As I’m walking up closer on Jen, her shy face starts looking toward the direction were about to walk towards. Typical Jen, always focused on the next step. We’re headed towards Pizza Hut, because for two weeks she’s been telling me of this £7 unlimited pizza deal and for two weeks I have been too lazy to go. So Jen said she would come with me, and now it’s a date 😊
Our girl Jennifer Ashton was originally born in Liverpool, UK, but she was raised as a young pup in Beverly, Massachusetts in America. The eldest of her and her brother Harold, Jen doesn’t mind being the big sister.
“Being one year apart made me and my brother more like best friends than brother and sister. My mom treated us pretty much the same; she knew we had the same friends and that we would watch out for each other”. “It was always whenever one of us got in trouble, the other was getting in trouble for the same reason, so she pretty much dealt with us the same”.
Growing up with a guy is probably a major reason that Jen started playing at only 7 years old!
“I chose basketball because my brother and I started a brand new summer camp, and we were kind of the trial team for the camp”. She credits her camp counsellor for being her role model; “I wanted to be just like him”.
(Thank you camp counsellor, because of you I get to play alongside one of the most competitive point guards I’ve yet to meet)
After we settled into our food a bit, which by the way I encourage everyone to go to Pizza Hut during lunch hours. Unlimited pizza and salad bar for £7? And you know how Pizza Hut has that crust that is right in the middle of perfectly crunchy and dough-y? Like it just has a great balance of texture, and don’t get me started on the garlic seasoning they put on the crust…
I mean just look at it!
…Anyway, back to Jen
I brought us back from memory lane to talk about current training sessions, trying to pick her brain about her plan for each practice. Arriving early, getting shots up and having a good feel for her legs is key for her to mentally set the tone for the type of practice she’s going to have. “I tend to watch game film on my opponents, and occasionally on myself just so I feel like I know everything about our opponent. That way I’m not nervous or intimidated because I would know how to deal with them”… I think that is a great way to prepare for both games and practices. It is interesting because as a point guard it’s important to not only know your position during a game or practice, but you have to know where your teammates are located and be able to put them in a position to score as well. That is a lot of responsibility to keep track of during a game, so it makes sense that with all that multi tasking, a player is bound to make a few errors along the way. “I make mistakes on the court” she admits, “and sometimes I’m not so positive with myself. But I’d rather be tough on myself than let myself slack off.”
Me being the nosey teammate I am, I needed to know: What do you tell yourself when you make mistakes?
“If I make a mistake on offense, like turning the ball over, I tell myself to make it up on defense with either a steal or a rebound, or do things that would help my teammates out”. Right now Jen is 2nd in the WBBL leaders for steals per game with about 3 each match, and is ranked 5th for leading in assists, with just about 6 per game. So whether it is out of frustration or pure motivation, you can’t deny that when it comes to getting things done: JEN GETS THINGS DONE.
Outside of basketball, Jen embraces another important role as a woman: being a girlfriend. With all the female empowerment, women revolution and the now out of control rise of feminism, it’s important to take time to acknowledge the women out there who are not only balancing the things that come with the pursuit of a career, but those who refuse to choose between a career and love life.
Yes ladies, with the right mindset and attitude, you CAN do both.
“I’ve been in a relationship now for almost 4 years” says the 23 year old. “Being in a relationship and playing basketball has it’s pros and cons. On one hand you have someone you know will always be there rooting for you and making you better, but on the other hand it can be difficult to focus on a game if you are having any issues off court”. Personally I can see how having relationship issues can affect us as women (us and our dang emotions 😉), and I think it helps when your partner is just as much of an athlete as you, because you both can use athletics to come together, rather than drive you both apart, you know? “Having a boyfriend that plays basketball is easy in a sense that I play basketball for about 3 hours a day, and for the rest of the day I’m free to be who I am. On the court I’m the basketball player, really aggressive and in your face, and when I’m home I tone it down a bit, doing everything that I do, that most girls would do”.
Okay Jen, you wifey material you 😊 #wifeherup
So not only is this girl balancing Great Britain basketball, being a girlfriend, and learning about her space in the world… she’s doing all of this while playing in a different country! I had to ask the famous international question:
HOW IS PLAYING BASKETBALL HERE DIFFERENT THAN IN THE STATES?
“I think everyone kind of has the same attitude when it comes to achieving the same goals. The biggest difference is the time I have in the gym. There isn’t as much time in the facilities, and the gym centers. In America I could go in the gym and use the court anytime, from morning until night. There’s always a gym space available.”
Yes Jen, that is SO true. C’mon U.K get us some more gym time!
If you have been to a match this season you have seen Jens intensity and commitment to herself and her team first hand, and that type of focus can be learned and utilised anywhere in life. It’s important for young people, and( in my opinion) especially young girls, to adopt a hard-working mentality for anything they may want in life. Basketball is a great way to learn the disciplines of life, because it teaches you to work hard as well as have fun. There is an unpopular stigma that playing basketball as a girl means that you have to be or act “masculine”, which is not the case at all. In fact, playing such a running sport like basketball is the perfect way to maintain a hot summer body all year ‘round! When I asked Jen what she thought on the stigma of women’s basketball, I was delighted to hear her opinion wasn’t too far from mine: “I’ve never really bought in to the whole ‘act like a man to play basketball’, because it’s not necessarily a big muscle sport like say, American football or rugby. But I do think women’s sports are a little bit different in that we play more of an IQ game; running more plays and it’s not a beating down like men’s sports.”
So for any girls out there thinking about joining a basketball team, or any other female sport for that matter: know that you don’t need to become a man to excel in a sport… you just need to be a bit more smarter 😉
As we wrapped up our Pizza Hut date, I wanted to know what Jens goals were for this basketball season. I know playing and representing the country of Great Britain is a major accomplishment, and at only 23 Jen is on a roll to having a very promising professional basketball career. She seems to be very specific on what she wants to accomplish this year with the Hatters: On court she’d like to average double figure points, and in her personal life she is looking forward to being more settled in to the United Kingdom. “I want to settle into a job that I can come back to next season, and become more financially secure. That way I am able to do what I want to do, where I want to do it”.
Couldn’t have made better life plans myself.
Sheffield Hatters are finally back in action after two weeks off, I love a good break but let’s get back to action!
*Special thank you to Mansoor Ahmed for behind the scenes footage of Jen at GB practice. You’re the best.