NickW Tennis

Edit: Monday 11th September 2017 - Response from James by email. This came through less than 24hrs after I publicised the original article to my hawker database (which includes people who work with James), and more than a month after I sent my original email to James. It could have just been coincidence, and I was fully prepared to accept that. I felt James' response showed class, and I was genuinely looking forward to meet with him, and to get to know him better. Now, I know there was interest in this saga! On the day I wrote to my database again, saying that James' response was on my website for 24hrs only, the website had twice as many visits as any other day in September! Check the screenshot! Haha. As things didn't work out with James, here's his email response again, and a further update below that.

Nick,

I appreciate the direct and honest feedback.
You are total correct. Please give me another chance to sit down with you over a coffee.
I can’t promise we do business but my poor response to you this summer was purely due to my own circumstances and nothing to do with you personally.
If you tell me to f… off I totally understand. I agree we should respect each other in our profession and support a more positive environment for British Tennis.
Good luck with you tennis business. Hope we do get to meet up?

Best Regards
James


Latest Update (November 2017): James seemed very keen to follow through with his desire that we meet up. I was very keen, not least to understand this guy better, but to talk shop too. I'd love to have heard about his experiences in the tennis coaching business and learn from that, and I'd have hoped the feeling would have been mutual. Who knows, we may have even got along really well and become friends, or even business partners.


We exchanged emails, and he sounded both genuine, and very keen to arrange the meet, even suggesting days/times. Trouble was when it came to confirming a day/time, he never managed to do it. Once again, I was left with contacting him only to receive no response. His final communication came on 20th September, a day we had pencilled in to meet, and was in response to my asking whether we were on or not:


Nick, Under pressure yesterday and today! Tonight is going to be difficult. What’s your plans either early next week or lunchtimes Thursday / Friday… Just don’t want you to have to come over here, we should really meet somewhere half way! Let me know…. Cheers James


I responded that day, saying I was good for either Monday or Tuesday next week, and suggested a half-way pub to meet up. 10 days passed with no response, so I emailed again to re-iterate I was keen to get our meet in the diary, and to suggest to me some dates during the week of 9th Oct or 16th Oct. On the day this re-edit of the whole article was published back onto this page (29th Nov), I still have not heard anything from James.

He disrespected me in June, and then in September apologised and asked for a 2nd chance. No question that I wouldn't respond positively, but he then just wasted my time. I can't judge James as a person, it's very tempting too, but who knows what circumstances are going on behind the scenes. I can't give him the benefit of the doubt either, not after the 2nd chance. Sadly, too many people in the world are arrogant, and all too happy to disrespect others as a matter of course. I'm not saying James is one of them, because I don't know for sure. I do feel it's justified to simply present the facts of this encounter, because James has an incredibly influential role in British Tennis, and people who work with him or are thinking of doing so, deserve to have this insight available to them. If James contacts me again, then I will likely have to take a leaf from his book and not respond.


Frank Giampaolo Tennis Parents Education seminar - Saturday 8th July 2017 - The full 'behind the scenes' review, and much much more!

Promoting and running this seminar was an extremely important project to me, as I really believed in its value. Numbers were extremely low (5 families, broken down into 6 parents, 5 players, and 1 coach), myself and Hawker made no money from it, and Frank was happy to take a pay cut to avoid cancelling (class guy!). I have no regrets, and I've learned a huge amount from the experience, some of which I want to share on this page.


IMPORTANT: Some parts of this article talk in depth about 'tennis parents', and their role. For the sake of complete clarity, the definition of a tennis parent is 'a parent of a child who has clear ambitions to be a professional tennis player, and a clear plan in place to try and acheive it'.

Why was the seminar such a fail in terms of turnout?

LTA Performance was my first port of call for help with promotion, but their response was extremely negative: 'unfortunately this is not something we would advertise to our audiences as we only promote externally provided courses if we have input into it'.

You can read into that what you wish, but for me: Frank is a proven world class coach, and the value of his input to those who want to receive it, cannot be in question. What justification can there possibly be to wilfully deny this opportunity to those who could benefit from it?

