Our next HSOG ReConnect contribution is by former pupil, Jenny Drummond, from the class of 2007.
I finished sixth year at the High School of Glasgow in 2007, which feels like a lifetime ago now! However, I also left school a year prior to this with the aim of pursuing a career as a professional tennis player.
From the age of 8 (Junior 5), support from the High School for my tennis began when I approached Eileen Robertson at the Junior School with my mum and coach at the time, Leon Smith (Great Britain Davis Cup Captain), to discuss the fact that it had been indicated to me that I had the potential to well in tennis. To do so, I would need to take time out of school at pre-agreed times, an arrangement that Miss Robertson kindly supported.
I was a member of the Scotland tennis squad for a couple of years before I moved on to senior school at Old Anniesland and had now progressed into the top 15 in Great Britain for my age group. My rating and results gained momentum, and my programme would typically involve training daily, with most weekends spent competing in England. In summer, I would train and compete in Europe until school began again in August. It was a very busy time for the whole family especially as I had three other siblings at the High School too.
Along with tennis, life skills were learned. Judy Murray, with whom I sometimes travelled in those days, taught us that we should only pack what we could carry, because she wasn’t carrying it for us. These trips began when I was 10 years old, and as a result, self-discipline was instilled in me from a young age. Looking back, the organisational skills and discipline I learnt from managing tennis and school still benefit me hugely today.
By the age of 13, the pressure of being a top British junior had become overwhelming. Essentially, I fell out of love with the sport and gave up completely, returning to school full time. After a couple of years, I realised how much I missed tennis and by the time I finished my Standard Grades, I was ready to dedicate myself to it again. I spent the summer training in Florence and competing in Europe to improve my international ranking.
Returning from Europe into a higher year proved challenging in terms of managing my academic and tennis schedule. I was ready to leave school and play tennis full-time, however we reached the decision that I would sit four highers, train around my timetable and leave school immediately after my last exam. This plan would then allow me to commit to 15 months of full-time tennis during which I would assess my progress and options for thereafter.
I trained roughly 20 hours a week, while managing the academic workload – challenging enough, but when combined with competing at weekends, I realised I greatly relied on the support I received from the High School to help me reach my potential. I will always be grateful to the school for encouraging my tennis while helping me realise the importance of academic achievement. The Rector, Colin Mair, was a constant supporter of my tennis and I was extremely proud to represent the school at competitions at which we enjoyed a great deal of success!
The year went to plan. As a Bannerman girl, I regularly checked in with my house mistress, Mrs Ferguson, who was instrumental in making sure I was coping with my schedule. I secured a place at University of Aberdeen to study Politics and International Relations with deferred entry, so I was all set to give tennis my complete attention. I said farewell to the High School knowing that I was going to miss the school and my friends greatly!
After a great summer training block in San Remo at the Bob Brett Tennis Academy, I unfortunately developed a wrist injury while competing in Belgium that September which completely derailed my plans and I struggled to deal with it personally, particularly given the huge effort it had taken to rebuild my game and strength following my time out. Returning to Glasgow, and following a conversation with Colin Mair, I returned to school and joined sixth year.
Completing sixth year in 2007, I took up my place at the University of Aberdeen where I hoped to sit SAT exams and win a tennis scholarship at an American university. This would give me the chance to continue my education and play tennis at collegiate level, turning professional thereafter. However, during my first term in Aberdeen I was involved in a car accident in which I sustained a crush-injury to my left wrist. I was offered wrist surgery with potential complications, so I made the difficult decision to stop competing and to continue with my degree in Aberdeen. Not being able to play tennis at a high level was a huge disappointment, but it was now time to embrace university life!
While thoroughly enjoying my time in Aberdeen, I began to devise a new career path for myself. Without the possibility of playing tennis professionally, the next best thing was reporting on it. At the end of my second year, I gained a summer internship at IMG in London which exposed me to an array of sporting events (Wimbledon being one of them) and networking opportunities within one of the world’s leading sports production companies.
The first route I chose in sports television was working behind the scenes because it allowed me to fully understand the broadcast of live television. For several years I worked predominantly within tennis, rugby and triathlon and I have wonderful memories of working on global events such as Rugby World Cups (15s, Sevens and Women’s), two Commonwealth Games, Paralympic Games and multiple tennis Grand Slam events.
The hard work involved since graduating, from gaining my NCTJ qualification in multimedia journalism to networking and looking for opportunities whilst working at events has now started to pay dividends. As a result, the number of presenting, reporting and commentating roles I am being offered has increased in the last few years. It has been extremely exciting and rewarding to report courtside at matches and to interview sporting legends such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka, and Lindsay Davenport. In rugby, I have learned so much from working alongside my Scottish heroes such as Chris Paterson and Rory Lawson and I feel privileged to have broadcast on some of the biggest sporting events all over the world (Wuhan, New York, Auckland, Melbourne, Paris to name but a few).
2020 got off to a really exciting start. In January, I travelled to Melbourne to broadcast at the Australian Open. Following the tennis, I stayed in Australia to present at the Women’s T20 Cricket World Cup. This was my presenting debut in cricket and it turned out to be one of my favourite events to date. It was very uplifting to be part of one of the most-watched women’s sporting events in history.
A potential highlight of 2020 was presenting at what would have been my 10th consecutive Wimbledon, but sadly, all sport is suspended because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Naturally I am missing work, the buzz of live sport, the travel and even the long, anti-social hours, but I’m happy to be safe for now and I’m really excited to see what opportunities and possibilities are out there once sport recommences. For sure, there will be changes brought about by Covid-19, but change is there to be embraced. Flexibility, creativity and diversity are likely to be the differentiators between those who survive and those who don’t in what may well be a new world of sports media.
For the moment though, heartfelt thanks to the NHS and key workers for all their efforts during an incredibly tough time.
Stay at home and stay safe.