The Life of an Island Tennis Professional
Soneva Jani is the 1.8km long island that I’m currently calling home. Despite being such a
small part of the world, it is filled with highly-skilled, interesting and passionate people who hail from all corners of the earth. In my blogs so far, I’ve talked to our Maldivian Astronomer, British Marine Biologist and Indian Permaculturist, about their work, lives on the island, and books that are important to them.
This week I’m talking to Nicola Reynolds, Tennis Professional from the UK.
What does your day to day involve?
I start with tennis lessons in the early morning when it’s cool, then head to the guest area to
meet guests and set up classes. During the hours of 11-3, it is far too hot to play so I use that as downtime. Late afternoons and evenings are when the lessons start again, for guests and some host lessons late in the evening.
Every day can vary a lot though so there’s no set routine. That can be a tough part of teaching on a resort but having flexible time can also be a bonus.
What has your journey with tennis been so far?
It might seem like I started young as I picked up a racket and started playing at the age of 12, but in the high-performance world that’s quite late, most of my peers started playing around the age of 4.
I went to IMG Tennis Academy in Florida when I was 12-16, a high-performance training academy for athletes. After that I went on the road and joined the ITF (International Tennis Federation) circuit, travelling to competitions around the world. At the age of 19, I stopped competing on the tour and got in coaching professionals and sparring (travel coach and hitter).
When I was 22, I began one of two working seasons that I did in the Four Seasons Resort on Nevis, the Caribbean island, it is one of the top tennis resorts in the world. It has ten courts and attracts really good tennis players, families, groups and college players. It was my first experience with ‘VIPs’ and engaging with that kind of clientele.
As well as coaching, I managed the facility and gained a newfound respect for the craft of tennis as a whole, the upkeep of the court and behind the scenes.
I still do high-performance training for professional players but my main passion is teaching tennis on holiday resorts because I love the fact that I meet new people all the time. The downside is that people come and go so frequently that
you can’t always see their tennis skills grow, but I know that my coaching has made a small imprint on their life and they can take that away with them.
Since leaving Nevis I have taught at resorts in the UK before coming here to Soneva Jani.
Why did you choose to coach?
When I played professionally I was training alongside coaching others and I became really passionate about working with people and teaching them. I was also felt encouraged to go into it because I’d been taught by the best coaches in the world so I felt like I had so much that I wanted to share with people.
Do you have other passions?
Years ago, when I was started my coaching career, something I was very mindful of was having another skill. When I focussed on tennis, I felt I lost my ability to do other things, so I wanted to add to my skillset in case I ever got burnt out or injured, so I learnt to cook.
I attended Ballymaloe Cookery School for three months followed by Le Cordon Bleu London Culinary School for seven months, after which I began working as a freelance chef. Going in between tennis and cooking, I had an idea that I wanted to combine the two skills and what a perfect way that to run tennis retreats, bringing people together through tennis and food. So, I set up Alegria Retreats, based in the south of Portugal, a place where people can enjoy a holiday with homegrown and delicious meals as well as tennis training and other activities.
How do you find living and working on Soneva Jani?
I arrived on Soneva Jani in December 2020 for the peak season. The beauty of my job is that I’m able to come to amazing places like this, it’s like another world. Who knew there would be a tennis court in the middle of the Indian ocean? It’s a very different kind of tennis experience to other resorts, but with the downtime, I’m able to appreciate the beauty of the place.
I’ve met the most wonderful people, I’ve never experienced living and working with the same people before but it’s been such a brilliant experience, there’s a real sense of team and comradery. The island has such a great vibe, there aren’t many resort employers that are so generous in letting us enjoy the resort.
In May I will be going to a resort in Greece to work the summer season which I’m very excited about and really looking forwards to exploring another new place. Look out for Alegria Retreats running in 2021!
What is your favourite book?
I’m fascinated by anything to do with arctic exploration and the sheer human perseverance that it takes. Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing is my favourite book on the subject. Whenever I’m in a difficult situation I just think, what would Shackleton do?