Welcome to ProjectAA, 'Accomplish Anything'. I strongly believe that with the right mindset, work ethic, and the ability to plan effectively, it is possible to accomplish anything you want in life. My goal is to become a high-performance tennis coach at the highest levels of professional tennis. ProjectAA is my journey to achieving this goal. Throughout this journey, I have many other projects I intend to complete which involve helping others accomplish their goals. I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to my journey so far.
Tennis has grown to be my life, my passion, and my love. It has provided me with several opportunities that have allowed me to make a difference in the world we live in today. Tennis has given me the freedom to express myself, where I can be open and not have to worry about being judged for who I am. As you probably know, life throws many challenges and setbacks, and it is down to us as humans to overcome these moments to become the best version of ourselves. Tennis has done this for me.
Tennis started for me at Burgess Park Tennis Centre (BPTC), located in Camberwell, South East London. Nothing like the ages most kids are starting these days, I began playing at the age of nine. Fortunately for me, I followed in the footsteps of my older brother who was the first member of the family to start playing. To add, BPTC is only two minutes away from my home! This acted as two great incentives for me to not only pick up a racket but also continue playing long term. During my junior years at BPTC, I was a regular player in the coaching program. Being able to transition through the development stages of the program into the performance stage was a great achievement. I would like to give a huge thanks to Milton Gayle (Club coach), Umran Ali (Head Coach), Alex Kaminski (Club Coach), William Guillermo (Club Coach) & Tom Uliscak (Club Secretary) for the constant support and faith in me both on and off-court which allowed me to become a county/regional level player. BPTC also played the most important role in kick-starting my coaching career by providing me with the tools to attain my Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) coaching certifications. Without this support, I would not be in the fortunate position I am in today. This will always be appreciated.
Coaching started for me in 2015 where I was acting as an assistant coach during holiday camps at BPTC. This was an amazing experience as I was only 16 at the time, so to have other juniors in the program look up to me and follow instructions felt great. At this point, I think the club realized my passion for working with young children, hence the suggestion for me to take the LTA Level one coaching qualification. I completed the Level one qualification, followed by the level two and three. Within the space of two years, I had completed all three courses, being one of the youngest coaches to complete all three in such a short period. In conjunction with my coaching qualifications, I was also in the process of completing my A-Levels and making the important decision whether to go into full-time employment or continue with further education. With advice from my teachers and family, I chose to go down the route of further education and enrolled at the University of Roehampton to study a degree in BA Sports Coaching. Having completed my A levels, I received an unconditional offer for the degree. I believe that this course was the best decision for me to learn about the intricacies of sports coaching and not just tennis, something which I was keen to learn.
One of my goals when applying to Roehampton was to get into the tennis 1st team. I changed coaches and started working with Barry Bartley, a self-taught high-performance tennis coach who specializes in preparing players for competitions including college/university and professional tennis. Barry has taken his son Lamar to the highest levels of British tennis, where Lamar achieved a national ranking of number three in the UK in the U18's age group in 2014. He also worked with a female junior player for two years and within this time she achieved a Junior ITF world ranking. I was also fortunate to be given the role of Lamar's official racket stringer, as well as watching him compete at ITF Futures level competitions, which are the first stage to professional tennis.
Since working with Barry and Lamar, my game has developed to a phenomenal level. Barry has given me the tools to beat players above my level, due to his knowledge and understanding of the requirements to get a player to win! Barry is a technical and tactical genius and as a result, has taught me how to play a unique brand of tennis, 'The Simple Science of Performance Tennis (SSPT) band!'. As a personal mentor and close friend, Barry has also helped me develop my knowledge in coaching, both generally and in a performance setting. Lamar, who is currently number one on the Oracle/ITA NJCAA Men’s National Singles Rankings in the USA has been my sparring partner for the past five years. To have a sparring partner at this level has been a great pleasure. I have also been fortunate to receive racket and string sponsorship with Mantis tennis through Barry and Lamar.
Barry has always believed in promoting diversity on a level playing field whilst aiming to address the balance in developing BAME players to become the best that they can be. When Barry mentioned these values, I was instantly interested in becoming apart of this as it is something I also believe in. With Barry’s knowledge and experience he had developed over years, he created the concept of The Simple Science of Performance Tennis which incorporates both the developmental and performance stages of tennis. By being apart of SSPT, I have been fortunate enough to learn the unique trade of performance coaching. This has given me the fundamentals for my coaching career when working in high performance.
