Credit: Getty Images

In conversation with Susan Egelstaff

By Natasha Coyle

Commonwealth bronze medallist and ex-Scottish badminton player Susan Egelstaff discusses her experiences as a student, a professional badminton player, and now a sports writer for The Herald.

Susan Egelstaff, ex-professional badminton player for Scotland and Great Britain, discusses her experiences of being a student during her professional badminton career. Egelstaff won the bronze medal in Women’s Singles at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and overcame a serious knee injury to compete in the 2012 Olympics. After the London Olympics, Egelstaff decided that she would retire at the top. She is now a sports writer for The Herald.

The Glasgow Guardian spoke to Susan about her experiences as a student at the University of Stirling whilst playing badminton professionally, her post-badminton career, and her role as a mentor in the mentorship scheme offered by Women in Journalism Scotland.

“It was definitely hard at some points,” she stated as she discussed the experience of being a final-year undergraduate and travelling around the world to compete in various competitions. “I enjoyed the combination of studying and playing professionally. I also wanted to have a degree as something to fall back on.”

Susan stated that she completed much of her final year away from university and at times found it hard to fit her studies around badminton and her various classes. “It was about getting a degree and having it as a back-up plan,” she commented. The purpose of a degree varies from student to student as to whether the degree is about expanding one’s mind or having it as an insurance plan. Whilst Egelstaff mentioned that she didn’t necessarily delve that deep into her chosen subject of Psychology and Sports Studies, the practical experience of the theory she learnt in her degree on the badminton court was incredibly valuable. “It’s about doing what you’ve learnt which is the difficult bit,” she said in response to whether she found her knowledge of sports psychology to have impacted her during her badminton career. “I’d already done a lot of the stuff I was learning on a practical level. But psychology definitely has a huge impact on professional athletes.”

Egelstaff stated that she had tried a number of sports as a child but found that badminton was the sport she was especially good at. Egelstaff made the Scottish Senior Squad when she was 15 and found that the amazing travel experiences that came with playing badminton professionally were a huge perk. “I was in Malaysia when I was 15,” she said and further commented that she would never have had that experience if it weren’t for badminton.

“My favourite moment in my badminton career was definitely walking out for my first-round match at the London Olympics and then going on to win that match,” she stated.

After the London Olympics, Egelstaff made the decision to retire from professional badminton, stating that it “felt like the right time” to do so. “I’d spent a long time playing badminton – you just know when it’s time to move on.”

Since hanging up her badminton trainers, Egelstaff is now a sports writer for The Herald. “I just started writing wee bits and bobs on the side whilst I was still playing. Then I found out that I really liked doing it and gradually got into it.”

Egelstaff stressed that her sporting connections and experience as a professional athlete have really aided her sports journalist career: “Badminton helped massively with sporting connections. The contacts I gained from the sport were invaluable.” Furthermore, Egelstaff suggested that her experience of professional sport aids her rapport-building with current professional athletes across a number of sports, particularly in interviews. “I understand sport from a player’s angle. It can be so stressful being a professional athlete. I know it looks so fun but it is hard. Someone could pull your funding or sponsorship at any time and you have to live a different kind of lifestyle.”

As well as writing for The Herald, Egelstaff is a mentor on the Women in Journalism Scotland mentorship scheme and has been involved with the program for two years. She enthusiastically stated that any woman looking towards a career in sports journalism should, “Go for it! There are lots of opportunities, especially with the need to diversify the industry. Although it is a hard industry to get into and stay in, there are opportunities out there. There’s so many digital and online opportunities and it’s just about taking them.”

Furthermore, we discussed that women are often afraid to ask for opportunities in the industry. “If you don’t ask, you simply do not get.”

Whilst Egelstaff is still relatively new to the mentorship scheme only having two mentees thus far, she believes that a major strength of the program is that it offers early-career female journalists the chance to ask questions and receive support from someone already in the industry. “It’s really nice to be a part of something like that. I feel like I can really make a difference to a woman’s career.”


Share this story

Follow us online

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments