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Gary Naughton on Working With International Players
Gary Naughton is the new Head Performance Coach at the University of Warwick and is one of the most successful coaches of high level junior players in the UK.
Richard Marklow interviews i2c Head Performance Coach at the University of Warwick, Gary Naughton. Gary is one of the UK’s most successful coaches of junior international players.
This is a candid, no-nonsense interview in which Gary shares his thoughts on what he looks for in young junior players, what it takes to become an international standard junior tennis player, and some interesting insights into life in tennis from both a coach and player perspective.
Whether you are the parent or the coach of children who are just starting out and whether or not those children are hoping to play at an international standard in the future, it’s an unprecedented insight into this area of tennis.
- What does Gary looks for in young junior players
- Things parents can do to help their kids’ tennis
- His views on the difference between the best junior national players and the best junior international standard players.
Gary Naughton: Working With International Players, Interview transcript
Interviewer: We understand you’re in Spain at the moment.
Interviewer: In true international coach style, in Spain, what’s the weather like?
Gary: 27 today.
Interviewer: Nice, it’s obviously like England. What are you doing in Spain at the moment?
Gary: I’m with Felix, who’s currently doing the housework. I’m not actually joking on that. He’s at a men’s futures event. It’s the first category in professional tennis. It’s called the $15,000 event in Spain. He’s on a circuit of– a full week circuit in Spain, so he’s been here for four weeks– he would’ve been here for four weeks.
Interviewer: Right. It’s infested with coronavirus and all the restrictions that you’re still able to travel and play tournaments, that’s really good, obviously for Felix, I know that the first lockdown was a bit tough for him, wasn’t it? Good thing you had-
Interviewer: -some tournaments.
Gary: Yes, but then the restrictions they’ve got in place is incredible really. It’s not what you want to go through, but they are really stringent with what’s going on.
Interviewer: Yes, okay. We’ve known each other a long time and we’ve worked together a lot in the past. We’ve got a combination of I think parents, children and coaches on the call tonight, so we’re going to have some questions and have a chat really. First of all I’d like you to go through what your career journey as a tennis coach has been. I know you’re now working abroad with Felix and you work on the international circuit, what has been your career journey as a coach?
Gary: I started coaching when I was probably 17, when I was a student, just part-time trying to earn some money, but before that I played tennis since about the age of seven or eight. I was at national standard, probably about 10 in the country. Just probably– I wouldn’t say I was top 10, probably 10 in the country between eight and 12 in the country in the right team. Yes, I played to a top national standards, played some international tennis as a junior, and then stopped playing totally at 18. Didn’t play at all, finished– just finished it totally, didn’t try and get full time and then went into coaching really purely as a student and then decided to stay, and that was in my– where I grew up in Coventry.
I’m from Coventry. I stayed in Coventry then for a few years, then moved to a head coaches role, where I was there for 16 years and then I moved from there to Edgbaston Priory where I worked on a consultancy basis for the LTA along with Adam, Adam Longhair and then headed up the facility for a couple of years and then moved back locally to Coventry and then back now, recently working for inspire2coachas a coach.
Interviewer: It’s good to have you back with us. I know we’ve gone through quite a journey together over the years. I know– I always remember you as a young coach, and I always remember you being very motivated and very determined as a young coach and very– almost like you wanted to do it your way right from a young age and that’s quite interesting. I think you’ve been doing it your way for many years. You’ve had lots of great results as a performance coach, one of the best in UK in terms of results. Could you just give us a bit of an outline of your results and your pedigree and your CV?
Gary: Well, I think that the most relevant is that I’ve coached, I think it’s 14 national champions. I think 26 players have played for Great Britain. I’ve presented for the LTA on the production of junior year tennis for the LTA on a few occasions alongside Judy Murray, which was always really good to do. I’ve had five players at world junior championships at Bute which is a really big accomplishment because that’s the junior tournament that every every coach wants to get their player to, because it’s the biggest event they’ll ever play in.
The next event, they’ll ever play in, if they’re good enough to do it, would be a grand slam. That was my first ever– could I get a player to terms and I managed to get five, I think it was five and my first ever coaching job, which was at Coventry obviously with Ulrich was– I worked with my first player that went on to win nationals when I was 18. My first ever top player, I started coaching when she was five and when she was 11, she won national championship. I really did the groundwork. I really learned my trade as a coach teaching children five years old to then and not only a national champion, but somebody who went on to play Wimbledon at 13.
