Education is about more than just academic excellence. It’s also about helping students discover their passions and potential career paths. This term we have organised a series of career talks to expose the pupils to different career options that they may not necessarily be aware of. Through these talks, we aim to inspire and motivate our pupils to think about their future and the possibilities that lie ahead of them. This week we received a visit from a sports journalist.
Imogen Ainsworth is a former pupil who attended S. Anselm’s from 2010 to 2014. She recently returned to the school to share her personal success story with the current students. Imogen started her journey with S. Anselm’s as a full-time boarder and then moved on to Oakham School. After completing her studies there, she went on to study at St Mary’s University in Twickenham. Currently, Imogen is pursuing a master’s degree in sports journalism and also working as a freelance journalist. Her story is an inspiration to the current students at S. Anselm’s and serves as a testament to the value of a good education and hard work.
During her talk, Imogen was able to captivate the senior pupils by sharing her personal journey, which not only highlighted her achievements but also the challenges she had experienced and overcome. One of Imogen’s standout moments in her journalism career was when she scooped the back page of The Times with her article about Patrick Vieira on her first day in the role. This was an impressive feat, especially considering she had only been a sports journalist for less than 12 months.
Imogen’s journalism experience has been diverse and exciting, including covering major events such as the Six Nations, Autumn Nations, Premiership and Champions Cup rugby, and UCI Track Champions League. She has also had her work published in notable publications such as The Times, The Rugby Paper, Talking Rugby Union, The Hockey Paper, and Sports Gazette. In fact, Imogen is starting a new job at EuroSport this week, which is yet another exciting milestone in her career.
Throughout her talk, the pupils listened carefully and studied Imogen’s slides intently. They were in awe of who Imogen had interviewed and the events she had covered.
The Q and A uncovered a depth of experience, which helped the pupils to learn more. Some of the questions explored were as follows.
Why a career in sports journalism?
I have always loved sport, and this started while I was at S.Anselm’s where the sports facilities and teaching were excellent and not like anything I’d experienced at my previous primary schools. Without this, I don’t think I would have loved sport as much as I do now. At Oakham, I went on to study sport science at GCSE and A-Level, and then as my BSc at St Mary’s. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do as a job even when I was in my first few years at university but I knew I wanted to do something that allowed me to watch sport all the time. In my third year, I did placements at The Hockey Paper and The Rugby Paper and this gave me a taste of the industry and inspired me to apply for the master’s in sports journalism which I’m doing at the moment. Journalism has allowed me behind-the-scenes access to some of the biggest sports stars in the country, which has been incredibly insightful. My favourite part of it however is being able to tell the stories that may not be shared otherwise and helping to raise awareness for issues in sport.
Which sports personality inspired you the most?
It has to be the track cyclist Katie Archibald. I interviewed her in the mixed zone after the first day of the UCI Track Champions League final weekend and despite having an incredibly difficult year in terms of injury and tragedy in her personal life, the way she spoke with the media was extremely admirable. Alongside Katie, England men’s rugby head coach Steve Borthwick is also incredibly inspiring, and the way he speaks about his desire to restore the pride in the English rugby team is very motivational!
What was the most memorable sports event you’ve covered?
My favourites so far have been the Six Nations at Twickenham and the UCI Track Cycling Champions League finals at the velodrome in the Olympic Park in London. Having been to Twickenham as a fan many times as a child, the opportunity to cover an international game there from the press box was something I’d never imagined I’d be able to do. Another particular highlight was my first time covering my childhood rugby club, Gloucester, in a Premiership game. In December I covered the Oxford Trial VIIIs on the Thames ahead of the Oxford vs. Cambridge Boat Race in March, while at the time I was very nervous as it was my first time covering rowing and it was also freezing cold, looking back on it now it was a brilliant experience.
How did life at S. Anselm’s help with the next steps and career choice?
Starting at S.Anselm’s at the age of nine in year five as a full border definitely made me independent. I boarded at Oakham and then lived away from home at university and I wouldn’t have been as well prepared for both of these had I not been a boarder when I was at the prep school. I found the adjustment from boarding to university life very smooth, allowing me to fully focus on my work as I wasn’t phased by being in a new environment away from home. The small class sizes and dedicated teachers allowed me to make the most of my learning and gave me the confidence to succeed. I always felt comfortable asking questions and seeking help from teachers when I was struggling. As I mentioned before, the introduction to sport that I had at S.Anselm’s ignited my passion for sport which ultimately inspired me to go into sports journalism. The extracurricular opportunities as well were brilliant. I remember going on school trips to Sale Sharks and Leicester Tigers to watch rugby games and this was something I loved. I must have watched hundreds of games since then but I still have vivid memories of those two games in particular.
What advice would you give pupils moving on to their next school?
The biggest piece of advice I could give would be to not change who you are to fit into a certain mould. When you go to your next school with people you don’t know, it might seem at points like you don’t necessarily fit in. For me, being a female rugby fan was a bit alien to some of the people I went to secondary school with, however, I didn’t let this stop my enjoyment and still carried on watching the sport I love. In the end, lots of people respected me for this and it’s led me to where I am today. If you have something you enjoy, be that sport, music, drama, arts, academics or anything else, persevere with it!
What was your tightest deadline?
My tightest deadline was about 15-20 minutes which was for a breaking news story. For a lot of breaking news, you don’t have much notice, and on both occasions, the press releases landed in my email inbox with limited time to be turned around before the embargo time was reached. At times I’ve had to drop everything I was doing in order to get a piece written and sent to editors within those tight deadlines. These are relatively intense and high-pressure situations but I find them incredibly rewarding!
What challenges have you experienced and how have you overcome these?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced in the last few years was my A-Level results day. I didn’t get into any of my top three choices of universities, and I felt at the time like it was the worst day of my life! I had to go through clearing to get a place at university. While I was devastated at the time, I then had to reset and take a different approach. I focused on working hard to get my degree, and I don’t think I would ever have ended up doing what I do now had my original plans worked out. I now go by the mentality that ‘everything happens for a reason’, and try and use setbacks as an opportunity to take a different approach to a task or situation. In journalism, you often face hurdles and are told ‘no’ to stories or interviews, but I use that as a learning opportunity, rather than taking it personally and letting it negatively affect me and my work.
Imogen had the opportunity to revisit S. Anselm’s school and was given a tour by Mrs Brailich, the teacher she had contacted. During the tour, Imogen shared some of her fabulous sport match memories, including her time as a hockey keeper, and discussed her passion for the sport.
It was clear that Imogen’s visit was a pleasure for everyone involved, and her experiences and achievements were very inspiring for the students. Imogen’s parents have also settled more permanently in Lincolnshire, making it easier for her to visit the school again in the future. Overall, it was a great visit and a testament to the lasting impact that S. Anselm’s had on Imogen during her time as a student.