Exclusive: Could Sue Rose, the mother of Britain’s top badminton player, be our next Judy Murray?
First there is the rising tide of anticipation before a turbulent wave rushes through that threatens to drown out the dream.
This is the life of a mother trying to get their talented child the best chance of realising their sporting ambitions, while trying to work out how to finance a career plan that offers no guarantee of a sustainable future.
For former squash star Sue Rose, this story is so familiar.
Having achieved so many of her goals in a career that included a Commonwealth Games gold medal in Kuala Lumpur in 1998, the emergence of her son Ethan as one of the best badminton players in England has presented an opportunity and a challenge.
As Sue and Ethan sat down with Female First for an exclusive interview, the sacrifices already made to turn a sporting fantasy into a reality was laid out.
“It is challenging having a child that is attempting to play elite sport,” began Sue. “There is so much that goes into being a Mum, working as a coach and finding the mix between the two is challenging at times.
“Any parent who has a child set on a path of turning their sport into a job will know that it is a long road and an expensive road, but if your child is good enough, you will do what you can to give them a chance. Ethan is lucky to have sponsors helping him with the financial support of Karakal UK, Cynergi Cleaning Services and the GLL Sports Foundation vital to what we are doing, but it is a tough task to get from where he is now to where he wants to be.
“We are giving him every chance. He came out of school at 13 and did his GCSEs 18 months early and he is studying A-level business at the moment. We have made sure that he has everything he could have wanted to pursue his sporting dream, but it was also important for him to have a good education behind him.”
Ethan Rose with his family.
It is a tale that has echoes of Judy Murray’s efforts to encourage her sons Andy and Jamie at the start of their tennis journey, with her experience of being a sporting Mum reaping huge rewards as both of her boys reached the top of their sport.
“Any parent just wants what is best for their kids,” Judy told us. “Whether they are on a stage or a tennis court, you can’t help them win on the big day.
“All you can do as a parent is make sure you encourage them in the right manner and ensure that your continued support is not conditional on whether they win or not. It has to be about fun at the start because if they don’t enjoy it in the formative stages, they will not continue.
“The onus is on the parent to make sure they are happy in what they do and, of course, fund it. Now that is a different topic altogether.
“There is also often a clash between parents and a coach. Some parents may not understand how challenging tennis is and may expect too much of their children without having enough knowledge to understand what they are trying to do on a court.
“You should always take time to understand the sport your child is trying to do and not put your expectations on to them too soon. That is why I believe we need a lot more parent education and parent support in terms of getting them to understand what lies ahead.
“You want the parents fully involved and understanding what their child is being taught in a lesson and that’s why I often come over to parents when I am teaching their kids and give them an insight into what we are doing. Parents are such an important part of the puzzle as they need to do everything aside from the coaching. There is a parent, coach, player triangle is so important in reaching the top of any sport and it is vital in tennis.”
Ethan is the first English singles player to be ranked in the top eight in the world in the under-19 Badminton rankings and the promise he has shown has inspired experienced professionals to suggest he has the potential to be a star in the sport in the coming years and yet the mature teenager is realistic as he sets out his goals.
“The ultimate dream for any badminton player is to win the Olympics, but I realise how tough that will be,” says Ethan. “I’m sure Andy Murray had a dream to win Wimbledon when he was a kid and that seemed unlikely, so you have to aim for the big goals.
“The first Olympics I can aim for is 2024 and it would be great to try and compete at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham as well. To have a big event like that on home soil would be a big target for me.
“Another great dream would be to win the All England Championships, which have not been won by a singles player from this country in the modern era, but I need to stick to short term targets for now before I start thinking about what might be possible in years to come. I’m making sacrifices now that will hopefully give me the best chance of realising these dreams. I do about six hours a day, 35 hours a week and you have to be fully committed.”
“I’m pretty confident I can make a living out of playing badminton, but that is not my driving ambition. I want to look at whether I can reach the No.1 ranking in the world and win big titles. If your motivation is money, the enjoyment factor of the sport would disappear and that would lead to failure.”
Indian superstar Pusarla Sindhu has been the highest-earning sportsman in the world over the last two years courtesy of her heroics on the badminton court and her story suggests that if Ethan can make the breakthrough at the highest level of the game, the glory he craves could be matched by handsome rewards.