Frank told me the key was to get the LTA on board, but the LTA effectively said 'You're your own mate!'. I still had plenty of avenues to pursue, in the form of academies, big clubs, coaches, county associations, and personal contacts, but it was going to take a big effort without LTA support. I must admit I am baffled by the LTA's unwillingness to grasp this fantastic opportunity and get behind it, completely baffled. Despite this, it would be unfair not to also mention that I believe the LTA are doing a lot of fantastic work to help and support tennis at club and county level, which Hawker Tennis has often benefitted from.

The county associations in the South East were largely very positive, and all of them as a minimum were happy to post the info on their social media (but how many parents would see it?). A few went a step further and directly emailed the parents of their high performance players, which was great. There was also a fairly good response from head coaches of leading clubs/academies. Some did ignore me, but others were very positive, and willing to help with promotion. Read on for when I name names! As good as this sounded, I was still in the hands of these coaches. It's the parents themselves that I needed to get this info to, and that was difficult. I've also built up a good database of personal contacts, and I certainly exhausted that option through direct email. I got the odd immediate response, and sure enough those people almost all ended up attending the seminar.

Bottom line, I needed the coaches to get this info out to their parents. They were all on a commission for sign-ups as an extra incentive. Ultimately, this failed as I didn't pay commission on one sign-up, as not one sign-up came from the promotion efforts of another coach, despite I'm sure some good efforts from some of the coaches I dealt with. Justin Sherring (Weybridge) was fantastic. Mark Wisdom (Woking) was a great help. Shaun Malcolm (Sutton), Clint Harris (Bromley) and a few others were also supportive. Despite great effort, I never had responses from Raynes Park, Reeds School, TF Academy, Virgin Active Croydon, or AD Tennis. Tennis Avenue were hopeless with communication after an initial response, but worst of all was James Lenton at Dukes Meadow. James wanted a business arrangement, and I offered him one. He then said he was keen to discuss further, but he then ignored my calls/messages. Eventually he did find the time to call me, but only to accuse me of playing games because I was pushing for a straight answer from him regards the proposal. He then said he hadn't made his mind up yet, but would let me know..... he never did. I sent him some feedback by email, copied at the end of the article, along with his response and how the interaction between us played out. I'd strongly advise anyone involved with James Lenton, or thinking of signing up at Dukes, to read it in full!

The coaches were the barrier between me and the parents, and it proved an impossible barrier to cross in the end. To think, I was also advised from other quarters within the LTA that this seminar shouldn't be promoted directly to the parents, that it was improper for this offer to come from anyone other than the coach of the player. Does that make sense to you? Ultimately, all those who attended came from my direct approach to parents, except one family who came from Sussex county's direct email to parents. Other attendees were from Oxford, Kent, and two local families, one from Hawker! The parents who came, were all highly impressed, and left feeling empowered by the information they had learned.

Comments included:
'Superb, and so informative', 'really good, us parents are just lost without this information', 'really useful day', and 'We took a wealth of information & I am very glad both my daughters attended as they both commented that they found it useful'.

I sat in on the seminar, and my over-riding thought throughout the day was 'There must be so many tennis parents out there who would kill to be here right now, if only they knew the benefit they would get'. However, I then realised that this is the same scenario being played out every day, in every discipline. We are all missing out daily on opportunities to enrich ourselves, often because we don't have the time to seek those opportunities out. Even if we are aware of those opportunities, it's still very hard to justify the time and expense on something, especially when it is being sold to us, and we have to input a certain amount of trust that this opportunity will really be worthwhile. That's just human nature, what would you rather do at the the end of a long day? Relax with a beer or a glass of wine, watch some tv, catch up on social media? Or lock yourself away on the pc, working hard for a couple of hours on developing a business idea that you believe could be a national or global success? Most of us are firmly rooted in option A, because the second option is only embraced by the rare few who's lives are taken over by an incredible inner-drive and passion for a particular project. That project could be becoming a pro tennis player, or helping a child to become a pro tennis player. It could be a million other things aswell. The vast majority of the world's most successful people have got to where they are from that inner-drive and passion, but it's no guarantee of success. If the endless devotion and hard work wasn't enough to put most people off, then the fact that there is no guarantee of success, almost certainly will! I doubt the people who do try so hard and fail worry too much about that, they are wired a certain way, and they will believe the next attempt could be the one that comes good, and the really clever ones will value the experience of the journey, just as much as any success that comes from it.


