As part of our partnership with This Girl Can we are proud to support their mission of encouraging girls and women to feel positive about getting more active. Over the coming weeks we have several articles that put a spotlight on talented young track athlete Ruby Jerges, who is an inspiring advocate for finding a love for sport; and who speaks passionately about body positivity.
Ruby has recently turned 17 and competes in the U20’s at both sprints and long jump. At the last national championships Ruby finished
5th and is now part of UK athletics Youth Talent Programme which is a 2 year initiative which provides successful athletes a gateway to Team GB
Ruby tell us a bit about your sporting journey so far:
I loved sport from an early age. At around 5 I got my first silver medal; I took part in lots of the competitions in the local village primary; though one frustration was the lack of actual races!
I did gymnastics for 6 years - including acro (acrobatics) - and that experience definitely shaped my resilience. It was a very different experience to athletics. Gymnastics you’re much more out there on your own.
Now I look back at it; I didn’t love it. I found it quite challenging; and it was 8+ hours a week which was quite a lot at just 10 years old!
After gymnastics, I got scouted and joined an athletics group. I was at this club from age 10 or 11. I loved the team and the people there, but did struggle with the coaching dynamic.
Tell us a bit more about that
There was frustration in prioritising one of the athletes in the group in terms of training and progress; and I was seen as the underdog. Though many times I proved them wrong and beat the other athletes, I felt I was often overlooked and excluded, it caused a few issues in terms of comparing myself to others but I look back now and feel it engrained resilience in me and made me even more determined. At my new club there’s a different, more positive dynamic which works for me.
What’s different about your current club?
At my current club the group is so supportive of one another - and they genuinely want the best for one another. I love being surrounded by that.
It encourages you to take interest in others as well as look out for one another. I’ve been there three years and I’m enjoying it more, taking part in high level competitions; doing hurdles, long jump and sprints. About 3 years ago, I also met my current long jump coach who is excellent; he’s got me so far; and is very knowledgable and helpful.
What have you learnt from your sporting journey so far?
It’s about finding your personal groove; working with people and being in a team with people who share similar goals. I feel like I have a purpose.
When I compete my friends see who I am and what I love so much. I’m known as the athlete in my group. I eat well and train well - healthiness is very important to me. I’m proud of my commitment to that and my friends respect me for that.
Sport is part of my identity. It’s my social circle and my friends. It’s a big part of my life. I’m with people I like to be surrounded by.
What about the downsides - if there are any?
With many things you have various wobbles about how you’re doing, but what I love with athletics is my friends at school will really see what I love and how good I am at this and I feel really proud of this. I’m not always at the top of my class academically; but with sport they can really see me shine.
That said, persevering with athletics does have its downsides. The hard work and the relentlessness of it can get me down at times particularly when I have to pass up social activities with my friends.
But, I’m a very motivated person in life and I’m proud and confident to be committed to my sport.
I’m not embarrassed to say I can’t come out one night because I have a race the next day.
People know me as the athlete - in younger and older years at school - and I love that, it’s part of who I am.
What’s next for you in your sporting journey?
I’m working really hard to improve my jumping and get over 6m. I know I can do it, I’ve done it in training but not in competition - yet! Lockdown meant that I wasn't able to jump for almost a year. Although I continued to train in Strength and Conditioning, not being able to jump in the pit meant that I was not able to adapt my technique to suit the changes in my body and strength/speed. Long Jump is very technical so not being able to practice was limiting. But that was the same for everyone.
I hope to get over 6m and would love to qualify for the European Championships. I’m also applying for a sports scholarship at American Universities which would be brilliant as it means I can continue to study whilst still training as an elite athlete. I'm also really keen to be part of encouraging girls to stay in sport. So I would love to do more work on that.