“… the world is such a huge place and there are so many good players out there.”
George Jecminek is one of those good players even if he tries to deflect the attention. Sure, a provincial number 1 ranking is a feather in his cap, but it hasn’t distracted him from doing the job he loves.
Kelvin: Tell us about the road you took to get to the club:
George: I grew up playing tennis in Vancouver, I played junior tennis, I played professionally and I travelled playing tennis. When I was younger I was involved with the tennis community and got to know some great people. Last summer I was asked to help out with summer camps here at the club and it grew from there, people were happy with me and Fabio offered me a job. I didn’t commit full time because I was still playing and going to school.
I was happy right away, l was given lots of responsibility, I was in charge of the juniors. It was awesome to have the responsibility, I enjoy being in charge. I feel like I can give lots of expertise.
And you’re continuing your playing career as well?
I am, I still like to remain competitive. I’ve been winning some tournaments, I still want to be the best. I’m competitive. Local people from the club and kids come and watch and I love the inspiration I get and I hope they get as well. I’m playing in the Stanley Park Open right now, that’s a big event every year that everyone plays in. There are another couple pro tournaments here that count towards professional rankings. It’s tougher competition, but it’s fun.
Do you still get nervous before a match?
It’s like I tell my students, it’s good to be nervous because it shows you care. I‘ve learned over the years how to deal with nerves. Don’t fight it, embrace it and you almost start to like the feeling. When I stopped playing I lost that nervous stimulation. Life becomes mellow, which is nice, but I missed the stimulation.
Why is tennis important to you? Other than the fact it’s fun, of course.
These days to stay in shape [laughs]. It’s fun but it’s just my nature, the competition. I’m very competitive in everything I do and tennis is a release for that. I feel like I need to be good at something, I need something to strive for and tennis has always been there for me in that way. If I’m having a hard time I can go out and bash balls or get a sweat going. It’s a part of my life, it doesn’t feel right if I don’t play tennis for awhile. The thing I dread the most is the day I lose that craving.
You’re ranked number 1 in BC. What does that mean for you or what lessons do you take out of that?
It’s nice to be recognized for sure. At the same time I would trade being number 1 here for a world ranking. I like it, but the world is such a huge place and there are so many good players out there.
That seems to be a common theme in the sport - does that drive, that need to be better, wear you down?
It is tough, it does wear on you. You constantly feel you’re not where you want to be. Maybe it’s because it’s an individual sport. When you’re on a team you have a common goal. But in any sport if a player is truly competitive they’ll feel the same way. They’ll always strive for more, that’s what makes them an elite athlete, they’re never satisfied. You see interviews with people like Tiger Woods who’s still fixing his swing. There are young players coming up who want to take your spot.
What advice do you give to new young players just getting into tennis who maybe aren’t familiar with the ups and downs of the game?
I always tell them that everything is part of the process. There will always be ups and downs, the key is to stick to it and when you go through those valleys just keep your head up. I’ve had good moments and really tough ones so I tell players that your overall trend is what’s important. You won’t play your best every single day.
How much of that steady improvement comes from a coach’s demeanour?
The higher level you coach the more important it is to work on the mental side of the game. It’s all about keeping your player relaxed and confident. Someone like Chris Stead, he’s helped me so much. I don’t necessarily need technical advice any more, it’s all about keeping players calm and confident. I try to be nice, work players hard but keep the pressure off. I keep everything very process oriented, the results will come later. The outcome is a byproduct, it will come. I’ll talk to kids and make sure they’re enjoying it and working hard. It’s a balance but it’s worth it. It’s about making the kid a better person, more confident. Being too volatile can hurt the performance, so I try to help them control their emotions.
Equal parts laid back and intense, George Jecminek approaches life the same way he approaches coaching and playing tennis. He wants the best from his players, and for George, the only way to do that is to give them the best of himself.