As for parents, their lives are already consumed by the job of raising their children. This in itself is an endless labour of love, that uses up huge amounts of time, and emotional energy. It's hard to imagine they could have much left to give to a separate project or venture, and it's easy to understand why they wouldn't be interested to do that. Parents will already view the job of raising their children as a huge commitment, and it will likely be their No.1 priority. Working to provide for them, and doing all they can to do a great job of raising them based on their own beliefs and values. The rewards of doing a great job are of course huge for parents, and will fall roughly in line with wanting to see their kids grow up to be happy, successful, and decent human beings. That goal will often fuel parents to find high levels of passion and determination just to be able to fulfil their role as parents. Most therefore command a great deal of respect just from their parental status, and understanding this, is important for anyone who works closely with parents.


I thought I worked closely with parents based just on my job as a tennis coach for juniors, but this whole experience has taught me that my role doesn't really scratch the surface, and neither does it need to for me to be able to do a great job at Hawker Tennis. It's only when I took on the project of organising and promoting the tennis parents seminar, that delving below the surface became necessary, and I really didn't know what I was letting myself in for! What I've learned from the whole experience has been enlightening for me.


Yes, the excuses for not being able to attend the seminar were flowing like the river Ganges in monsoon season! However, this seems to be normal behaviour. It would have been refreshing to hear responses like 'I don't want to attend this seminar'! Why couldn't people just say that, instead of the multitude of nonsense I received. There was clearly no obligation for anyone to attend this seminar, so I wonder if the excuses I received from tennis parents were simply some sort of self-justification attempt from said parents to turn it down.


What's of far more value is the flip side of this, one parent saying 'It's a very long way for us to come, but count us in because this is an opportunity we can't afford to miss'. Another commented on the price 'It's alot of money, but when an opportunity like this comes up, you just find a way'. I think we can all relate to that, as human beings will always 'find a way' when they have enough motivation to do so.
One example out of millions: when Wimbledon tickets come up, many people will 'find a way' to pay extortionate amounts of money, and to free up their busy diaries, in order to be able to attend. You wouldn't have got a pair of centre court tickets for even the 3rd round, for the full price of a family ticket to the seminar.

It's clear why it was a losing battle getting tennis parents, or any others, along to the seminar. The forces of human nature were working against it. The seminar was less about excitement and relaxation that you would expect at a day out at Wimbledon, and more about learning and engaging (though Frank always delivers in a fun way!). Couple that with the crazy busy world of being a parent, and the simple option for many tennis parents with their busy lives, was to turn it down. The drawbacks deepen further when you think about the nature of the seminar - tennis parent education. Tools to help and support your child on their 'pro tennis journey'. Not only is there the time and cost of attending the event. In order to fully benefit from it, the parents would then need to invest more time on a daily/weekly/monthly basis to incorporating what they have learned, perhaps for many years to come! We already know that parents have very little time spare as it is, so with the idea of a deeper role to play on the back of what they have learned, no wonder it's all too easy to respectfully decline the event. This is where some tennis parents will make comments like 'what do I pay the coaches for?', and 'it's the coaches job to give my son/daughter all they need to have a shot at pro tennis'. This is where I am very happy to respectfully say to such tennis parents - that approach, that attitude, is simply not good enough.


