Why get into racquet sports?
Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Andy Murray has one hell of a neat haircut. Admittedly, he wouldn’t have been able to sport such a tight, inch-perfect look without an illustrious and semi-successful tennis career under his belt. He’s an inspiration to us all!
Of course, getting into any sport isn’t easy, particularly if it’s as competitive as tennis, badminton or table tennis. You’ve got to be willing to put in the hours, buckle down and maybe, just maybe, someday you’ll sport something as beautifully perfect as Tiger Tim’s razor-sharp barnet.
Maybe you’d rather aspire to Andy Murray’s recent greatness, with his US Open, Olympic and Wimbledon victories. Regardless, we would rather have Tim’s tresses than Andy’s angry resting face. Now, moving on…
How do I get started?
It’s every sporty child’s dream to turn their hobby into a career. Whilst only a select few make it to the top, it’s a good idea to consider the other areas of tennis, table tennis and badminton that you can get into.
Obviously, your number one goal is probably to turn professional, win lots of medals, make millions of pounds and compete in competitions around the world. There’s no reason why you can’t make this happen, but I’m sure by now you know how competitive the sporting world can be. Only a very small number of people make it.
You need to start from an early age, get on the international competitive circuit as soon as you can and be committed to long hours of non-stop practice. It can take years and years to start earning a decent wage from your sport, and even then a simple injury could end it all. Basically, it’s a tough business, so there’s no harm in preparing for a career in different areas of your favourite sport. Just in case you don’t make it.
For medical positions, such as health and fitness coaching or physio, all employees will need to have the relevant qualifications that each role requires. It’s a competitive area, so getting work experience before applying for more permanent roles can be the key to finding employment. You could even volunteer at local sports or physiotherapy centres.
For coaches, there are certain badges that you’ll need to earn before you’re qualified to coach at a senior level. For example, to become a tennis coach, you’ll need to get your LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) coaching badge. From then on, you can improve on your current qualification and coach people to a higher standard.
Journalists and marketing executives aren’t usually required to have a degree, but obviously the competitive nature of tennis, table tennis and badminton careers means that it can help to obtain a relevant degree. What’s more important here is that you display a genuine passion for the sport you’re interested in. Playing it from an early age, watching it on TV, attending live events – it all helps you to build up the relevant knowledge that you need to make it.
What if I don't want to compete?
Player-facing roles in tennis, table tennis and badminton include the likes of coaches, physios, managers, health and fitness coaches, trainers and medical assistants… and that’s before we even begin to talk about all the people who work behind the scenes! These include the marketing guys, journalists, talent scouts, promoters and so on. As you can see, there’s plenty for you to do other than competing professionally.
Take coaching, for example. You can work with any age group, with a wide array of different talents and abilities, and your work can take you all over the globe. The same can be said for medical staff. Tennis, badminton and table tennis are all international sports so if you complete the relevant coaching badges or get the right medical qualifications, there’s no reason why you can’t work abroad with some of the best sporting talents around the globe.
Usually, coaches, managers and trainers all start with younger athletes at a lower and less demanding performance level and work their way up from there.
Physiotherapists and health and fitness coaches specialise in keeping the body and mind of their athletes as fit and healthy as possible. With racquet sports, this can mean anything from doing the right stretches before a big match, to little superstitious mind exercises to give you more confidence and prepare you for a big tournament.
Dietitians also fall under this bracket. Athletes that play racquet sports often perform at a high tempo for hours at a time, so their diet and training is essential to keeping them in peak condition.
People in PR, advertising and marketing careers play a big part in the world of racquet sports. PR people can represent brands, such as Head or Adidas, or the big players within the sports. The same can be said for the marketing guys.
Advertisers work tirelessly to make sure the right adverts are seen at the right events, or the right sports brand names are plastered across the sleeves, bags and racquets of the right players. Tim Henman, for instance, is well-known for wearing Adidas throughout his career, and Murray is expected to sign endorsement deals worth £15 million per year!
Finally, you could find work as an event organiser or as a member of staff working at larger tournaments. At Wimbledon or the IBF Tournament, you have thousands of staff making it all tick along nicely. Caterers, ticket-sellers, ball boys and girls and ushers; pretty much anything you can imagine, all the way down to the staff who clean up after an event.
As you can see, even if your dreams of being the new Sharapova, Federer, Djokovic, Virginia Wade or Athena Tennis Girl (you know – the one with the bum) don’t make it to a reality, there are still tons of opportunities for all you tennis-lovers out there.