Welcome back! So ready to continue the story? (If you haven't read Part 1, click here) Let’s go.
In 2007 and 2008 I organised and ran an 8-ball pool tournament down at our local pub in Luddesdown, The Golden Lion. Once a week, for 23 weeks running, 38 different players participated (yes, it’s on a spreadsheet) to be crowned the weekly champion and win the prize money. I was lucky enough to win the jackpot on 8 occasions, a tournament record. 😊
From 2007-2009 I studied Sports, Development & Fitness at MidKent College. My favourite module? 'Organising Sports Events’, I received a distinction for that one. During this time, I hosted a charity table tennis tournament for Clic Sargeant. 15 boys, 10 girls & 4 events (singles & doubles). Somehow, I won the boys event (I’m not sure how - table tennis is not my strongest sport)
For 7 years (2009-15) I also hosted my own annual five-a-side football tournament, where my dad even videoed every match. Afterwards, I created my own first video edit 'Ell's Birthday Football Tournament 2014: Top 10 Goals'. As always, I recorded all the statistics on a spreadsheet. I even used to go back through the videos and record the stats, shots, passes, and even possession! This involved pausing the video every time possession changed and adding up the total seconds each team had the ball. I genuinely enjoyed doing it (madness, I know!)
My next idea? I’m 22 and the year is 2012, London is hosting the Olympics (you can see where this is going). Hello - EJ Olympics! Twenty-six of us were involved and I split everyone into four teams. We had Gravesend, Medway, Maidstone & Kent Villages [everyone else]. In total, there were 23 events, all to be played throughout the whole year. Featuring athletics, racket sports, darts, snooker, pool, golf, go-karting, weightlifting, rowing, and more. This was some serious organising. The highlight for me was renting Deangate Ridge athletics track out for a whole day while we did 100m, 200m, 400m, 1500m, long jump, discus, hammer & javelin (yes, I bought 2 javelins). None of us could walk for about a week, and I had fallen over during the 400m and injured my arm quite significantly. But I loved it; loved the organising, loved the competition, loved the responsibility. Gravesend were the champions, mainly down to the Whitehead brothers, my two friends Jack and Terry. They won 6 out of the 7 Athletics events, with Terry running the 100m in a record time of 12:47. Me? I didn’t win 1 event, I had to make do with 3 silver medals in tennis, 200m and long jump.
Throughout this blog I have been talking about the main events and tournaments I have organised, but there have been a few small ones too! From FIFA tournaments, a chess tournament, my own quizzes, eleven-a-side football matches, 8-ball pool leagues, snooker leagues and so much more. For EJTT i even used to host an end of year awards night, players would dress up smart,collect awards, and i'd even wrote my own quiz, with questions all about EJTT that year and tennis in general. Reece & I went through a stage of doing interviews for EJTT too, complete with our own advertising boards in the background. Honestly, if there was any opportunity for me to organise a tournament, I would take it. Every friend group has that one friend that is ‘the organiser’, and they get people together, organise events, and take responsibility. That is me. It’s not just tournaments, I like organising anything really.
As mentioned before, my tennis tournament, EJTT, is one of my great successes. I’d like to explain to you why I fell in love with tennis and why it’s the sport that I am most heavily involved with. I first started playing properly in 2006 when I was sixteen years old. Three years later, after over 100 friendly matches played; I was nineteen and I felt ready to play in my first proper LTA tennis tournament. At the time, there were very few tennis tournaments available to play for over eighteen-year olds, just the one in fact: an under 21’s event at Sundridge Park, near Bromley. Despite this being a grade 3 tournament, a much higher standard than me, I entered anyway as there weren’t any other options. I played two matches and lost both significantly. The following year, I again entered the Sundridge Park event and lost both my matches convincingly. I couldn’t understand why there was such little opportunity to play competitive tennis.
This motivated me even more to carry on running my own tennis tournaments - to provide enthusiasts and those with an interest in tennis with more opportunity to play competitively. My first positive experience came playing at Gravesham TC in the Autumn of 2010. The tournament was a grade 6, much more my standard, and run very well by Lorna Pender and Angie Suleau. I played four matches, won three, and was awarded my first trophy outside of EJTT, in the consolation final. Angie and Lorna always offered very well-run tournaments.
By 2012, pressure had built on the LTA, and several adult tournaments finally started to appear on the calendar [at least five or six were now available] I unfortunately had my worst experience playing in a tennis tournament at Sundridge Park in the summer of 2012. This was a tournament I had enjoyed previously, but on this occasion, it was awful. Reece and I had travelled over an hour to get there and waited 2 and half hours to finally get onto the court. It was here that I lost my first ever match 6-0, 6-0 in just under 30 minutes. After reporting the result to the tournament referee, I asked when my next match would be (every tournament must guarantee the player at least 2 matches.) The referee replied that they wouldn’t be doing a consolation draw as there wasn’t a demand for it. But I could tell that he just didn’t want the hassle of organising the extra matches. I tried to argue my point but wasn’t getting anywhere. He wasn’t interested in what I had to say. I had paid £18 for this experience, and they wonder why our country can’t produce any decent tennis players? Who would feel motivated to play tennis again after this experience? It did have one positive effect on me though, I was now more motivated than ever to run good quality tournaments. I want to give people playing tennis a better experience, and more of an opportunity to play. Reece had told me that when he played tournaments in France, players only played against others of the same rating, before going up to play higher rated players. In England you could be a 10.2 rating and draw a 6.1 in virtually every tournament, this was ridiculous, an awful experience for both players. In tennis you need to play someone of similar ability to yourself, otherwise it’s no fun at all. I started to run my tournaments the French way, a progressive draw, if you like. This made for closer matches and a better general experience.
So, by the end of 2014 I had experience running leagues/tournaments in tennis, football, snooker, pool, table tennis, athletics, squash, badminton and golf. A big change in my life was coming, a drastic career change. From working at Lloyds Banking Group, I trained to be a ski instructor and moved to Verbier, Switzerland. This still is the best decision I've ever made, and I found a new sport to fall in love with.
Find out in part 3 next week why it wasn’t skiing...