2012: the year for Sport. Anyone watching SPOTY last Sunday would be testament to that. A year for all involved in sport to feel highly motivated and ready for 2013, it has given us reason to do what we do and most importantly has inspired a generation. I know it has inspired me!
Over the last couple of weeks I have been reviewing 2012 for SotoTennis and even though we don’t have Bradley Wiggins in our set up we do have some very notable successes and some more subtle but equally important and proud achievements.
Starting with the important people – the players.
January could not have started better, we had our very own Grand Slam Champions! Full-Time Player Josh Ward-Hibbert alongside STA Access Player Liam Broady won the Junior Australian Open Doubles. A moment that will stay with me for a long time and a very proud one at that. Josh also went on to make the quarter finals of the singles in Australia, as well as 5 Grade A ITF events Doubles titles in a row and a career high ranking of 9 in the world juniors.
In the same week, we had our first professional player qualify for a Grand Slam in Valeria Savinykh before losing to eventual semi-finalist Sara Errani. Valeria went on to break the top 100 in the world under our team’s guidance and notably Dominic Mahboubi who did a great job with Valeria. She achieved this by qualifying and winning her first round in Miami Masters beating a top 40 WTA player along the way.
We have had 10 different FT Players competing at ITF level and notable ranking increases for Sam Bayda and Peter Bothwell and then Alex Stiteler who moved into the Top 200 ITF rankings with 2 ITF tournament wins.
David Miladinovic and Jake Fisher have competed well at Tennis Europe Events with both rising significantly int he rankings, but more importantly have started their international tennis journey. Alongside Bradley Stoneham who has had victories at 2 Southern Spain Championship Tournaments, the future is bright in this age category. Morad Mackey is working hard to join this group too.
Dakota Norton, Danny Bristow, Andy Lynk, Josh Curwen , Chaney Norton and James Mackinlay, have all experienced the ‘winning’ feeling in Spain and are ready to try their luck on the international scene in 2013
At the futures level, Josh Ward Hibbert and Mikey Suleau have both picked up their first world rankings and will be joined on the tour with TJ Bate, Ryan Moffat and Callum Henderson in 2013.
We welcome new FT Players Mariella Blackwell, Isaac Sturgess and Ryan Mcelvenny who all bring the qualities we look for in a STA Player and we are excited about what lies ahead for them.
With regards to our Access Players…did someone say Strawberries and Cream?!
Freddie Nielsen and Jonny Marray only went and won Wimbledon! Words cannot describe how happy and proud I was for the boys on that day in July – the same day as my son’s Christening and another day that will live long in the memory. We hope the boys will be back to meet you all in 2013 to share their inspirational story with you.
We have had visits from US Open Junior finalist Liam Broady, top 200 in the world ATP Doubles James Cluskey, Evan Hoyt top 50 in the world ITF, former European number 1 U14 Ana Brogan. U12 National Champion the last 2 years Luke Hammond and Finn Bass. Katie Swann National Finalist, George Hutchins National Semi-Finalist, Joe Tyler and Will Davies (both top 5 in the UK) and many many more. All who have brought something different to the Academy and in turn we hope that we have provided the same in return.
As on SPOTY- all the athletes thanked their ‘support staff’. Do not underestimate the importance of these guys behind the scenes. 18 months ago I had to fill all these positions and not very well may I add. So, now at the end of 2012 it gives me great pleasure to look at the STA team, the experts we have in the team with the number one quality ‘they care’ and boy do they work.
I am excited to announce our new Head Coach is Nathan Rooney who has once again proved to everyone what an asset he is on and off the court. Nathan has also been completing his LTA Masters Performance course which is no mean feat and certainly a massive asset to all at the Academy. We have added to the coaching team with Joe Dixon, who has slotted right into his role and is a big hit with all at the Academy.
Our Sport Science ‘support team’ has gone from strength to strength. It is hard to imagine that Luke Passman has only been with us for 12 months, as he has transformed the way our players are looked after from a Strength and Conditioning point of view, as well as the attention to detail been executed in monitoring of training loads at the Academy. We have been joined by Rob Chave in recent months who has strengthened the team significantly and is working with Luke to ensure our players continue to move forward physically and ultimately we have them on the tennis court ready to play in good health.
Nick Morgan, a performance director alongside myself for the Academy, as well as leading the Sports Science team has brought in Hannah Macleod to run our nutritional programme; we are extremely lucky to have Hannah and she has added such a nice blend of knowledge and ‘aura’ as she brings in her Bronze Medals from London 2012 – and Yes Hannah we all saw you on SPOTY! (Hannah was a key member of the GB Women’s Hockey Bronze medal Team).
Christo Schultz arrived from the States a few weeks ago and has already added value to the team with his great hitting ability and energy that lifts the place.
On the Operations side, my amazing wife, Vicki, holds this ship together and has to put up with my obsessive moods and demands. A special woman to run our family and our business while I flap around!
Our Education Manager, Louise Tavares, has been brilliant and provides the players with a strong ground for the future. This alongside our partnership with Sotogrande International School which grows year on year puts our student-athletes in a strong position.
Over the last 12 months we have had 2 players move onto US College both with full scholarships. Ella Taylor went to LSU in September and Joe Smithyman arrives in the States early 2013 to Niagra University. This is something we hold very close to us at the Academy.
The players have been looked after with great passion by Lorraine and Billy Bate as ‘Accommodation Managers’ – a role that is integral to the success of the Academy. Thanks guys!
We have been fortunate to have some great press this year on a National Level
- Times Newspaper UK
- BBC 5 live radio
- Sky TV
- LTA website
Our STA Graduation piece has been a big success. 90% of our players have completed 70% or more of the scheme including skills such as:
- String rackets
- Writing a blog for the website
- Looking after a budget on a trip
- Entering/withdrawing from events
- Booking flights
Reading back over this blog it sounds like it is fiction and I am making it all up. I just pinched my self and can assure you all that it is not. I could not feel more positive as the Director of this Academy in what we have all collectively achieved. Nothing is perfect and we will continue to have difficult days, but we must keep our eyes forward on the clear objectives we all have in place and continue to take baby steps towards them. Taking care of what is in our control on a daily basis is not a bad place to start. This Academy is built on ‘good people’ and will remain so over the coming years.
I will leave you all now to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2013, lets start there and see where the rest of the year takes us.
I hope you enjoy the video of the Academy – maybe puts it better than my blogs. http://vimeo.com/55550315
Play to Win
Director, SotoTennis Academy
Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain