SPEND more than 10 minutes talking to former Canberra tennis player Alun Jones and local hockey legend Glenn Turner and you get the impression they derive as much pleasure from the success of those in their charge as was the case when they were at the peak as players in their chosen sports.
Alun retired from the pro-tennis circuit in 2008 at the age of 28 after achieving a career-high ranking of 123 in the world while Glenn played more than 120 games for the Australian men’s hockey team including two Olympic Games.
Since retiring from full-time sport both have thrown themselves into guiding the next generation. Alun is employed by Tennis Australia as a talent manager working with young players aged 15 and below. Glenn operates the gym at the Lyneham Hockey Centre coupled with establishing coaching academies across the ACT and southern NSW.
Glenn says he has never been busier and he is still a hockey player with the Goulburn team in the local competition.
“The gym in Canberra is going really well and what I am passionate about is helping young hockey players trying to achieve their dreams,” he says.
“I think there is a bit of a gap in hockey when you compare it to other sports, so that is where the academy comes in.”
He says he knew, in 2016, it was time to step back and focus on the next part of his life.
“After the Rio Olympics I got the call that they were going with the young guys, which was probably the perfect time for me as well,” he says/
“I actually had thought after the 2012 London Olympics that I would hang up the boots but I kept playing. I’m happy. I don’t have to train six or seven days a week.”
He says that as a player you are always chasing the next challenge with little time to reflect.
Alun says he knew when he retired from playing in 2008 that he wanted to coach younger players.
“In my final year I was putting plans in place to set up an academy in Canberra, so I did plan it out and it’s something that I knew I wanted to do,” he says.
“We are fortunate in Canberra to have a great facility at Lyneham and we have got plenty of young talent coming through.”
Given they have encountered the highs and lows of sport, both are ideal to guide the next generation.
Glenn says he now looks at players he is playing against locally in a different way. In the past they were his rivals.
“I look at it differently, I look at players and I think I could help them with aspects of their game,” he says.
“I am still competitive but I definitely have a different approach. I play centre-half forward and so I am spot marked every week of the competition, which is good and presents its own challenges.”
In the case of Alun, he can speak from experience about the joys of travel on the circuit.
“When I stopped playing it was because of the travel and it got to the point where I had just had enough, I was happy to stay in one spot for a while,” he says.
“It is not easy out there that’s for sure. It’s an individual sport, it’s quite lonely. In the top ranks players form a support team around them so they have always got company. When I was playing I wasn’t at a stage where I could afford to have a support team around me.”
Helping young players achieve their goals presents its own challenges and it is different for each sport.
Tennis has a history of players and parents struggling with unreasonable expectations. It is something as a coach of high-achieving players in the 15 and under age group that Alun deals with on a regular basis.
“Constantly I’m dealing with players 15 years and under, some of these players are 10 or 11 years of age and they have got such a long journey in front of them,” he says.
“So the big message I tell the parents is they have to be patient and it’s a matter of ticking off the boxes and not getting too far ahead of themselves and trying to put in quality sessions each day.”
Having met up with both Alun and Glenn many times over the years as players and now mentors and coaches, I can clearly see that Canberra is richer for having them still involved in sport.