Jenny has played Squash since she was nine years old, turning Pro when she was twenty. As she explains, had her nine year old self been told what she would be doing, she would have said “I would love it, it would be a dream come true!”
Jenny’s first Women’s Squash Association World Tour title win came at the Atlanta Masters in 2003. She had previously enjoyed successful Junior campaigns, winning the European Junior title in 2001 and the British Junior U12, U14, U16 and U17 titles.
By 2005 Jenny was in the top 10 and by 2009 she was number 2 in the world. With 11 WSA World Tour titles and over 100 caps for England as well as the captaincy and 3 Commonwealth silver medals to boot Jenny has achieved so much - as she said, living the dream. The interesting twist with Jenny’s story is the unerring success of world No1 Nicol David.
In Jenny’s own words Nicol David is “the best Squash player of all time”. The x7 World Champion has thwarted Jenny’s ascendancy not only to the number 1 slot but in more finals than she wants to remember. The interesting thing for me is that despite this Jenny has a great view of this situation and one that I feel defines her and her outlook on life.
As we talk about her repeated silver medals and defeats to the same player she says “I have lived and played in an era of the best Squash player the world has seen. I don’t feel disappointed, the opposite, I know what I have achieved and I feel privileged to have played in this time. I would not change it at all.” Over time athletes have been frustrated by the dominance of a legend in their sport and many are bitter and feel wronged, even making excuses. Yet for Jenny she sees it differently, for her she has played against not only the best, but the best ever and she feels privileged to have done it. What a great outlook.
Having said all of that, Jenny is far from dulled or disheartened by it all, and she is very clear as we talk on what she wants. “I still have a lot to achieve individually and as a team, things I want to do,” she explains of her desire to push harder than ever after twenty years playing Squash. As so many top athletes, she says she will only quit when it’s not fun anymore.
Jenny guides herself by two further values: first, to lead by example as a captain, whether you are playing or not and second, to “let your Squash do the talking”. She sees things very clearly but in a way that is different to many. For her it’s about stopping sometimes and just realising what you are doing: playing a sport you love professionally and travelling the world, what could be better? In doing this Jenny is able to enjoy the success and the now, rather than wait till she retires. This also brings a certain peace not only for herself but that she gives to others, another perspective.
As we talk it’s so obvious that she enjoys the moment she is in, which is great to hear - and the flip-side to that is when the moments are tough she can knuckle down and focus on what needs to be done in the moment to get back on top.
I asked Jenny about what it meant to be England captain and her answer surprised
me not because it isn’t part of what any captain would say,
but because it seems it’s just a part of how Jenny is and her outlook. For Jenny it is about playing and being able to represent your country and then additional privilege and honour to captain your country but it’s more for her, she seems genuinely so happy to be playing and loving every moment and not even a hint of entitlement - just the knowledge that it’s a gift and a privilege.
Jenny is an athlete who in her own words “feels lucky” and she brings something unique to the party. She has been at the pinnacle of her sport worldwide and yet the talk is never about what she has achieved or how good she is. She is a great example of a great athlete, a good captain and a person who has such a good view of sport and life and is very aware of what it has brought her, most importantly in the here and now.
Editor’s note: It’s great to meet and spend time with elite athletes and every once in a while you come away with a smile on your face having thoroughly enjoyed the time and Jenny is definitely one of those. A great person to be around as well as a world class athlete with a fantastic outlook on life.