I learned the journey, I really learned how to do my job and really learned the journey through that one player who– and then, and then it went from there. Yes, after working with young Hannah Grady, which she was the first other player that I coached, and then I went on to manage to have, yes, I think it was 14 national titles, I think.
Interviewer: Yes, and what’s in your career? You’ve always produced players, you’ve always kept the treadmill of players coming through. I don’t think– has that ever been a time where I know there’s been maybe some better times than others, but pretty much always you’ve had good players and an excellent player you’ve been working with and that’s quite related with your results across your career, so why? That’s a great question, isn’t it? So why? What is your own coaching philosophy? Why have you had those great results?
Gary: I think that looking back how was it 18, 19, 20, there’s not a lot– okay, I’ve grown up a little bit, I’m more experienced, but my kind of morals and values haven’t really changed that much, high standards of the player and myself, both by myself– high work ethic of myself and the player and high expectations. I’ve always had pretty high expectations of myself and the players. It’s not just the players, it’s myself as well, a high work ethic and high standards.
I think that without sounding really cliché about it and it’s only something that comes into fruition now that when you’re older and not that I’m older just yet, but is that I’m still in touch with Hannah who is now 34 years old, and I’m still in touch with Elliot who is nearly 30 in America. I’m still really in communication with a lot of my ex-pupils and looking back, I didn’t really have it in my mind that it was really important that their experience with me, that they would learn a lot of good life lessons in that.
Some of them were tough and that’s been– that was obviously really inherent in me when I was younger, that their experience with me would be a positive one and they’d learned some really good life skills, but now that I’m a bit older and know that the influence that I can have, that’s really important that while still teaching them to win, which that’s what we’re trying to do, teach them trying to get better tennis players. It’s trying to make sure they learn good life lessons and that actually they become a good person.
Interviewer: I’ve always felt the bond between you and your players has been very strong, right from that first group of players you had, you’ve had about I think probably six or seven little players right back in the day and I remember the bond between you and the players was strong then, and throughout your career, you’ve always had a really strong bond with your players, haven’t you, it’s been a close knit bond?
Gary: Yes, the thing is, when I started coaching I didn’t– I started out full on. If I was going to do it, I was going to do it properly and I remember coaching, I had no experience, I had no coaching qualifications necessarily and the only person that was going to help me do well was myself, but I have had good people around me as well. I did do it my own way.
I did do a lot of things my own way, and it was good for them to nurture that in me a little bit really, which everyone did and then I remember early on in my coaching career having Hannah– I remember driving she’s about eight at the time, I remember driving nearly two hours to watch the best tournament de girls in the country play. I wasn’t coaching them. I’ve nothing to do with them, but I didn’t know what really I was looking for. I remember driving about two hours in my own time, on a Sunday to watch the best girls in the country play.
I knew why, and it had to make Hannah an intern. Because of that, with massive commitment that I was demonstrating back then, we do create really strong bonds with the players. My first ever play that I have from five to 14, I had Hannah. Then still actually worked with her till she was 18. That’s a long stint and that’s a big bond. It’s a huge bond between a player and a coach.
It’s really something special as well as my first player. Since then, yes, I’ve had many of the players and now obviously I’m traveling a lot with Felix and our bond is really strong. It’s really close. It’s not always easy. We live in the same place now and traveling together. It’s not easy dealing with each other, but our bond is very close and it’s you do see it a lot actually, we travel the tournament’s and even here we see young players with their coaches and there are some really strong bonds.
I think it’s quite important that it’s been important to have those bonds with the players, is that there’s that trust like they know they can trust me. They know that I’m committed, they know that I’m loyal. They know that I’m in their corner. That’s been a big deal. I’m in the corner. They’d rather have me in the corner than not in the corner. That creates really good bonds, so yes.
Interviewer: It’s a nice story, when you said Hannah is 34, I think, and you still in contact with her. That’s a nice story because that doesn’t always happen in elite sport. I think actually that’s a nice story. Also having been out with you on evenings and having food and your phone goes and then you’re checking in with players and you parents, you absolutely live and breathe the sport and the players. I think that’s been a credit of what I’ve seen to you, over the years.