Why is it not good enough? The answer is simple, children don't have the maturity or experience to be able to manage their pro tennis journey without a massive amount of hands-on support from the most influential people in their lives - their parents. Many coaches won't care about your child's success as much as you would like to think they do, that's undeniable fact. If you have a found a coach that does care to that level, then you are very lucky, and should do everything you can to hold on to them! Even if you have a near perfect coach, that person will only spend maybe a few hours a week devoted to your child. That time is made up of individual lesson time, tournament time when the coach has attended a tournament with your child, brief moments in group sessions when your child's coach is engaging directly with your child, and any brief moments of down-time your coach spends with your child. This might total a few hours a week, now compare that with the amount of time you, the parents, spend with your child. Family time at home, family trips, travelling to tournaments, school run, family holidays, mealtimes. If your child is to make it to the higher levels of pro tennis, the Top 100 where riches await, their whole life must be dedicated to the cause, that relentless obsession to succeed must be in place. Why? Because if you don't aspire to that level of dedication, then I promise you that the tennis family down the road will be, and they will go further on the pro tennis journey than you because of it. Lets look at the maths, there's around 250 people making good money from regularly playing at ATP and WTA tour level at any one time. 250 people in the whole world! Many are occupying one of those spots for 10, 15, even 20 years at a time! In the UK, only a handful of people have reached that status over the last 30 years. Now think how many people are trying to do it, perhaps a few thousand in the UK, tens of thousands around the world. You can't expect to have a chance without total dedication, or if you are prepared to cut even a single corner. The immaturity of your child is the main reason why the parental dedication to the cause is so important. Even if your child has that drive themselves, they need constant support and guidance from their parents to help them manage it in the most effective way.


I want this article to be a valuable eye-opener for all tennis parents out there, and I want it to be an interesting, even fascinating read, for all those on the outside of the tennis parent world. I want to lay bare the stark reality of how incredibly difficult it is to embark on a pro tennis journey, and end up successful in terms of reaching that magical status that brings fame and fortune. At the same time, I don't want to be seen as a doom merchant, and nor should I be seen as such. The pro tennis journey itself is a beautiful thing, a fun and rewarding experience for junior players, their families, and the coaches to be a part of, for however long it lasts. A failed pro tennis journey will always be full of positive and enriching life experience, but that can often be lost in a world where success is so often synonymous with winning, and failure with losing. Many tennis parents spend fortunes chasing the dream of their child being a pro one day, oblivious to the fact that their own actions and behaviour are making that dream impossible. I've studied tennis parent education in depth for 18 months now, and I strongly believe it provides the stark reality that many of these parents need, in order to realise they are wasting their time, money, and lives chasing an impossible dream. At the same time, it also gives those who genuinely have a shot, the tools to ensure they can maximise their chances. When these pro tennis journeys end in failure (and over 99% of them do), some families can embrace all the positives that came from it and move on. For others, they can't, and it can leave families broken, emotionally and/or financially. The following 2 blog entries from Australian players are quite a few years old now, but they both offer a reality check for parents, who should first and foremost ask themselves if their child has the will, and the love of tennis, to go through what these two players describe, and to fight through the lower levels to emerge into the polar opposite landscape that is the Top 100 in the world!

