Town,” says Cassie.

“But women’s football is always going to be compared to men’s football – yet it’s a different set-up.”

Whilst she appreciates that media coverage and in particularly reaction on social media is changing opinions, there is still more to be achieved.

The stories and hopes of Harriet and Cassie are ones that could be reflected in a range of different sports across the local area. Their concerns are shared by a number of players, coaches and supporters.

The message is that women and girls need to be encouraged to take up and stay in sport longer while investment needs to provided to keep them there.

But the future seems to be getting brighter for women in sport.

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