Oh, if we just changed now slightly and we’re talking about now, young players, so you’ve actually not only worked out the level you’ve worked out, but you’ve also identified a lot of players over the years and look for young talent. When looking at young players are there any attributes you particularly look for, and if you think about your best players, what have they been like a young age, and what have been the things that have really stood out for you?
Gary: The only thing I’d say to that, is that be careful as coaches and particularly coaches, not parents, because obviously, we all want our kids to do well. Is that, make sure that you don’t draw conclusions too early? That’s probably been a really good point of view from my view, don’t draw a conclusion that you’ve got a world-leader and don’t come to the conclusion you’ve got not a world leader. I think that that’s where it’s been a really interesting story.
Some of my best players have been not identified early. Some of the players who have done really well have been identified early. Phoenix is one of the best examples that we can work with is that it opens at the age of 14 was never really looked up by the LTA. I was probably even, you could even argue that I was probably steered away from coaching because he wasn’t the right level for the place that I was working at. From his point of view, he didn’t come through until he was 14. When I say 14, he played main nationals at 14 and lost every match. Then you have the other side of the fence where somebody like Hannah Grady was competing or winning international events at 14 and 11, and 12.
I think you do have to be careful in getting too excited and then not writing kids off. I think that’s a really important thing for all coaches is that don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ve got something when when you haven’t. One of the things I would look for, I mean you’re going to go through the obvious things, you’re going to go through coordination of the coordinated.
You’re going to go through, you don’t look at that technique because that’s just coaching. If they’ve had a lot of coaching, particularly good coaching, hopefully, they will have learned good techniques. I wouldn’t necessarily look at technique. I would look at how they move. I would also look at how they compete. Having said all of that, no matter what they can’t do. This is something where it’s really been important in my coaching is that, one of the things that I would probably say, one of my philosophy is that I don’t just maximize talent.
I wouldn’t say that I maximize player’s talent, is that I will squeeze every single drop of talent or anything that player has about them out. I think that’s why I’ve been really good at. You deal with Elliot Barnwell, who’s number one in Great Britain who wasn’t selected for the LTA program, Felix Gill wasn’t selected for the LTA program. What I managed to do is really, really squeeze out every possible ounce of ability that these players have had and recognize what they’re good at. Felix needed at a young age, a lot of an awful lot of attention and a lot of nurturing and somebody like Hannah Grady incredibly talented, she needed different things as well.
I think what I’ll do is that it’s not, I’d look for it’s not always look for what they can do but what do you think they can do? What do you think else they can do? Sometimes their talent or that isn’t touched, they haven’t actually had anybody help them enough. I think that’s where some of my best players, Felix, one of my best player, and actually totally written off by Benelli, he’s turned out to be one of my best players. I think that that’s, what do I look for? Yes. Of course, you’re going to go through those things, but actually in terms of how they move, but one of the things I will go for now more than anything is I go for character. I will look at the character.
I will look at the character to see, what can you do with that character? Because if they’re showing good character, then you can do something with that. Now, good character doesn’t necessarily mean that their ego is anything. Felix wasn’t actually very coachable, but he had so many other good qualities and I just felt that I could bring out those qualities in him more and give him some confidence and teach him some things.
Then I thought I could have a good player and I kind of wasn’t wrong in my home playing with him. One of the things I’d say is a bit of character and it might necessarily be positive character. They feed to stubborn. He was still there and I’m not actually ended up being quite a good character because when I taught him something as well, we had a bit, there was, he was sometimes stopping and getting it.
Interviewer: Yes. Maybe so the message is, don’t write the children too early. There’s lots of bumps in the road isn’t there. What your message is really it’s about character and maybe the kids that are very easy to coach, maybe that’s not always the right thing. Is it?, if they’re easy to coach sometimes a bit stubborn, or a bit awkward. Maybe that shows some good characters for tennis in the future?
Gary: It’s how you pitch it. I think Felix, looking at Felix, sometimes he was a bit misunderstood, if that makes sense. I don’t profess that I did an impossible job, it was a possible job that someone could have done it, but they didn’t necessarily tweak things the right way with him. I found a way to make him work the right way.
Interviewer: Okay. We’ve a lot of parents on the calls tonight and I think it’d be really interesting for you to just talk, about the role of the parent and the journey and what would be your top tips for nurturing their child’s tennis?