September 2012: Sam Groth has spoken about the difficulties faced by lower ranked players. "I'm a professional tennis player. I live in Melbourne and my world ranking is 256. I returned home yesterday from the US Open, where I was the first alternate for the qualifying draw. Had I made it, my prizemoney would have covered my flights, and maybe a couple of nights in the hotel. Instead, I have just added another hefty amount to my bloated credit card bill. I turned pro after the 2005 Wimbledon junior tournament, where I made the boys' doubles final and embarked on a career of travelling the world, staying in nice hotels and making great money. Or that's how I thought it was going to be! I have been running at a loss every year since. If it wasn't for the fact that I joined the Australian Institute of Sport at 18, and have received massive support from my family, tennis would not have been an option. In 2009, I played main draw singles at the Australian Open and collected my biggest pay cheque, $19,400. Not bad, right? After racquet stringing, the payback for coaching required by my AIS contract and hotel expenses, I took home $1 - and that's only because the system won't allow a payout of $0! Last year, after shoulder surgery and an extended break from the sport, I decided to come back and give tennis another crack. Financially, it's still just as tough. I have the support of Tennis Works (a coaching centre), a racquet contract with Babolat and sponsorship from Healthwise Active to help with some of my travel, but for the most part I'm doing it alone. From 13 tournaments this year, I've made a total of $20,343. Flights, hotels, food, racquet stringing, clothing, and any other expenses you can think of mean that I've spent close to that much again. You share rooms (or if you're lucky, stay with a host family), take a round-about flight because it's cheaper, and eat where you can - not ideal when it comes to maximising performance, but what you need to do to survive. The life of a tennis player outside of the world's top 100 is tough. The guys you see on TV each week are doing well, but it's the guys you don't see who are really battling. Believe me, I love what I do - if I didn't, I wouldn't still be out there. It's a full-time job, even where I'm ranked. You train every day, just as much as the top guys, so that when you do get the chance you'll be ready to take it. There's talk about a player boycott of next year's Australian Open. The grand slams are important events that generate significant revenues, and the players who perform there should share in an acceptable percentage of those revenues. That view is supported by the playing group - from the very top to the bottom. The issue is not confined to the majors, though. There hasn't been a prizemoney increase at Futures tournaments - which sit below the grand slams, ATP Tour events and Challengers - since they started in 1998. I don't have anything against the top guys earning big dollars, because they are the guys who put this sport on the map and bring the crowds through the gates, but they all started at the lowest level, and so will the players who succeed them. This is not a hard-luck story. I love playing tennis, I've been to more than 40 countries, I've made wonderful friends, had great times. Everyone who steps on a court wants to one day win Wimbledon, and I'm no different. It's the dream that sustains you, even when the danger sometimes is that the credit card might not." Footnote (November 2017); Since 2012, Groth managed to get as high as 53 in the rankings, but has now slipped down to the 160's. His total career earnings are almost $2,000,000, but you wonder what his total expenses bill is after 12 years of being a pro player. He has also just announced that he will retire at the end of the Australian Open in January 2018.

December 2012: John Millman would like to spend more time at Wimbledon and on Rod Laver Arena. Instead he spends far too much time on less inviting surfaces - the airport floors in Barcelona and Frankfurt and the hard, irritating chairs of a dozen railway stations throughout Europe and Asia. Millman, the No.5-ranked men's tennis player in Australia, reckons he has had a good year, fighting back from seven months of injury to crack the world top 200 and finishing only $12,000 out of pocket after slugging it out in gruelling matches around the world. The 23-year-old is preparing to play the qualifiers at his home event, the Brisbane International, starting on December 29. He is one of dozens of top international tennis players battling to make ends meet despite appearing in ATP events and even Grand Slams. Last year, Millman lost in a tiebreak in the third set against Bernard Tomic at a Challenger tournament in Caloundra. While Tomic has been driving a yellow Ferrari with "Sincity" number plates around the Gold Coast, Millman drives his father Ron's Holden Astra with more than 200,000km on the clock and a propensity to stall. While some of his rivals enjoy five-star luxury during competition, Millman and dozens of players like him find tennis a hard slog on and off the court trying to build ranking points through the Futures and Challengers events. "I've played in some pretty ordinary places," Millman says. "And I've slept on a lot of airport floors and train stations. If you don't have a lot of money, sleeping at airports is something you have to do if you want to live your dream. When you play the ATP events a lot of the time your hotel is paid for, so getting a soft bed rather than a night on the airport carpet is a real incentive to make it to those bigger tournaments." Playing the Futures circuit, the lowest rung on the pro ladder, has served up more than few eye openers for Millman, now ranked 198 in the world. "I played at a place called Pitesti in Romania and I don't think I saw a car the whole time I was there, only a few carts," he says. "I got food poisoning in May in Daegu in South Korea, which put me out for a week and then two weeks later I played another Futures tournament in Korea at Gimcheon and it was really tough." The South Korean tournament offered a total prize pool of $15,000. The Australian Open next month will offer $30 million. "A lot of players in Gimcheon were pretty down about their career choices that week," Millman said. "The hotel was horrible, it was outside the city and some of the players were getting food poisoning. No one would deliver food from the city out to the hotel so most of us would stay at the courts from seven in the morning to 10 at night and order pizzas because going back to the hotel was so depressing. I was watching an Aussie guy playing doubles at a really important stage in the match when this scooter drives straight up to the court and the rider walks out into the middle with his pizza boxes and tries to get the guy serving to pay. The player ended up double faulting and getting broken and he went absolutely nuts. It was that sort of place and that sort of tournament." Millman left Gimcheon for the far more prestigious Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, an ATP tournament on grass, though he could not afford the $A380 a night at the tournament hotel. "Tennis might be a glamour sport," Millman says, "but it's very much a top end sport. If you crack the top 50 you can make a lot of money. The prizemoney in ATP events and Grand Slams has probably gone up 1000 per cent in the past few years, but for guys playing Futures and Challenger tournaments the prizemoney hasn't increased for decades. You can be fighting to improve your ranking and still come up against top players in Challengers, such as James Blake, Florian Mayer and Fernando Verdasco. In Bangkok in September I'd beaten two good guys to make the quarter-finals. Then I played (Israel's) Dudi Sela who was about No. 80 in world. I lost but I felt I had a good tournament. I came away with $1500 for the week. It cost me more than that to get there." Millman says the biggest hurdle facing Australian tennis is a lack of grassroots tournaments. Millman helps fund his travels by playing club tennis in Ubstadt-Weiher, a village of 2000 near Heidelberg, Germany, in a competition run like club football. He keeps his followers entertained with stories of his travels on his website penned by himself and father Ron, a former football star in Queensland who won the 1984 Rothmans Medal. In 2012, Millman gained a wildcard to Brisbane and he hopes to qualify for the main draw next week at the Queensland Tennis Centre. "I've had great support from my family and friends," he said.

