Mark Petchey interview

Leading activity holiday specialists Neilson Holidays have announced Mark Petchey, the former GB tennis player , as their tennis ambassador and consultant for the next two years launching a new tennis programme for the company in all their beach clubs . We were delighted that Mark took some time out from his busy schedule to talk to us about this exciting venture. This is how the conversation went:
What do you think sets Neilson Holidays apart from other activity holiday companies regarding the tennis coaching and facilities?
One of the reason’s I chose to work with Neilson Holidays was that they already had a great tennis programme. They’ve got years of experience about what guests want on the court and have come up with a great model. It’s all about doing as much, or as little, as you like. It is a holiday after all. But by making the coaching sessions engaging, offering a range or coaching options and by adding a social element, the guests get really into it and many do more than they expect! They have courts at all of their beachclubs, except cosmos in Greece, so you can get involved wherever you chose to go.
What do you see as the main challenges for you being an ambassador and consultant for them as well as coaching and playing tennis with their guests?
When I first started, the main challenge was to make sure that the programme was delivered uniformly across all the Neilson beachclubs. We want the guests to know that wherever they chose for their holiday, the coaching will be of the same standard. That’s why I spent two days training all the Neilson head coaches ready for the start of the season. We want to make Neilson beachclubs the go-to place for tennis holidays, whilst keeping the holiday spirit alive. We need to keep that balance. I can’t wait to get on the court and start playing with guests myself. I love to coach!
How do you feel about working with the 20 or so other Neilson coaches? Have you met any of them yet?
As I said, we ran a two-day training event for all the Neilson head coaches. They’re a fantastic group and it was great for me to meet and work with them. Over the two days, we made some helpful decisions to fine-tune the programme at our beachclubs and I shared my top tips on how to teach new skills and increase guests’ confidence. I have full confidence that we’re all on the same page and that they will be able to strike the right balance between helping guests to improve and remembering they’re on holiday so want to have a good time!
Is there any particular part of these roles that you are looking forward to most?
Simple answer. Getting on court at the beachclubs. Cant wait!
The holidays seem to encourage everyone from beginners to competent tennis players. Do you have any specific ideas which you hope they will incorporate into their programmes?
The concept for the programme is that everyone leaves their holiday a more confident player, whatever their ability. We do this by making sure that guests are coached with players of the same level. As well as providing a range of coaching and practice options so that people can do as much, or as little, as they like. If you’re a beginner, you’ll work to improve a particular shot (or shots) on your tennis holiday e.g forehand/serve. If you’re a more advanced player, you’ll leave your holiday with a better understanding of strategy whilst still improving your shots where necessary.
On a personal level what has been the highlight of your career?
I think my wins over Michael Stich and Chang when they were both ranked two in the world and when I beat Muster in Davis Cup were highlights for me. I enjoyed playing Becker at Wimbledon in the third round despite being beaten comfortably!!
Assuming your daughters play tennis, do they allow you to coach them?
My daughters are 17 and 14 and yes they still allow me to coach them. I have learnt an incredible amount working with them too. It has really opened my eyes to how hard it is to bring young kids up and develop their games. It can be intense on the court at times as you’re trying to help them do something they love and be the best they can be. It’s been great fun too. Most importantly, we have always managed to leave the intensity at the club and never bring it home. I think I have a great relationship with them both but maybe you should ask them what they think!!
After the success of the British Davis Cup team winning, what do you think Andy Murray has to do to win Wimbledon this year?
Andy is currently playing some of the best tennis I have ever seen him play so I don’t think he needs to do too much different. He is serving great and has made a few changes which have been very beneficial. If he can continue to do that at Wimbledon with his returning game then he can win it again for sure.
This summer Mark Petchey is working as a tennis ambassador and consultant for active holiday specialist Neilson.  Find more tips on playing tennis on the Neilson tennis hub:
By Karen Rolfe

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