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Finding your sporting passion

This Girl Can’s 2019 study showed that 3 out of 5 British and Irish girls shunned sports during puberty. The study identified that some of the reasons for the high drop out figures at this age were connected to a lack of enjoyment and a feeling that sport was ‘not cool’.

In the third instalment of our conversations with rising track star Ruby Jerges, we talk about how she found her sporting passion, and how to help your daughter find hers.

Ruby, you’re well on the way to becoming an elite athlete, but did you always have such a passion for athletics?

I was always good at sport and if you’re good at something you‘re often going to enjoy it more.

I started doing gymnastics when I was 5 years old and did that for about 5 or so years, I was good at it but I never really loved it. It was tough mentally and physically and the other girls weren’t really similar to me. But gymnastics set me up really well. It built resilience, physical strength and strength of character.

It took me time to find my real sporting passion. It was gradual rather than a lightbulb moment

It was around the time of secondary school that I said goodbye to gymnastics and hello to athletics

So what is it about athletics that you love?

It’s a sport that suits me better and I found my tribe - the people I wanted to be surrounded by.

Finding the right kind of healthy competition in my team, and finding coaches who were warm and supportive.

I love athletics because it gives me such a purpose, and even if I have a bad day I know good days will come and it’s not the end of the world,

In gymnastics it was very competitive. Healthy competition is good but I often felt a fear of

failure rather than a drive for success when competing.

Some people really thrive on being pushed hard, and pushed to do more and better each time

Personally I do better with constructive feedback and support, but it’s very individual; and it’s different for everyone. I like positivity and having something to work for.

What advice do you have for girls who haven’t yet found their passion?

  • Throw yourself into sport

  • Stick with it

  • Be open-minded; maybe the sport you start out in isn’t the one you end up doing!

  • Learn from it: it is part of a journey - and could lead to other things

  • Do the things that you’re good at; it means you’ll enjoy it more

Sport isn’t just about exercise, it helps you with resilience, determination, purpose and it can be exceptionally social and become a big part of your social life.

But if you don’t fully throw yourself into it you won’t find that out. Be open to the opportunities that come your way. Because you could start of as a ballerina and then end up as skier

And what about those who have?

  • Find the right sports mentor or coach

  • Be part of a supportive team that encourages that spirit

  • Believe in what you’re doing; I believe doing gymnastics is what has made me the athlete I am now.

  • Use it to fire you to want to be the best; and to get what you want from the sport: it could become your job or just be a hobby.

Anton and Sue (Ruby’s parents) what advice do you have for other parents who want to encourage and support their daughter in getting active and discovering their sporting passion?

We believe sport is a great gateway to success in many aspects of life. It builds strength of character as well as strength in the body, it creates a great ethic of commitment, durability and resilience but it takes hard work and patience, and lots of driving from Mum and Dad! Probably the hardest thing is to strike the right balance between facilitating sport and pushing your child too far. It's important to let the child set the time frame, the agenda and it's really important that you don't try to push them into something they don't want to do or at a level they are not comfortable with. They may be brilliant, but not every athlete with talent will be the next Jess Ennis-Hill or Usain Bolt! Encourage competition and a healthy desire to win, but don't let it be the be all and end all. Most of all, understand that they are kids, its sport and its meant to be fun, help them enjoy it.

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