Last summer, I was living in Atlanta and coaching some local players while I was trying to figure out how I wanted the next stage of my life to look like. In June of last year, I had already been off the pro tour for 9 months and by then I realized I had no desire to return to professional tennis. There were a lot of contributing factors to this but ultimately, my heart was not in it to the level that I knew was required to succeed. I looked into a number of different career options during this time and I found it very difficult to find something that would be enjoyable, challenging and also give me a clear sense of purpose.
It was very strange to wake up in the morning and not have to practice or go to the gym and I found it difficult to deal with as it was a completely new change in lifestyle and priorities. I had been laser focused on having a tennis career since I was 11 years old and it just felt strange not to be a tennis player anymore. I had been so identified as a tennis player my whole life and in a way, I felt sad to let that part of my life go. I was excited to see what the next stage of my life would look like and thankfully a series of incredible coincidences happened in the summer of last year which lead me to where I am now.
During a yoga session I was doing in Atlanta, I had an insight to reach out to a man I had once met in Las Vegas who runs a Youth Foundation called The Inspiring Children Foundation. I first heard about the Foundation back in 2006, when my college roommate at the time, Frideric Prandecki, told me how the Foundation had changed his life. He had grown up in very difficult circumstances and faced a lot of adversity with his family and home environment. He used to tell me stories of how the Foundation taught him to work hard, have strong values, show good character and always do the right thing in his life. I was inspired when I first heard about it back in 2006 and I started following the Foundation on social media a number of years ago. Over the next few years, I was so impressed by what I was learning from the Foundation and how it was positively impacting so many lives. I would read story after story on how the Foundation had helped kids in some of the most difficult circumstances you could imagine- homelessness, depression, suicide, abuse, addiction, etc. The list goes on. What was incredible though was that these kids were now thriving and looked incredibly happy.
In August of last year, I met the Founder, Executive Director and interns from the Foundation during an event in New York City. I was blown away by the energy, positivity, love and kindness each kid exemplified and I knew then and there that these were the type of people I wanted to be around. People who were committed to giving their best, doing the right things in their lives and living with high standards in every area of their lives.
Tennis is a big part of the program with the Foundation and I was fortunate to be hired as the Director of Team Bryan, which is a program sponsored and supported by Bob and Mike Bryan, the greatest doubles team of all time. Our Team Bryan program focuses on tennis, education and the arts. I have a few different roles as Director of Team Bryan and for now, my focus is on coaching at the No Quit Tennis academy (our partner) in the mornings and working at the Foundation office in the afternoon. I also help with fundraising for the foundation, numerous events and tournament travel. Outside of our tennis program, we have a number of different programs including our ”Jewel Never Broken” mindfulness/emotional intelligence program (supported by Jewel, 3 time Grammy nominated singer/songwriter), entrepreneurship, mentorship, leadership development as well as a focus on project driven learning, so the kids can learn real world skills prior to going to college.
I spent my life as a tennis player traveling the world competing at different events and seeing some of the best academies in the world. One of the things that always struck me though, even with the best academies in the world, was that there was very little focus on character development, psychology, emotional intelligence and peace of mind. In my opinion, these things should come first in any academy so I’m happy to have found an environment that lives out these values.
The results speak for themselves over the last 16 years of the Foundation’s existence-Over 120 kids have earned college scholarships to some of the best Universities in the world including Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, Wharton, Georgetown and a number of others. I feel very luck to be a small part of such an incredible organization.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Castleknock L.T.C. and the people in the club for their support over the years. It gave me a lot of energy and strength to be supported by people back home while I was on the tour and I am very grateful for everyone’s encouragement. As an 11 or 12 year old boy playing in Castleknock, I never thought I’d one day play in Grand Slams, be number 1 in Ireland, play Davis Cup for Ireland and travel the world for 10 years playing a sport I love. It was not an easy road to go down but I’m glad I took it as it shaped me into the person I am today. Thank you so much to everyone who believed in me and helped my dreams come true. Thank you, James.
Director of Team Bryan
Inspiring Children Foundation