Behind every successful athlete is a driving force, and every story behind that force is unique. Starting on Tuesday, Judy Murray is telling these stories in a new SkyTV docuseries called “Driving Force”.
After the first episode tells her own story, co-producer Murray hosts conversations with 10 female British Olympic athletes.
"We just wanted to do it in the right way," says co-producer Rosemary Reed. "We shot it in the right way. We've delivered a message without being aggressive or about being too critical. We've done it in a very honest way and very fact factual way. I feel that conversation is a very powerful way to get a message across."
Murray’s “Driving Force” episode includes commentary from Billie Jean King, her own parents and sons Andy and Jamie, Martina Navratilova and Sue Barker. The 10 featured athletes in the following episodes are Victoria Pendleton (track cyclist), Natasha Jones (boxing), Rebecca Adlington (swimming), Dame Kelly Holmes (track), Katie Taylor (boxing), Steph Houghton (soccer), Dina Asher-Smith (track), Charlotte Dujardin (equestrian), Dame Sarah Storey (Paralympic cyclist/swimmer) and Christine Ohuruogu (track).
Judy Murray and Rosemary Reed working on set together. (Driving Force/Sky Sports)
Though more accustomed to being interviewed, Murray slips seamlessly into the role of interviewer.
“In lots of ways, it was easy because I was genuinely so interested in hearing their stories,” Murray says. “I'm actually just being a little bit nosy there, but I could empathize with them.”
“I don't feel there's anyone as good as Judy to be able to be that conduit with these athletes,” Reed says. “Because she's been there, been around the block a thousand times, seen all the obstacles and what I heard, which you will see in the series in her episodes, is that she went through her own serious obstacles.”
Over the years, particularly early in Jamie and Andy’s careers, the media portrayed Murray as a pushy and overbearing mother. The 61-year-old has said time and time again that she has never fit that stereotype, and admits she controlled her facial expressions and even changed her clapping style as a result of the media’s commentary.
Jamie and Judy Murray cheering on Andy Murray. (Getty Images)
Long before the headlines, the Wimbledon titles and the No. 1 rankings, Judy Murray was just a single mom to two talented boys trying to play tennis in rainy Scotland. A former player herself, Murray threw herself into coaching when Jamie and Andy were just school-aged.
She taught local youth, not just her own (Andy Murray would leave home to train in Spain in his teens).
“It's a blank canvas,” Murray says of Scottish tennis. “Where I found it harder was when I went down south or when I went overseas and that's when I was just really aware of the much bigger numbers, and actually there's hardly any female coaches. And actually, it's very difficult, or it's much harder, I think, as a woman to be taken seriously in sport. It's a man's game.”
Judy Murray with her youngest son, three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray. (Getty Images)
Andy Murray famously hired Amelie Mauresmo in 2014, flipping the pro coaching norm on its head. There are very few female coaches on the tour: Mauresmo, Rennae Stubbs, Biljana Veselinovic, Kathy Rinaldi, Anabel Medina Garrigues and Conchita Martinez are some that stand out.
Long removed from managing her sons’ careers, Murray has become one of the most influential figures in the coaching world from the community grassroots all the way up to the Billie Jean King Cup level. Her Judy Murray Foundation believes in the motto “everyone for tennis, everywhere for tennis” and works to bring the game to rural and disadvantaged areas in Scotland.
Her latest mission—visible as the biggest message of her “Driving Forces” episode—is to see more female faces coming up behind her.
“I want to know that there are other female coaches out there who can step into my shoes, and I know I'm not going to be around forever,” she says. “But it's one of the reasons why I share so much that I have learned over the 30 years that I've been involved from working at a local club right up to the player boxes, the Slams and the Olympics and so forth.
“We just need a bigger female presence within the workforce in order to make the world a more equal place for female athletes.”