Due to the development of my game as a result of working with Barry and Lamar, I was promoted to the number one spot in the team in my final year. This was a great achievement as it showed the hard work and dedication we had put in throughout the three years. On an academic note, I graduated with a Batchelor of Arts, Second Class (Upper Division) 2:1 in the summer of 2019. Being able to stand on the podium and receive my certificate at the graduation ceremony was a dream come true and a moment I will never forget! Following my degree, I decided to take a gap year to give myself time to plan out my next steps. I spent a lot of time traveling the world, visiting countries such as Portugal, Greece, Spain, and the USA. This was a great experience as it was the first time I had left the country since I was five years old! Going to Greece, where I was working for Mark Warner (a holiday activity specialist company) was the most challenging out of all the trips as it was the first time I had ever coached abroad!
When I returned from Greece, I was offered a job as a self-employed pro at David Lloyd in Cheam. Working for David Lloyd was always a goal of mine due to their reputation as being Europe’s leading health, sport and leisure group. I had applied to three David Lloyd Clubs previously but was unsuccessful, so this was a great self-confidence boost. This just goes to show what you can achieve when you are dedicated and persevere. I worked for David Lloyd from October 2019 right up until March 2020, which was the period where we had to go into national lockdown due to COVID-19. This was a real shame as I was beginning to get myself known at the club by the members. Club members were regularly asking me for sessions, both on a group and individual basis. This was a lovely feeling as the role required self-promotion for me to build a better relationship with the members in the hope of attracting them to work with me. I was beginning to get to this level and the members could see. Unfortunately, my David Lloyd experience came to an end due to COVID-19.
The UK National Lockdown due to COVID-19 which began in March 2020 was (and probably has been) the most testing experience I have been through with my tennis journey. Lockdown taught me several key values such as patience, perseverance, planning, dedication, discipline, and mental strength. The pain of not being able to step on a tennis court every day to do what I love grew deeper. Nonetheless, I had to stay strong and go through the phase like everyone else. Thankfully, the support of my family and friends is what kept me going. In moments like this, having the closest people around me was the key.
Once the lockdown rules had eased and we were allowed to play tennis again, it was the best feeling ever. My first hit back on court was amazing, almost as if I had just picked up a racket for the first time! On one of the days when I was coaching at BPTC, I was approached by the LTA to take part in a community project called the 'Humans of the Court' (see blog for the article!). This series was created to bring real-life stories from all people involved in tennis about their journeys. It was a great opportunity for me to tell my story and encourage more people to pick up a racket and try tennis! Following the exposure from this project, I was then asked to produce a piece about black history month (see blog for the article!) and my experiences and changing lives and perceptions within tennis. Taking part in these projects were not only great for my exposure, but they also allowed me to express my views on key topics within tennis.
Now beginning to approach the end of summer 2020, I was preparing to start my master's degree at the University of East London in Sports Management. This was a choice I had made during the lockdown as I keen to learn more about the management and business side behind sports. I was offered a place by the university to join the course and was also selected on their sports scholarship program and tennis team. The University of East London has one of the best sports programs and facilities, so good that the USA Olympic team train there! So to be amongst such a great team felt amazing. To go alongside my studies, I also applied for a coaching role at the Wimx Tennis Academy located in Essex. The Wimx Tennis Academy is run by a team of high-performance coaches who previously played at Grand-slam level. To work with this level of the coaching team at such a young age has benefitted me greatly as I have been able to learn different methods and practices that I can now apply to my coaching. Fortunately for me as well, Wimx also controls the training program for the East London University players. So this was a perfect choice for me to begin my tennis scholar career and also work with the same academy players at the same venue. Working with Wimx has also provided a perfect opportunity for me to apply the knowledge I had gained with Barry and Lamar in a high-performance academy setting.
On one of the days when coaching a student of mine at BPTC, they mentioned to me about the potential Head Coach role which was being advertised at the Butterfly Tennis Club (BTC), also located in Camberwell South East London. I had done some coaching sessions at the BTC in the past, so I was already familiar with the club. With two courts, a mini tennis court and the opportunity to design and deliver a comprehensive coaching program, I was instantly sparked by the opportunity and told my student to put my name forward. I was then contacted by one of the committee members to begin the process of getting a new Head Coach. I was asked to run the weekly kids' sessions on Sunday mornings for the rest of the summer term and also for the committee to see me in action! After two months, I was then called in for a formal interview with three of the committee members to discuss the role. This interview was very intense but at the same time relaxing. I felt very comfortable discussing my views with the members, and as the interview went on I was beginning to feel more relaxed. After two weeks, I then received the wonderful news that I would be the new Head Coach of the BTC. This was such great news to receive before the end of the year and I couldn't wait to get started!
Now as the Head Coach of the BTC, I am looking forward to developing a community tennis program that can provide young children the opportunity to pick up a racket play tennis. With this program, it will provide opportunities for children who may never have the chance to play tennis. I also look forward to developing the adult tennis program by running high-intensity drills sessions and one to one private lessons that will work alongside the individual's personal goals.