Did you choose your sport or did your parents choose it for you?
I Chose my sport, tennis, as I discovered it while on a family holiday in Spain and fell in love with it and wanted to join a club when I got home to the UK. I have never stopped being in love with it.
Were your parents actively supportive of you doing the sport?
Yes I was very lucky as I am from a very sporty family and have always been encouraged to do all sports. I enjoyed hockey netball and swimming and I did ballet seriously until I was 12 and had to decide to focus on what I preferred as my parents were run ragged driving us all to different activities (I was one of 3).
When did you start training regularly?
I started training regularly from age 11 and then was accepted into National training at 12 years old after I won the Nationals. I then moved to USA at age 15/16 to train full time over there.
Did your parents ever think being a professional sportsperson would be a good career for you?
They helped me make decisions and were positive about me trying to make it to the pro tour. My Dad was a business man and had travelled a lot in his career so I think he helped to make the right decisions.
Were you aware of the sacrifices your parents made for you? What were they?
My parents just helped me follow my dreams and I was lucky how supportive they were in helping me achieve my dreams. I definitely look back and appreciate how much they drove me to different tournaments and training sessions when I was young. My father also helped me to get a sponsor on board which helped financially with coaching,training and travelling.
How difficult is it/was it to balance sport and school?
Impossible! I look back and realise I pretty much gave up all my education which was not necessarily the right thing to do. I don’t regret it but I am not sure I would advise that again.
Did your training ever affect your school work; is this something that your parents were worried about?
Yes it had a big effect on my school work as I missed so much of it and was constantly trying to catch up with my friends and I would sit in exams with no knowledge of the lessons missed so it was a very hard but I was so focused on my tennis that I couldn’t think of anything else.
What did Sport give you as a child?
Sport gave me confidence as it was the only thing I was any good at but it also gave me humility and the ability to deal with losing as well as winning. I travelled extensively from age 12 and represented my country and learned about other cultures. Sport has given me so much in my life.
Would you encourage your children to take part in sport professionally?
I would only encourage it if they were absolutely passionate about it and I thought they had a chance. I think its a risk to give up on education when the chances to make it are slim and also burn out is common plus injuries can also halt progress. A normal childhood can never be re-lived and I often see parents putting too much pressure on a child to play professionally with no knowledge of the pathway ahead.
Do you think it’s a good idea for a child to focus on one main sport straight away?
No I don’t. I think if a child is that talented and good they will make it anyway. I have seen many tennis players who break through later as they have learned other skills from other sports. Often parents only introduce their children to what they liked and never give the child a chance to choose themselves. Its very important to try as many sports from early on to see what gets a child motivated and excited. Some are better suited to team sports too.