Footnote (November 2017): Millman hasn't made as much as Groth in career earnings, but looks to be heading back to the Top 100 at the time of writing. He reached a career high of 60 last year, and has been re-finding his form after a hip injury sidelined him for the first half of the 2017 season.


There are roughly 2000 world ranked players at any one time, to gain a world ranking point, you must win a 1st round match at a Futures tournament. Often, you need to win 3 matches to qualify just for the 1st round, and then win another match to get that precious point. Millman and Groth were talking about life ranked around 150-250, which is a few levels up from just having one ranking point, which itself is a few levels up from playing national tour events in your home country (grade 1's in the UK). Parents must ask if their child has what it takes to come through such a tough journey, and if they are willing and able to support the journey. If the answer is yes in both cases, then what are those parents doing to be ahead of the game, to rise above the pack?

Here's the thing with tennis, we know it's one of the toughest sports to crack professionally. We know it takes a human being who's got an incredible inner drive that fuels their ability to put in the relentless hard work, and to make the sacrifices of not having a normal life, so they can have a shot at pro tennis. We know that most kids don't fall into that category, and consequently drop out in their teens, or just fail to achieve a high enough level to have a shot. The biggest thing I learned from this whole experience is that it also takes a set of parents, who understand what an incredible influence they have on their child, who understand the importance of their role, who willingly sacrifice their time and their life in order to fully support their child's tennis journey, and who in effect become the perfect role model for a child who needs to work so incredibly hard to achieve their goals. It's those parents who often make the difference, and sometimes those parents can even raise a pro player from a child who doesn't quite have that grim determination coming naturally to them at a young age. The countless references to parents that I read from established or former pros now have a whole new meaning to me, and it's very rare to find a pro player who's parents didn't invest a similar amount of time and effort as their child, into the whole developmental process. Now, if you're imagining obsessed parents, desperate for their child to be a pro tennis player, pushing them really hard, pressuring the coaches, and living for the next tournament their child plays. Forget it, those parents are getting it totally wrong, and will seldom get very far along the journey to having a pro player son or daughter. Those parents will likely not get this far into an educational article in the first place, but if they have done, will likely be in denial that they fall into this category. No-one has the right to judge another human being, but all tennis parents would be well advised to take a few reality checks, in order to gain some clarity into what they are doing, and why. As much as tennis parents should be immersing themselves positively into the journey, they should also always be fully aware that the journey is ultimately that of their child. The following example explains what I mean.