Gary: Okay. I think, especially with young players, which generally speaking young players between five, six, seven, eight open until the age of 14, 15. I think parents actually are one of the really important factors of actually telling identification. I think that that’s where I’ve worked with and I’ve seen parents get it so long and I’ve seen parents getting so right. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some really good parents in my time. I’ve also been sometimes saddened in dealing with parents who haven’t necessarily handle their children as well as possible.
I think that one of the things that you can do is, unless you’re from a sporting background and this is only my belief, it’s only mine, unless you’re from a sporting background or unless you’ve got some quite vast tennis knowledge, I think that you’re better off leaving it to the coaches because and that’s why also making sure that you find a good coach. Making sure that you can do your homework on what good coaching looks like. Be the parent and do the things that parents should do. The one thing that you can do as a parent, which goes back is that don’t try and teach them technique. Don’t try and teach them where to hit the ball because you can get it wrong.
If you get it wrong, that’s going to have an adverse effect on the child. Don’t tell them how to be Johnny down the road. Leave that to the coaches, but the most important thing that you can teach them, which is the most important thing that I look for in players now is the character. Teach them to cope with adversity. Teach them to– I’m not telling you about parents now because it’s not just for how I see in-text, how to cope with diversity, how to fight hard, how to play fair, how to work hard in training, how to listen to instruction, how to do your best, how to– and actually, you know what? You see the best players in the world and I see them all the time.
Fundamentally, they’re good children, they’re good kids. They’re respectful, they have manners, they have good work ethics. They’re good problem solvers. They’re respectful with coaches and referees and all the rest of it. This was great stories about Coco Gauff about when she was at one of the tournaments, she cleaned her own tables at the end of when she was eating meals.
That’s the one thing I’d say is that don’t try and create, do something that you’re just perhaps not qualified to do. I think there’s always exceptions to the rule, but the one thing that the coaches need work with is building the child’s character. That’s really, really, probably the most important thing.
Interviewer: Leave the tennis alone unless you’re an expert? Leave the tennis alone.
Gary: I’m a dad myself and it’s a difficult job, sometimes you’re better off just not getting involved.
Interviewer: But it just sounds like what you’re saying really is all of the things you mentioned is really about whether it’s tennis or whether it’s starting off in a university or in business or whatever is in life. The skills you learn from a young age, that’s what the parenting skills are about. That’s what you’re saying, isn’t it? The stuff you’re talking about is real life skills, isn’t it? For anything.
Gary: I know it sounds really cliché, but when I look back at all the players that I’ve had, all the national champions and/or some of the players that have gone on to do well. They’ve had different degrees of being left-handed, right-handed boys, girls and irrelevant different socio-economic backgrounds, whatever it is. One common thing that they’ve all have had is a degree of good character. That can be different ways, or some were very, very really wants to work hard, so really were good competitors. Really look at the power on it, talk about it.
One of the fairest and most nicest kids I’ve ever dealt with and phenomenally good with Nationals 12th and 14th and mum and dad, very, very good parents, very, very good tennis parents. We didn’t have much issue in terms of Lucas production. I also, you can say I taught him good stuff. I taught some good folk, but actually one of the things that stands out with Luca is his character. It is his character. He’s got a nice forehand, he reads the game well, but he’s a great competitor. He works well. He’s a good kid and that’s been really important thing.
Interviewer: All right. Thanks for that. I think it’s fascinating stuff. Obviously you got a lot of good information there. We’ve got quite a few more questions, so we’re going to go from a little bit quick if you don’t mind, just to make sure we get through to the end because it’s really good stuff coming out. So you’ve spoke about parents and the importance of what a parent’s role is in the journey. What are the top tips for the coaches to make sure that kids reach their potential?
Gary: I think what I did with my players is I always had a vision of what I wanted them to look like. When they were seven, I always thought what do I want them to look like at nine. Then when they got to nine, then I want what do they need to look like at 11 and then it’s the same. I always worked always with a view of what I felt they needed to look like. I never– that’s why I wasn’t actually … results were up because results at a young age is a very short term, very, very short term.
Unless you really plan for the future, you can have very short-term success and then it can be taken away from you. The role can be taken away very quickly. If you get a degree of success along the way, along your journey, that’s a bonus. But if you’re teaching the right things and you’ve got a vision of doing the right things both now but for the future, the results are usually going to come. I wouldn’t necessarily be worrying about what the tournament that’s happening next month, or in two months, or the tournament in the weekend. I’d be looking, what do you want these kids to look like in one year?
