Sport England campaign, This Girl Can aims to encourage more women to take up sport. But which one’s for you? Each week, Standard Issue talks to a different sportswoman to learn what she loves about hers. Lucy Reynolds talks to two-time world champion tumbler Ashleigh Long.
At just 17, tumbler Ashleigh Long already has two world champion titles under her belt.
What is the best thing about your sport?
Travelling. I’ve been able to travel all over the world with tumbling. I’ve been to America, Russia, Denmark, Portugal, France and Belgium. Seeing the world is definitely the best part of it all.
Do you come from a sporty family?
My cousin is the captain of Wakefield Wildcats rugby team and my dad coaches the local team. My cousins play too. Everyone loves rugby in my family. They push me to do well and they understand where I’m coming from.
What advice would you give a woman who wants a career in your sport?
I think you’ve got to be dedicated. I don’t think you can have a career just from tumbling. You might have to branch off into other places like Cirque du Soleil, fitness training or becoming a coach. But it’s all about dedication ultimately. I think people don’t understand just how much work I have to do. Even my close friends often say, “Why can’t you come to this party?” or “Why can’t you have just one day off?” But I can’t – I just can’t have days off. I train five times a week and then I have a part-time job and college work on top of that. Then I’m also finding time to see family, friends and my boyfriend. It’s hard.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
The two world championship titles. Probably the second time even more. Because of the pressure of it, especially because I won last time, everybody just expects it. And when I went into the second championship I wasn’t as confident – I don’t know why. It was just a lot of pressure. Also because I already won it, the only way for me to improve or even stay the same level is to keep winning; even if I came second, it wouldn’t be as good as last year. People just kept saying, “Are you going to win again?”. It was nerve-wracking.
What is the best advice you’ve ever had?
My parents have always convinced me to keep on going even when times have been hard. When I broke my foot it could have given me an easy way to get out of tumbling and, I have to admit, at times you do just want to quit and have an easy life. Sometimes all you want is to be able to see your friends and boyfriend whenever you wish and to be normal. My parents don’t pressurise me but they talk to me and make me realise how much I’ve achieved. Once I wanted to quit but my parents just said, “Look, even though it’s hard, not many people can say they are a world champion” and it’s true. I don’t get paid to do tumbling, but I often have a moment when I suddenly remember, “Oh God, I’m actually world champion” and it’s amazing – I won! It’s a great feeling. My advice would be to push through the hard times because it’s never always easy but you can achieve a lot if you keep on going.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My parents definitely. I’ve been tumbling since I was six years old and I used to go to a little club, but then they told me that I needed to go to a larger club because I was too advanced for them. I was really scared about it, but my parents took me anyway and stood with me for support. I suppose that started it all off. Whenever I’ve come home and have been upset about something, especially when I broke my foot, they paid for all my treatments and competitions. It’s not cheap either! They always tell people about me too – they’re really proud of me. It’s so cute.
When you’re not working, what else do you like to do?
Shopping. I love shopping – that’s all I do! When I get paid, I’m off to the shops. Last Friday I got paid and by Saturday I think I’d spent it all. And I try to see my friends and boyfriend…you know, I’m just 17 so that’s kind of normal, I suppose.
Do you have any career ambitions outside of your sport?
I want to be a primary school teacher. I’ve wanted to do that for quite a while. I’ve had moments when I’ve wanted to do other things but I just keep coming back to wanting to work with kids. I did it for my work experience and absolutely loved it. Everybody else seemed to hate it. And I do coaching at my gym with little children, so that’s made me want to be a teacher even more.
What can’t you live without?
My phone – that’s really clichéd isn’t it? I don’t really have much time to socialise and so I need to use my phone. I see my friends at college but not outside of there because I’m too busy either training or working. Because of my tumbling, I meet loads of new people all over the world. I’ve got friends in America, a great friend who is Danish and my best friend lives in Reading so I don’t really get a chance to see these people very often. My phone helps me keep in touch; in fact I don’t know what I’d do without it.
Which song could be used to soundtrack your life so far?
The Climb by Miley Cyrus. I used it on my recent video of my tumbling that I uploaded on to YouTube. The song is all about pushing through hard times so it makes me think of the hard times I’ve worked through and it inspires me to keep going.
Lucy is a teacher whose dream as a child was to be WWE Wrestling Champion. That dream is still alive.