Lets look at rising star Denis Shapovalov (18 yrs old), coached by his Mum, who actually opened a tennis school in Canada primarily to have somewhere to train her son, and she is still a big part of his coaching team today. Shapovalov had a break-through Summer in 2017, making semi-finals of the Canada Masters (beating Nadal en route), and then beating 8th seed Tsonga at the US Open on an impressive run to the 4th round. Playing for a spot in the 1/4 finals of a Grand Slam was the biggest match of his life to date, but his parents weren't in attendance. Why? His Dad and brother were on a pre-booked holiday abroad, and his Mum didn't want to let down the students at her tennis school, whom she had coaching commitments with. The message they were sending to their son, and the watching world was the right one... This is your journey, your career, and you are ultimately responsible for taking ownership of it.

Tennis parents certainly don't need to take on the coaching role themselves, far from it, and that just happened to be the case with Shapovalov. Of course, this is where Frank's teachings and expertise can guide parents who don't know the in's and out's of tennis, on how they can assume their role effectively, and to the level required. Given their role is perhaps the biggest factor for their child's chances of success, tennis parent education is gold dust, not just to those parents who don't know enough, but even those who take on the parent and coach role together.

I've really only touched on the topic in this article. The role of being a successful tennis parent is highly complex, and will differ from family to family based on individual circumstances. I haven't even talked about what's actually involved in order to perform the role effectively, as the purpose of this article is to shed some light on the reality of how difficult the pro tennis journey is, and to expose the huge importance of the role of the parents who are supporting children on that journey.

As always, I would love to hear feedback, and opinions, if you are interested in this and inspired or provoked enough to share them with me! As with all content that I make public, I do so primarily to provoke thoughts and inspire healthy discussion and debate. We can only grow from this. Thanks for reading!


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Tennis Parents edit (Sept 2017): Who saw Anderson's emotional speech after the US Open Final last night, where he saved his biggest acknowledgement and thanks to the end, which was for his parents. He mentioned that his Dad built him a wall in the backyard to hit against, and always taught him to keep fighting. And Rafa of course has always had Uncle Toni, a close family member who has invested as much as Rafa has into his incredible tennis journey.


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Finally, here is that email I sent to James Lenton in early August, along with how the saga unfolded:

Hi James,

As I review the whole process of promoting and running the tennis parents seminar last month, I feel the need to provide you with some feedback.

I spoke with many head coaches from academies and big clubs in the South East, with responses ranging from positive and helpful, down to no response. James, you were my worst experience, worse than simply ignoring me. You were interested, you wanted more details, I gave them to you, you responded with 'Nick, thanks for the messages. Let's have a chat on Monday?'. I called twice on Monday, no reply. I called, emailed, and left messages on a few more occasions, no response. However, you did find the time to call me when I sent a message that you took offence to. All I did was ask you for a straight answer, given that time was running out to strike up an arrangement. We left it that you would get back to me with a decision, and you never did. I even offered one last option with a few days remaining, to come to Dukes and display a promo poster, and keep the same commission fees I offered. No response again.

Lack of respect between tennis coaches is a widespread problem in this country as I'm sure you're aware, and I feel that you treated me with disrespect regards this seminar venture. If you say you will have a chat with me, then find the time to have that chat, or at least to notify me that you now can't, or don't want to do it. We are all extremely busy people, but there's no excuse for failing to find one minute of your time to explain clearly your position to me.

Even now, almost a month after the event, a short note to say 'sorry for never getting back' would have been appreciated. I apologise if you were genuinely planning on sending that, but it seems rather unlikely you were.

Regards,
Nick Wheatley

Footnote: My personal view is that highly successful tennis players must be decent human beings with a strong sense of humility and respect for others. I'm amazed that someone in James' position appears to be so lacking in these human qualities, and the assumption must follow that he's not therefore in the best position to nurture and promote them in his students.

Few things in life are certain, but one of them is that human beings always find time for things that are important to them (I guess that's too long-winded to add to the 'death and taxes' line!). Clearly, behaving in a decent respectful manner wasn't important enough to James in this situation.