Ash Barty: Champion
Young Readers Edition
Harper Collins, 2023
288pp., pbk., RRP $A22.99
In these days of the unprecedented success and support from women’s sports, there are few who would not know the name Ash Barty, and in this young readers’ edition of her autobiography, independent readers can learn about her story. In her words, “It’s a tennis story. It’s a family story. It’s a teamwork story. It’s the story of how I got to where and who I am today. My story is about the power and joy of doing that thing you love and seeing where it can take you.
It reflects on my whole tennis journey – from the first time I picked up a racquet as a young girl in Queensland, to the night I packed up my tennis bag at Melbourne Park after winning the 2022 Australian Open. It explains how I worked through self-doubt, homesickness and a break from the sport to realise my tennis dreams, winning Wimbledon and ranking number 1 in the world.
Maybe my story will inspire you to follow your dreams – I really hope it does”
Often when our students fixate on real-life heroes, all they are seeing is the here-and-now, the success and the attention that comes with that and they don’t realise that that part of the journey is but the tip of the iceberg, that there have been years of hard slog and sacrifice that have gone into making that here-and-now what it is. One of the most powerful traits that we can teach our children is how to be resilient, how to pick themselves up and dust themselves off after unexpected knockbacks and knockdowns, and this story in which Ash Barty talks about the highs of her career she also is honest about the lows – her struggles with her mental health, body image, self-doubt, her fragmented schooling, the loneliness and the homesickness of being on tour – shows that it is not all about glory, fame and money and that for anyone determined to follow their dreams, there are times when that in-built resilience is all that is left.
Students also see those heroes as being special somehow, as though they had been touched by the magic fairy at birth like Sleeping Beauty, and do not see themselves as being the sort of person who could reach such heights, so that focus on her childhood and her struggles show that in the beginning, she was just as ordinary as they are, and it is the dedication and determination to succeed at her passion that is the driving force.
So as much as this is a story about Ash Barty the person, it is also a story about having that inner strength and that resilience to find and follow your own dreams and it is that intention to inspire that sets this one apart from so many of the other autobiographies and biographies that young readers pick up as they expand their reading horizons. You don’t have to be a tennis player to enjoy this.