If you want the kids to be a top national player, what does that look like? Felix is here now is that when he was 14, 13, and not as good as people would’ve liked him to be. I had a vision of what he needed to look like in 15, now he wasn’t going to be talking to National 15 because there wasn’t enough time. I had to have a vision of what did he need to look like to be sort of lowly international at 15? That’s the best I could cope with because he wasn’t going to be any better than that. We just didn’t have enough time and he had enough too many problems.
I then worked with a vision of why I needed him to look like. Once he got to 15 and he was doing pretty well, then I had a little look at what he needs to look like at 17. Ultimately, when he got to 18 and he was showing some ability at 16, what does he need to look like to be top 20 in the world? He needs to look like this and that was when he was six 16. I just worked every day, hours and hours, every single day, four hours a day, five hours a day unless talking and watching the videos and stuff to get him looking like that. Two years later, he’s top 20 in the world.
For coaches, make sure you have a vision of what you want, but not the end product to look like, because that’s when they’re 27. What do you want them to look like in two years? You need the first thing. It needs to be, first of all aware of standards. Whatever the standard is you think the child is going to get to, but then the hardest thing about it is how are you going to make that happen? How are you going to make that happen as a coach? You’ve got the technical side, the physical side, the mental side of the task and so on.
Interviewer: The coaches really have to go and find out that information, don’t they? Being at your club and thinking your player is great without knowing what the next level is. What you said very early in the chat tonight, you spoke about going off and seeing what the top 10 under 10 girls were when you work with Hannah. You’ve done that all of your career, you’ve always gone and looked at the better players. I think it’s a good message, isn’t it? To say don’t think your child is great you’re working with, unless you really do know what the next level is to try and research that?
Gary: I think that those of you that know me like … and Ryan and Ron Baldwin. I literally do eat, sleep and breathe tennis. I think that’s what when I finish, I literally do, and I’m not joking there. I literally watch, when I got home, I watch more tennis. When I’m at Saunders with Felix and he’s sleeping or eating, I’m usually watching tennis again, I’m usually finding more and more information on how both for his benefit and maybe for learning.
From coaches point of view is that educate yourself up to the hilt. That’s not necessarily coaching courses all the time, but it’s about you go the extra mile in terms of … on your own, and also there’s no point if you’re dealing with an eight-year old looking at tops of 14. There’s no point. I think that’s what coaches do, they look too far ahead. When they’re eight, just look at what you need them to look like at 10. Educate yourself up to the hilt.
Interviewer: Obviously you’ve worked with a lot of national standard players, and then some of those standard players have then taken the step up to international standard. If you could just give me a couple of points of what you think the difference is between national, international because that’s like obviously the next step, isn’t it? What’s a couple of points that you’d say the main difference is?
Gary: The first thing that you notice when you go to international events, especially when you’re doing this, for example, international Grade Five events and ITF level are usually full of players who are like low national events, low national standard in that country, like middle national. Generally speaking, then you play Grade Four, which are a little bit higher Grade Three’s till you get to Grade Twos, Grade One’s, and then the Grade Eights into the Grand Slams.
When you get to Grade Fives, the biggest difference between Grade Five’s and national standard to Grade Twos is kids are more competitive. They’re rolling over less often. The competitive spirit of the players is much higher. You get very few matches where the player just goes away. If you haven’t really worked until, especially once you get to grade eight, if you have not won, so you win the last ones.
Interviewer: You did say that Felix was quite stubborn as a young child when you working with him Actually, maybe that stubbornness just to hang in there and to fight– to hang in there for the match is a big attribute at this level.
Gary: I tried to turn the stubbornness that he had into a strength. I tried to make the fact that he was so stubborn turning him into not rolling over and that was really– but I had to do some technical work with him and he’s a really robust competitor now, yes.
Interviewer: Okay, so let’s move on to Felix and it’s been an exciting journey for both of you and especially this year with the grand slams and it’s been [sound cut] what has that experience been like this year going from maybe a club coach, national coach, and then on to the international circuit and going to the grand slams, what’s that been like?
