Having played tennis since the age of 4 and travelled Europe to compete professionally, Hollie is now the Head Coach of a Tennis Club in Cheshire as well being the Director of her own Tennis coaching Company.
Alongside her coaching duties, Hollie was recently selected by Leeds Beckett University (UK) to pioneer their pilot mentor scheme for up and coming female performance coaches. ?And, in her spare time (if she has any left after all of that) she is studying a??Masters in Sports Directorship.
Hollie recently appeared in a BBC Sport film about the lack of female coaches (CLICK HERE to view) alongside the FCN, where she explains why she thinks there are a lack of female coaches in tennis. In our exclusive interview, Hollie talks about her own career and what changes she thinks need to be made in the World of Tennis.
How old where you when you started playing tennis and what first inspired you to pick up a tennis racket?
I was about 4 years old when my Dad gave me a tennis racket and took me to the local playing fields with a bucket of tennis balls and let me whack balls as far as I could ? I loved it! Then when I was 6 we moved to the South of France, the village had tennis courts and all the children played and received weekly group coaching so I got into tennis there ? French tennis has a great club culture and competition system there?s a lot we could learn from them in the UK.
You went on to have a pretty successful career can you tell us about some of your achievements and your experience of coaching?
I had a good junior career, I was lucky to have some really excellent coaches who focused on making me love tennis rather than pushing me to reach certain milestones at certain ages as is so often the case. I was lucky enough to have a fantastic female coach who was a great role model for me as well as excellent male coaches. I represented my county at both Junior and Senior level. I went on to play college tennis in the US and later achieve a WTA ranking quite late in my 20s something which is difficult given how strongly the women’s tournament system in the UK favours junior fulltime players. It is almost impossible to compete at national level now in England if you can’t play fulltime a luxury most adults, male or female, can?t afford! I’m very passionate about adult tennis and opportunities for adults to compete at a high level as they do in France and Germany.
How did your playing career evolve into coaching? Was this something you had always wanted to do?
I helped out with coaching in my local club as a teenager and gained my coaching qualifications alongside my playing career. After my time as a player in the US collegiate system I went on to be Graduate Assistant Coach for the Women?s team at Valdosta State. Even then I wasn?t sure I wanted to make a career in coaching or sport, I had always maintained my educational qualifications alongside my sport so I had options which I think is very important for young athletes. I took breaks from tennis and worked in other things but always missed it and came back. About 2 years ago I set up my own coaching company, became Head Coach at Claremont and went on to gain my LTA Level 4 Senior Performance Coach qualification.
You are currently the Head Coach of Claremont Tennis Club in Cheshire, what is involved with this role day to day and what other coaching projects are you involved with?
It’s a great job as I am lucky enough to work with some lovely players and club volunteers. Everyday is different as I coach adults and juniors, run corporate tennis events, parties and tournaments. I liaise with the committee to help with the daily running of the club and design the club coaching programme, As I mentioned earlier I’m passionate about adult tennis and have made it a priority to build a thriving adult coaching programme at Claremont, something which is proving a great success. I have just begun a Masters in Sports Directorship at MMU which is already helping me be a better coach, leader and business women so I am very excited about the 2 years ahead.
Can you tell us about the mentoring programme you are piloting with Leeds Beckett University?how did you get involved with this and what is involved with the programme?
Leeds Beckett ran a pilot scheme last year to mentor a high performance female coach who was also still competing at a high level, I was lucky enough to be selected. It was great to get the opportunity to work in such an excellent coaching environment. This experience really emphasised for me the importance of mentoring, it helped me gain confidence in myself both as a coach and as a player. I really hope the scheme continues so that more female coaches like myself can benefit.
What is your ultimate ambition as a coach?
Every time I help someone achieve progress with their game or mentality and keep them enjoying tennis I’m achieving a large part of my ambitions as a coach.
On a larger scale ultimately I’d like to change the face of UK competition tennis so that we see high-performance players able to continue competing into their 20s and 30s, therefore breathing new life into club tennis and inspiring the next generation of tennis players. As a junior nothing motivated me more than seeing my coach compete, this is something we need a lot more of in English tennis.
What do you think are your biggest challenges in achieving this ambition?
In order to see this happen we will need a significant change of attitude and institutional culture within British tennis that’s a big journey!
Why do you think there are a lack of female coaches in the elite levels of tennis and why do you think not many ex-female players become coaches?
Tennis is an interesting one because the female side of the sport itself is fairly high profile compared to women?s football or rugby for example, and yet the coaching side has remained very male dominated. I think it has become a self-fulfilling culture where the norm is a male coach and it becomes difficult for women to break that cycle or to see themselves in that role. Amelie Mauresmo has been a great role model for female coaches in elite tennis and Andy Murray has been brave in his outspoken clarity about his choice. We need more role models like these two, both coaches and athletes who show that women can and do make fantastic high performance coaches, as do some men, and we need to judge on merit not on gender.
What advice would you give to other female coaches wanting to work in high performance tennis?
Be determined! Don’t get put off by the frustrating sexism that you will unfortunately encounter in some quarters. Believe in yourself and your coaching ambitions and grab every chance you get with both hands! Find a mentor, male or female, who can help you through your career journey. Coaching is a tough career but the rewards make it worth all the challenges you can change people for the better, helping your athletes achieve some of the best moments of their lives!