It always causes me to pause when anyone asks “what do you do for a living?” Ask my son and he will tell you ”daddy is a builder!” But that’s more down to the fact that I’m forever fixing parts of our house rather than driving a van full of tools around all day. 20 years ago, it was easier to answer. I used to stretch the truth slightly and tell people I was Tim Henmans racket designer. It always caused a surprised look on the face of the questioner and usually came with an immediate “seriously??”
It wasn’t exactly a lie. As Head of Design for Dunlop Slazenger Group I was responsible for the development of players frames, including Tim’s, although in reality it was only a small part of my role and took just a few weeks each year.
So what do I answer today? Tennis racket designer? Unfortunately that only takes a few weeks every year or two so possibly not. Owner of a tennis business? That gives people the impression I own a shop and sell other people’s rackets so I usually opt for Custom Tennis brand owner which is often met with a vacant look and no further questions.
As an experiment, I have recently started telling people I build tennis rackets but I’m increasingly frustrated when the response is ” oh, interesting, I expect you are using titanium nowadays?” My reply is passionate and long winded explaining how the tennis industry is awash with fake material and spurious claims about their benefits. Including titanium! It’s a classic case of brands taking the easy option compared to spending time and money on real innovation.
I’ll give you an example of how the companies take the easy route. Let’s pretend I have developed “hollow carbon fibre” In theory it would allow a racket to be lighter and therefore more desirable to game improvers. I could A – spend a lot of money actually developing the material and then spend months manufacturing and testing rackets. Or B – I take a current racket, paint it a pretty colour and place a well designed “hollow fibre” logo on it. Paint my players rackets to match and hey presto – new technology is launched.. No development costs and no testing required! Unfortunately, it also means no real benefit for players either.
Thankfully at least one of the major brands has found itself in trouble for a similar venture and misleading its faithful customer base. Let’s hope the rest of the industry takes notice and starts doing some real research and development after such a long time of taking the easy option.