"I’m not just a young black coach trying to help people through tennis, I’m trying to help people in their lives"
• 5 MINUTE READ
During Black History Month, we are using LTA channels as a platform for black voices within our sport, giving people the opportunity to share their stories of how they got involved and why they love tennis.
22-year old London-based tennis coach Arum Akom has big dreams of coaching top professional players in the future, but his main career goal is to help impact the lives of players of all ages and abilities. He recently caught up with Sports Presenter, Anne-Marie Batson to discuss his experiences in tennis, his love for coaching and changing perceptions in the sport.
Where did your love of tennis come from?
I used to walk past the tennis club and see lots of people playing and just thought one day I’d like to try and see where it would take me. It was one of those things where I followed after my older sibling, he started first and then it’s quite common to try and follow in his footsteps. Then I decided to start playing myself and ever since I started I just continued going back to the club and from then it just didn’t stop. Tennis was my life from that moment.
So you fell in love with tennis, started to go on a regular basis and I just want to fast-forward to where you are today – tell me who you are, where you’re coaching and what life is like as a coach?
I’m a performance coach now so I work with all types of levels and ages but I specialise in kids who are trying to develop their game towards professional tennis. Basically those kids who have aspirations to take their tennis a little bit further and compete more.
Now for a long time tennis did have a reputation for being seen very much as a white sport, but we’ve seen changes over the last few years and you can be part of that – do you see yourself just as a tennis coach or as a black man who coaches tennis?
I definitely see myself as a tennis coach but then at the same time I would like to say that I’m a black man who has something to offer. As there aren’t a lot of other people out there doing it, it is good to know that I’m one of the few who are trying and I think a lot of people respect that about me, which is why they see what I’m doing, they appreciate it and come back for more. They see that I’m not just trying to offer a service but that I’m trying to fill in a gap in the market that isn’t there because there aren’t many black coaches out there working with young kids and adults. I would love to change that.
Then also let other young black people see what I’m doing and help them follow in my footsteps if they want to follow that same path. I think it’s really important to create that diversity in the sport and make everyone welcome and know that tennis is for everybody.
What made you decide, right I’m going to be a coach but my colour could be a factor?
For me it was mainly the type of person that I am – I’m the type of person that likes to help others and I thought that would help sell myself a bit more and people would find that a bit more attractive in myself. Yes I’m not just a young black coach that’s trying to help people through tennis but I’m trying to help people in their lives to do something they love and help them become the best that they can be.
It’s not just about going and doing a session, making your money, going home and that’s it but you know you can actually make a difference in someone’s life and for me, that was my opportunity and why I chose to get into coaching.
What tips would you give to other aspiring coaches out there?
Be open to taking feedback and criticism, especially for myself because I’m young, I’ve still got a lot to learn and I’m just getting into the industry. Just be willing to learn, ask more, do more and just to push and give a lot of energy because coaches respect that.
Who are your heroes in the game?
Andy Murray is probably my favourite; he’s always been my favourite tennis player. I just like his resilience especially with the injuries that he’s had lately and the fact that he’s been able to come back into tennis and still keep pushing and still keep growing.
Then you’ve got the Williams sisters, they’re absolutely phenomenal tennis players, great athletes and the stuff that they’ve achieved over the years is fantastic.
From a personal level it would be my coach and my friends that I’m always playing with because they’re always supporting me – everything that I do couldn’t be done without them.
Arum, what’s your long-term plan, do you want to coach a tennis player in the top 50, top 30, top 20, or even the top 10?
My long-term plan would be to work with kids who are getting into to tennis and I would love to take them to professional tennis if they had the dreams and aspirations to. I want to start off almost on a grassroots level and then go through that whole journey where they get towards those performance tennis levels and then hopefully transition them onto the professional circuit. So we’d kind of be going from start to finish.
I’ve always said that my dream would be to see myself sitting in the box of the players when they’re at the Grand Slams with the rest of the coaching team and then you have the player down on the court playing. We’re all sitting there and then the player’s playing in the Grand Slam – that would be my dream. To me that would be the moment where I would say I’ve made it.
Find out more
Read an update from LTA CEO Scott Lloyd, following his open letter in June outlining the need to do more on equality, our commitment to listen and then put in place the actions needed.