Gary: Obviously, it’s great, you can’t pretend that it isn’t because it’s great to play. He played Wimbledon, he’s played the French open and he played Australian open, he didn’t get to play the US open, but it’s great and it’s a great motivation for him. If you don’t absolutely love being in those environments, then it’s sometimes I’ve had players play these tournaments before, and I’ve been there before he got there, but from a motivation point, that’s why– that’s surely– that’s when he’s up at six o’clock in the morning doing his SNC, or I’ve got him on the court doing an extra hour. That’s the reward and it’s a great experience and he’s seeing a lot of the pros play and he’s learning so much.
I know that when we’re there, that already when I’m at the grand slams, I’m already imagining what he needs to look like at 20, so I’m not standing still. When he’s playing the grand slams, I need to know– I’m trying to figure out this is what he needs to look like. If he’s going to succeed at 20, this is what he now needs to look. Now he’s here, he’s one of the best in the world, this is what he needs to look like. My job is different slightly from his, he’s enjoying the moment and it’s great, but I’m already thinking ahead,
Interviewer: If you just summarized Gary, the next step, obviously he’s doing fantastic at the moment and you speak about what he’s doing like at 20, if you could just summarize a few things that you think that Felix needs to do to get to the next level, what would they be?
Gary: The first of all, his character, it’s the same again. When we’re here now at tournament’s and now he’s gone from playing national tournaments, where if kids didn’t fancy playing they would just tank, or one kid would throw the racket. We play kids at nationals at Leeds or Berth where the kid– the racket would spend most times out the hand than in the hand, so he used to beat them, then we go to low national tournaments where, sorry international tournaments where you get a little bit of that again.
Then he would go to the main junior events and then he played against phenomenal competitors, but now he’s dealing with men who are there for a reason, they’re there to win. They’re not there because the coach has made them or their mom and dad have made them, or the Federation has made them, they’re there to win and they aren’t going to roll over or give in or give anything away to some 18 year old.
He’s had to reestablish his character again because his character is being tested and he needs to really work on being even more competitive, even more resilient, even more determined and aside from that, yes we have to talk about yes he’s going to get a bigger forehand, a bigger serve, but the biggest thing we’re working on at the minute, actually before his matches is being that person today that’s not going to roll over.
Interviewer: Yes, okay. On a slightly lighter note, I know we spoke yesterday about any sort of funny stories you’ve had when you’ve been traveling around. He’s doing a lot of traveling here, do you want to just let people know about the funny story we spoke about yesterday?
Gary: It’s not a funny story at all. So I-
Interviewer: I had quite a laugh about it actually.
Gary: -it’s just last week, bloody disaster. We we’re going to Australia and we’re very excited to be going to Australia and we get the flight from Birmingham, which is a great flight, isn’t it ,Birmingham? We’ve got to go get down the road, and then we get to the airport and there’s a delay on our flights for I think seven hours. We’re in Birmingham waiting for our flight to Dubai, Dubai to Melbourne, it’s a seven hour delay. We get on the plane and then we get off in Dubai, to find that Dubai Airport or has gone– it’s off at a tangent because it’s at a float.
We ended up waiting in Dubai, I think for– I think it was something like 36 hours and then we were given a hotel room where by the time we queued for the hotel room and by the time we were transported to the hotel room, we had like four hours’ sleep in the entire time. I was asleep in the bed and Felix was asleep in the chair and then in come a German couple. We were now sharing the room with some random German couple over there and I think it’s okay because we’re going to get to Australia soon. We get on the flight again, we leave Dubai hours later to find out that we can’t go to Melbourne, but we now got to go to Sri Lanka.
We have to go from Dubai then to Sri Lanka, we get delayed again in Sri Lanka and then to cut the long story tall– short, it took us nearly three days to get to Australia. We missed out on our practice and then when we got there, we were told that because of the fires, they were thinking of canceling the tournament. I’m not joking three days to be traveling that’s all that was going to take place whether I played on my own in Australia or not. We got to the airport and I’m tired, slightly irritable and they have lost our luggage. I spent nine days in Felix’s shorts and t-shirt and I figured this is a big lad– Felix’s shorts and t-shirt for nine days and flip flops.
Everyone’s rocking up in their Nike contracts and I’ve got– I look something like from Homer Simpson. I’m just dragging myself along with flip flops and so it arrives after nine days, but on the way we get … for three days. We’re in the car, we’re trying to find our apartment, Felix and I are literally killing each other and I said, “The apartments here.” He said, “No, the apartments there.” All I wanted to do is get in, have a rest, have a night’s sleep, have a glass of wine, chill out.
