If you’ve ever been asked to speak in front of the cameras, you can appreciate it’s difficult; the doubt which enters your head, you have to think on your feet, and you’re on show – daunting, and often, an awkward experience.
That lump which comes into your throat, as you struggle to communicate what your brain is trying to pass down to your vocal chords is something which many can relate to. However, it’s something that nine-year-old tennis player, Taylor Aitcheson, seemed to have no problem adjusting to – assured, confident in his answers and an articulate manner which made the young tennis talent look media trained.
Taylor proudly showed off his achievements in the sport and explained how his mental strength separates him from his competitors; the ability to coach himself, correct errors and motivate himself during a game – it’s not every day you hear a nine-year-old talk through their sport like he’s a pundit on Sky Sports dissecting a professional’s game.
Meeting the Aitcheson family it was obvious to see the support Taylor’s parents, Tony and Clare, give him; parents that do not place expectation or high levels of pressure on Taylor’s young shoulders, but instead support their son by letting him lead the conversation on practice hours and entering tournaments:
“I’m not saying he’s going to be the next Andy Murray, that doesn’t matter, to me, however he plays, I’m proud of him and he makes me smile”
— Taylor’s mother, Clare
“I never introduced Taylor to tennis, he introduced himself. I saw something that Taylor was interested in, and where he showed a spark, so I help him fan that spark until it becomes a fire and I’ll keep fanning it until it becomes a roaring fire.”
— Taylor’s father, Tony
Despite Taylor’s parents not coming from a sporting background, his older brother, also named Tony like his father, is an amateur boxer who has a record of four wins from four fights. There’s therefore a gritty determination within Taylor that runs in the genes and is strengthened by the town of Dewsbury; such internal strength explains Taylor’s own attitude when playing tennis as well as growing up in Dewsbury which has proven to bring its own hardships to the table.
Growing up in the town of Dewsbury, the Aitchesons have lived in a town that is often referred to in the media as: ‘the town that dares not speak its name’ – the ‘unspeakable’ name being Shannon Mathews, because of the kidnapping of the nine-year-old girl nearly a decade ago. The Aitchesons live four doors down from the house where Shannon was kidnapped from, an unthinkable crime orchestrated by the girl’s mother in return for a financial reward.
It’s another reason for the strength of character the family and Taylor has learned; not everything is always plain sailing and that mental toughness has been transferred to Taylor’s tennis:
“He’s [Taylor] been brought up in an area where stuff’s not just given to you, you’ve got to earn it; now me boys had to earn it through boxing, but Taylor picked another sport, which is a bit safer”.
— Tony Aitcheson
Taylor’s talent allows him to play with players six years his senior as he regularly competes in U14 competitions, playing as many tournaments as 13 between June 2016 – 2017 – before breaking his thumb towards the end of last year.
The humbleness from Taylor extends to him raising money for a children’s charity cancer, Candlelighters, where he’s raised around £4,000 which has led him to be nominated in the fundraiser category for the U11s young child-friendly awards this year.
As a player, Taylor seems to have the whole package at just the age of nine. Mental toughness, talent supported by confidence and a modesty which stretched to him once telling his opponent in a final to not get down, and keep his head up, as he was trailing Taylor at the halfway point of the match.
Without reaching double figures in terms of age, Taylor’s career looks to have a bright future; with the likes of Kyle Edmund recently reaching the Australian Open semi-final, there’s plenty of encouragement for junior players coming through the LTA, and we hope to see Taylor continuing to enjoy his tennis for the next few years.