Essex Rebels’ victory against Leicester Riders

Women’s sports have progressed over the centuries.  Dating back to the Aristotle era, women were excluded from playing sports, due to being “athletic liabilities”.

This created a negative stigma surrounding women in sports for centuries to come. Women were seen as athletically inferior to men. Consequently, many societies excluded women from playing sports.

Gradually change arose, and female sports participation increased. In the late 18th century, women of high socioeconomic class began playing recreational sports. The likes; Horse riding, Lacrosse, and Tennis are sports that were frequently played by women.

In the 1924 Paris games, out of 997 athletes, 22 were women. Despite it being a small proportion of women, the fact that some could reach the upper echelon of the sporting world was a clear sign of progression.

In 1972 a major reform arose in women’s sports after Title IX (9) was introduced in the American congress. The law ensured that no athlete could be discriminated against, based on their sex.

This law led to an awakening in women’s sports globally, this is because women all across the globe were inspired to participate.

A few decades later more positive changes occurred. In 1976 women’s Basketball was added to the Olympics and in 1991 the 1st women’s football world cup was held.

These changes created opportunities for women in sports, to play at the highest levels of their sport and showcase their talent.

At the University of Essex on March 11th, 2023, an international women’s day special basketball match unfolded. The match saw Essex Rebels take on Leicester Riders.

The match had extreme significance. It was Essex Rebel’s final gameday of the season, and it celebrated International Women’s Day. The match signifies the growth of women’s Basketball, less than 100 years ago games of this magnitude would have never occurred.

When I asked Essex Rebels basketball player “Shantell Ayton” about the significance of the game, she responded by stating that “it inspires young female players to play basketball, – seeing us as role models”.

This statement shows that Essex Rebels players are playing for a purpose bigger than their own, encouraging the younger generations of women to play Basketball.

Before the game started, a jovial atmosphere was created outside the court. An influx of buzzing fans surrounded the outskirts of the court. Naturally, this created a vibrant atmosphere.

What augmented the ambience of the arena was the combination of food trucks, DJs, and face paint activities that added a sense of creativity to the event.

Moving onto the game itself, just before tip-off the crowd was electric. The pregame entertainment featured an exuberant cheerleading display by Essex Flames, which fired up the fans.

This energy rubbed off onto the players, as the first quarter was a closely matched battle between the two sides, ending 15-14 for Essex Rebels.

Credits: Essex Sport

The competitiveness of the two sides continued into the second quarter. A combination of free throws and layups saw Essex Rebels lead 39-32 by the end of the second quarter.

Now entering the 2nd half of the game, both sides were gradually feeling physically drained. Essex Rebels saw themselves behind for the first time in the match, losing 48-52 by the end of the third quarter.

Physically and mentally depleted from 3 quarters of end-to-end Basketball, fans wondered whether the Rebels had what it took to triumph over the Raiders. Would the Raiders secure their lead, guiding them to victory, or would the Rebels uprise, stealing the victory by outscoring their opponents?

The 4th quarter was sure to be an enthralling duel. The 4th quarter began exactly as expected. Rebels were lively and energetic, desperate to shoot the Basketball into the net as many times as possible. With 3 minutes left to go the score was tied at 62-62. It was obvious that both teams were exhausted and depleted of energy. The team that would emerge victorious would be the team that surpassed its limitations.

Now with 30 seconds left on the clock, the tensions were rising, Rebels were losing 70-71 and were craving a point to equalize. The fans united themselves, giving their full support to the team.

Fortunately, Essex earned themselves a double free throw, which saw them lead 72-71 over Leicester Raiders. In the final seconds of the game, Essex earned themselves another free throw which saw them lead 73-71 over Leicester, sealing the deal, and bringing an end to this enthralling Basketball match.

Ultimately the sports culture at Essex university is strengthening, the record attendance of 1505 people is a testament to how popular sporting events at Essex are becoming. A major contributor to the development of sports at Essex is the “Tribe”.

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