We find the apartment, there it is right hand side and I reversed the car into the scape outside the apartment. The car is a write-off and I have to then wait for the whole police report, a new car, imagine literally I’m looking at number 27 apartment and I hear a big bang, my windscreen has gone through, so yes, I managed to write off the car after 36 hours; after three days of traveling, no kit, no anything, I managed to write-off the car. Yes, it’s not a funny story, but it’s one I’ll remember.
Interviewer: I’m surprised that you and Felix are still talking after that. You know what you’re like when you’re irritable
I don’t know what your drive is like when you haven’t– when you got a lot of sleep, fairplay to Felix for sticking it out with you. Final question for me Gary is that, it’s nice to have you back working with inspire2coach coach. It’s been a bit of a full circle for us, hasn’t it? You’ve started working at the head of performance at …. university, and I know it’s been a bit of a stop-start situation, with you traveling and with coronavirus, et cetera, what have you been doing in those first few weeks that you’ve managed to get stuck in there?
Gary: …that we spoke about me doing some work there and I think the first thing that I liked about it was it was not just the– the venue is state of the art, which we know, but also it’s important to me to work around like-minded people that had a vision of creating something that they would support and we had the– we shared the same vision. That was really important that I entered that facility with that. That was really good and it’s been really great meeting with coaches who are like-minded and all that, of going into the instant facilities, just change the ethos of the center and train and change some of the training techniques, which is a little bit in keeping of what I’ve said previously really.
Just changing the program, making it a little more specific and making– and building the children’s characters by virtue of a good program. Yes, just tweak– just changing the program really, but changing the– changing how it’s run, but it was really in keeping with– and I’m speaking to you, Richard, that’s really in keeping it with how the staff at Warwick Uni wants the place to be wrapped, was in keeping with …. That was good and then obviously doing some– a bit of traveling in between with Felix, which obviously keeps my own education as a coach pretty up-to-date.
Interviewer: Gary that’s good stuff. We have got just a couple more minutes. I’m just going to ask you a couple of questions from the people that listened tonight. A question from Brian and we haven’t got too long Gary so if you won’t mind keeping it relatively short, “What changes has Gary seen in the coaching environment over the last 10 years. How has his approach changed over the last 10 years?” It’s almost a bit of a question about the changes you’ve seen really.
Gary: I think coaching has become more– I think there are more coaches how I used to do it and how I see it’s been more all encompassing. I think that the coaches should be working harder to get results. I think that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing that making sure they’re kept on their toes. That’s going to be like a national standard really, what’s going on in our country. Internationally, I think the competitive nature of the coaches is phenomenal, it’s phenomenal. What I’m seeing from other coaches it’s how learned, they’re conducting their business with their players is phenomenal. I think that it’s important that we know those coaches we’ve got to create a really good business. Bid me now, we’ve got to create good jobs.
Interviewer: Yes. Okay. Final question now, we’re running out of time. “Can I know your– I think he’s trying to say fortunately you’re working at the level you’re working at. You’ve obviously earned it and worked very hard to get there but a lot of the inspired or coached players are just starting out on their journey. This is really a bit of a question about starting out more than anything else. This is a question from Oman. “What advice would you give to late starters such as teenagers. What is the best route and the best brand for them? That’s our final question for tonight.
Gary: Teenage tennis players? Teenage coaches or teenage tennis players?
Interviewer: This is tennis players. What should you give to late starters such as teenagers. What is the best route and the best plan for them?
Gary: Well, I think the first thing is that I didn’t come through with my own tennis career till later. I wasn’t great at 13, 14 so I ended up being a much better player at 18. In fact I played my best tennis when I was in my mid 20s. The second thing, Felix hasn’t come good until he was late in his teens as well. I think that it’s not impossible so don’t feel that you started too late.
I think that you need to play as much as you can. Use every opportunity to play irrespective of who wins. The next thing is watch as much tennis as you can. Educate your knowledge in the game of tennis as much as you can and I’m still keen on that with Felix. I’m always sending him snippets on stuff that he’s educating himself with. Educate yourself with the game of tennis, play as much as you can and become as fit as you can.
Interviewer: That’s good advice. Okay. Gary, it’s been really nice talking to you tonight and I appreciate you giving up your time from your busy schedule. Thanks very much.
I think what’s come out tonight is a real passion. Real passion for tennis and for coaching. That’s out and it’s been great talking to you.
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