Sir Andy Murray and his mother, Judy, are presenting presenting a new docu-series for Sky Sports, highlighting discrimination of women in sport that is entitled Driving Force, and the first two episodes are available to watch on demand via Sky and NOW TV while the third airs tonight, Tuesday.
People would criticise me for being there watching and getting excited when I was watching Andy at Wimbledon. But I’m his mother. Of course I’m going to be there to support him and Jamie when they’re playing. That’s my job. You get branded as being overly emotional if you react, but people need to be supported and understood. Judy Murray
The TV series begins with Judy’s career as a player and coach and goes on to feature interviews with several accomplished female athletes, including Victoria Pendleton, Rebecca Adlington and Dame Kelly Holmes.
Judy expresses her hope that the this series will ‘create a lot of talking points about the issues and challenges that still exist for women in sport because it tells a backstory’.
“So often we just see the performance, we see the end result when we watch on TV, and never think about what’s gone into creating that performance,’ the 61-year-old said, adding that she believes the series will place greater focus on adults who ‘recognise a talent’ in children at a young age.
“So for me, the series shines that spotlight back on to the importance of parents, the importance of teachers who recognise a talent, perhaps of a child at school, and point them in the right direction of a local athletic club or football club or tennis club.’ she told Sky News.
“It’s really shining a spotlight on the importance of all the people that are involved right from the start.”
Speaking about the perception of women in sport, Judy’s youngest son, Andy, quashed the argument that female athletes are not as talented as their male peers.
“Elite females… competing at the top of world sport are incredible, incredible athletes,” the three-time Grand Slam champion said. “I obviously get to see a lot of them firsthand when I’m competing on the tennis tour, because a lot of our major events are combined.
“And I see how hard all of them work and how good they are as athletes as well.”
In July 2017, Andy famously pointed out a reporter’s casual sexism during a press conference, when they suggested that tennis player Sam Querrey was the first American to reach a semi-final at Wimbledon since 2009.
“First male player,” he corrected, pointing out the successes of Serena and Venus Williams at the Championships.
Judy won an impressive 64 titles as a young tennis player, before deciding at 17 to no longer pursue a professional career.
She became captain of the British Federation Cup team in 2011, a position she held for five years before stepping down in March 2016.
The following year, she was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to tennis, women in sport and charity.
She coached both her sons, Andy and Jamie Murray, during the early stages of their tennis careers.
Going behind the headlines to focus on the negative and positive sides of the profession, Judy gets the lowdown on the women behind the world-class medals and trophies, and nails the issues and challenges they faced, the lack of opportunities, physical training extremes, discrimination and the sexism they overcame.
Also how, from their place on the podium, the winners can inspire and give a hand up to girls at grassroots
“People would criticise me for being there watching and getting excited when I was watching Andy at Wimbledon,” Judy told The Scotsman in a recent in-depth interview with Janet Christie. “But I’m his mother.
“Of course I’m going to be there to support him and Jamie when they’re playing. That’s my job.
“You get branded as being overly emotional if you react, but people need to be supported and understood.”
In addition to Pendleton, Adlington and Holmes, there are also stories featuring Olympians Steph Houghton, Dina Asher-Smith, Natasha Jones, Charlotte Dujardin, Sarah Storey, Christine Ohuruogu and Katie Taylor.
Also putting in appearances are sporting giants Billie Jean King, Andy and Jamie Murray, Venus Williams, Martina Navratilova, Gareth Bale, Thierry Henry, and Arsène Wenger, as part of Sky Sports commitment to invest in more original women’s sport content.
“Women’s sport has gathered a lot of momentum in recent years but the visibility behind our top female athletes is very small compared to men so let’s raise the profile,” Judy continued.
“Also this is a massive learning opportunity for emerging athletes and coaches to understand about the psyche, psychology and the journey that female athletes go on.”
Murray is also focused on practical results beyond the show, hoping to run a programme of engagement where the athletes join experts to give advice, information and tips on sports as well as the issues off the court, pitch, track.
“Whether that’s sponsorship, dealing with the media, handling your menstrual cycle or coping with bullying, you can learn from our experiences, and here’s an expert to give you ideas,” she added.
Driving Force is also partnering with leading youth homelessness charity Centrepoint ,which supports 15,000 vulnerable young people a year with accommodation, teaching life skills, physical and mental health issues and getting them into education or employment.
“Sport has the ability to change lives for the better and that everybody should have the opportunity to try sports,” says Murray. “Thanks to its links with series producer Rosemary Reed of Power of Women Productions, we had an opportunity to bring in people from Centrepoint, in Manchester where they met Steph Houghton and in Liverpool, where Natasha Jonas did a boxing masterclass at the gym where she started.
“Centrepoint is for 16-21-year olds who are homeless, and through Covid, that’s increasing. It was an opportunity to say we’ve got role models, we can show the power of sport.
“Every one of our athletes gives back through something they have set up themselves or contributes to on a regular basis so to have the opportunity to work with a charity and use your role model status and profile to inspire and encourage young girls in very difficult situations was great.”
Murray herself is the subject of the first episode, interviewed by Sky Sports Golf Night presenter Di Dougherty.
Each subsequent show sees Murray in conversation with a top athlete, her empathetic style giving them the space to open up.
“Driving Force is about the backstory of these amazing women and performances because so often we watch the Olympic finals and we never give it a thought as to how they got there, how they felt that day, that week, that year.”
This week’s episode features Manchester City and England captain Steph Houghton, who opes up about the challenges, sacrifices and triumphs of her football career and speaks candidly about her journey in the game, from the mixed football team on the school yard where she wanted to ‘prove she belonged’ to the honour of leading her country.
As well as opening up on the obstacles she overcame on her rise to the top, Houghton talks about the coaches who shaped her, the psychology that developed her leadership skills and her hopes for the future of women’s football…
Driving Force, led by Judy Murray, is a docu-series exclusive to Sky Sports that explores the making of 10 legendary female British athletes, and you can catch it at 9pm on Sky Sports Mix and Sky Sports Main Event at 10.15pm on Tuesdays, as well as On Demand via Sky and NOW TV.