Tennis was always a very prominent game in our family. My grandparents were both very handy players and Mum was a bit of a jet around the local tennis scene. She got my brother and I into coaching at one of the local clubs in Albany. We got pretty bored of standing in lines and waiting to hit with a bloke (that I think I could have beaten left handed) who really didn’t make the lesson all that fun. But it was cheap, wasn’t the best coaching option in town, but it was within our means. My brother and I would hit and hit and hit and hit, at Merrifield Park, against a wall, on the road, at the old hospital court, and when he wasn’t available, I’d grab another mate to hit with.
Pretty soon I got good enough (standard and court etiquette) to play at Merrifield Park Tennis Club with the adults. This was possibly one of the best feelings in the world, been included with the adults out there made you feel like “you’ve made it – earned their respect” and the love affair began.
Still a very keen (and possibly good) soccer player as well, winter was taken up with soccer commitments, but summer was spent grinding it out on court and working my way up the MPTC player rankings.
It wasn’t until I was 15 or so (still with no formal coaching – just the occasional holiday camp with Albany’s then no 1 coach, Peter Holmes and Perth coach Peter Dyson) that I think i reached my best level of junior tennis, and made a club champs against the clubs no 1 player Les Bairstow (who would go on to be my brother in law – but that’s another story for another day). This bloke could play. Had all the power off both sides and a serve to match and was like a terrier and ran every ball down. I think the first 5 times we played finals he kicked my but, outsmarted, out hit, out played me time after time.
School finished and I moved to Perth to follow the Soccer dream (and a girl) and pretty soon I was playing for Soccer at Cockburn City and the tennis racquets had gone away.
A few years later they came out again, just socially with a few mates, then I had a bloke at Higgins Park TC ask if I would be keen to tryout for their pennant team. I think it was just a div 3, but after not hitting a ball for ages, I came back with a “huge” topspin forehand which alone, would win me matches.
Soccer was still going well and on a tour around Northern WA with a WA under 21s team I got crunched in a tackle and broke my collarbone and dislocated my shoulder. No operation, just a reset (worst decision of my life) and I went through 2 years of constant dislocations of the shoulder and hospital visits. Finally I had had enough (of Perth – injuries – girls) and wanted to head home – get a shoulder reconstruction and start a new life back in my home town.
Then it happened. Went to the local club, was hitting a few balls with some younger kids and I felt in about 10 mintes I had given them some advice. I wasn’t bragging, but even though I had only played maybe 20-30 times over the last 4 years, I had a weapon, more knowledge, my fitness was great, and i had grown about a foot since I last stepped on the MPTC courts. A couple of parents asked if I would hit with their kids, Nev Koenig who was very heavily involved in our tennis association contacted me and asked if i would be keen to do my level 1 coaching course – and that was that. Part time to full time in a few years. A few kids 13 and a half years ago to more than 1000 kids a week now.