Tennis: A Professional Advantage?
April wasn’t nearly long enough for us to include the wealth of knowledge the Mr Green dream team has to offer! Therefore, we have decided to continue with this seriously sporting series of inspiration for as long as we have passionate people in our midst (psst! It could be years with this lot and their loathing of lethargy).
This brings us to today’s post of passion – someone who has a particular flair for the back and forth and perseverance needed for a tip top tennis player. That’s right, today we will be meeting Jon, Editor in Chief here at Mr Green.
We will hear about his semi-professional tennis career as well as how the skills he learned on the court can be transferred into arguably one of, if not the most creative roles at Mr Green.
Could you introduce yourself and your role within Mr Green?
I am Jon, the Content Editor or Editor in Chief – if you want to use the proper term, here at Mr Green.
Tell us about your love of tennis, where did it begin?
Ok, so, tennis. I started after I finished VI form when I began to think about what I wanted to do with my life. I loved tennis, loved watching it, playing it, everything about it. I was still young and thought – could I make a career out of this?
So, with my parents support – as it is a very expensive sport, I started training 6 hours a day. For me, it was just so enjoyable, you’re running almost a marathon every day however it was just so much fun that you barely notice! I was training every day for a couple of years and so when I believed I was good enough, decided to make the move to professional.
Then the decision had to be made; do I do it here in Malta or in the UK? If you are a sports person you have a nationality identified and those countries would then help provide sponsorship and such – so I went back to the UK and had a go.
Would you say your passion for competitive tennis grew personally or was encouraged by an external factor such as family or school?
Not really, my parents have never really been into sports at all. The school I went to had tennis and rugby etc. but those sports were never really pushed further with after school clubs.
However, my brother also had a big interest in tennis and so we fed off each other and played together – we had our sibling rivalry which only helped elevate us and was one of the reasons we were training 6 hours a day. We were coached and even had external training from Maria Sharapova’s coach who would also do online lessons with us. We then brought those online learnings to the court to try and master them practically. It was fantastic.
As you may be aware, in April we celebrated International day of sport for peace and development. How far would you say that sport, in particular tennis, goes towards developing someone personally and within business, is it something you have personally experienced?
When I was playing tennis, I was outside of work which made it a lot easier to train so hard but now, I also find the things I learned as I was training myself and training my younger brother, did help in regard to persistence, the discipline. If you fail once try again, learn from your failures and master techniques. I’d say it has helped me in every job since.
Do you still play tennis? What was it that made you move away from the sport?
I was training constantly, when I made the move to the UK in order to build up points to qualify for sponsorship, I switched from Maltese clay courts to UK grass courts. This meant my playing style changed completely as well as the tennis season being tiny in the UK.
There were and still are only 4 UK tournaments per year, 2 in summer and 2 in winter where you are able to build up points – which is a huge disappointment really and a disappointment for UK tennis in general.
The rest of the year they are all across Europe – so there was a huge cost to playing which included travel, accommodation, equipment and court fees to name a few. The Lawn Tennis Association in the UK will also not begin to sponsor you until you have built up enough points.
It is a catch 22 situation and I couldn’t put the financial burden on my parents any longer, it was taking too long and I was getting a bit long in the tooth in terms of professional tennis players. I had to drop out. I do still try to play when I can, it is a great workout and good fun when you play with those who enjoy it.
I think that is a very difficult situation to be in and I do believe that sometimes, tennis gets a reputation to be known as a ‘snobby’ sport or a sport for the wealthy. With this kind of attitude it is easy to see why – would you agree?
You are spot on, a lot of these guys who play now, even Andy Murray – they can afford to go to a training camp in Barcelona in order to play and train throughout the winter. Tim Henman comes from a great family, Greg Rusedski – all come from a privileged background.
In the recent years there does seem to be more of a push to include further people in the sport. But there is certainly an issue and I worry it may get to a point where a tennis star dies and there is no one to fill their shoes due to their financial backgrounds.
Tennis is a world class, well known and respected sport, why is it do you think tennis has been so successful as a sport worldwide?
That’s a toughy. Tennis is open to play recreationally worldwide – there are often tennis courts scattered around and you do not need a huge amount of room for it like golf etc. I’m not 100% sure, I find it fun to watch and to see the best player – who is the best male player, who is the best female player, all control is on them and of course what makes them the best.
How has playing sport from a young age influenced your personal development and even the way you integrate in the professional sphere? You mentioned a try, try again mentality, but is there anything else, especially in such a creative role as you have that tennis has taught you?
Tennis is an individual sport – when I was young I always preferred to rely on myself. If you want something done right, I will do it myself and I believe that is what attracted me to tennis right from the start.
What it did really show me though, is that I do like working in a team, when you are alone or have the sole responsibility for something, it can be really hard. So, if anything, tennis has shown me that I actually do like the support of a team and to never take myself too seriously.
You can become a bit of an ego maniac when playing a stand-alone sport and so I am glad the sport made me realise that I needed that support and now at work, I adore working within a team.
At what level do you most enjoy tennis, is it a competitive level or more recreational?
I prefer the professional, I prefer the competitive. I love recreational but it always ends up competitive anyway! Sometimes I need help being driven, I can get a bit ‘lax and fall into bad habits of taking it easy so when you need a push forwards it’s great when someone can do that for you by upping the game intensity.
Finally, do you have any words of wisdom to budding tennis players wanting to start developing themselves or beginning a career in the sport?
Start early. Be yourself.
It is easy to learn bad techniques and it is very difficult to get out of that. You need a team, even though it is a single person sport you do need back up, you need support. You want to get sponsorship as soon as possible as it costs a blummin’ fortune. But yeah, start early and just have fun! It is a fantastic sport.
Thank you Jon! If you missed any of our past posts in this series then take a look at the Sport section of this blog and catch up on golf, cricket and chess and how the skills learned in these sports can help shape your career and professionalism on a day to day basis.
Join us next time when we zoom into the future of sport. Amanda Mörn will reveal why she is in love with e-sports and how this millennial creation is helping shape the attitudes of our younger workforce.
Remember to keep an eye out on our Sportsbook for all the AMAZING offers we will have in relation to the biggest summer sporting event of the Year held in Russia.
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