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Maidstone United sports therapist Beth Cooper on her role at the Gallagher Stadium, dealing with sexism in football and building a business

There's been one constant in the Maidstone United dugout over the past couple of years - sports therapist Beth Cooper.

Managers, coaches and physios have been and gone but Cooper remains a familiar face at the Gallagher Stadium.

Maidstone United lead sports therapist Beth Cooper Picture: Steve Terrell (28424771)
Maidstone United lead sports therapist Beth Cooper Picture: Steve Terrell (28424771)

The 24-year-old is now lead sports therapist at her hometown club, balancing football commitments with a thriving business, Body Care Sports Therapy, which she runs both down at the ground and out on the road with mobile sports massage appointments.

It takes a strong woman to work in what's still a male-dominated environment.

There was an early culture shock for Cooper at her first club, Dartford, but things are getting better.

"It was my first-ever away game," she said.

"I won't mention the club but I was walking round the side of the pitch and the comments genuinely shocked me.

"That was an eye-opener but since then I've known how to take more of an approach on it.

"With our fans at Maidstone, I've got to know a lot of them and they're very supportive.

"Once they know what I'm like as a person, they take away the sexism part of it.

"There's been a couple of games this season where I've been walking round the pitch and I've heard comments or someone's wolf-whistled me.

"I get that's what they might do on a night out but I'm at work, this is my job, I don't want you to be wolf-whistling me just because I'm a female walking round the side of the pitch.

"I'm there to look after the team as much as anyone else is.

"I kind of turn a blind eye to it nowadays. You know the comments that are worth reacting to and which ones aren't.

Beth Cooper treats Maidstone captain George Elokobi Picture: Steve Terrell (28424776)
Beth Cooper treats Maidstone captain George Elokobi Picture: Steve Terrell (28424776)

"I know I've put myself in a male-orientated environment, I'm not going to walk into this position and expect to be treated the same.

"It's a lot better than it used to be but football is still 90% male.

"I've exposed myself to that and that's how it is. Being a female therapist, you're able to cope with it or you aren't, and I think the majority of the time I can.

"It shouldn't be that way but I'm there to look after the team and they treat me with the respect I show them.

"The crowd and the team are two totally different environments.

"I would never want to compare the two."

It was inevitable Cooper would work in sport given her background.

She joined Pegasus Gymnastics Club aged one, growing up with Olympic hopefuls James Hall and Courtney Tulloch.

She was offered a place in Pegasus' elite squad but was so busy with all her other sports and after-school activities that she turned it down.

Cooper doesn't know how good she could have been but has no regrets given the path she's taken into sports therapy, graduating from Chichester University.

"I was 100% going to work in sport," she says.

Beth Cooper on duty at an academy game Picture: Helen Cooper (28424783)
Beth Cooper on duty at an academy game Picture: Helen Cooper (28424783)

"Gymnastics was the main sport for me growing up but I did as many extra-curricular sports as I could fit in.

"I struggled to see how my friends could go home at 3.30 and not do something after school.

"I'd go home for dinner, be at the gym for six and not leave until nine.

"Nothing compared to the gymnastics. I grew up at Pegasus and it's a discipline that you have with it as well."

You need discipline to make a go of your own business and Cooper is doing well with Body Care Sports Therapy.

She said: "It's really started to pick up recently. That's made the last year worthwhile because it's one of those things that if you set up your own business, it's so hard mentally to keep going with it.

"At first, it trickles on and it doesn't feel like it's going anywhere.

"It's more sports massage because I think that's where you get more regular clients coming in because they feel the benefits.

"For a lot of people it's a little bit like a mini-counselling session, too, because they can get stuff off their chest."

For appointments, search Body Care Sports Therapy on Facebook. You can also follow Beth on Instagram.

Read more: The latest sports news in Kent

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