New episode in my series of interviews to discover the job and the people who are working around the professional tennis players on the WTA and ATP world tours. After the jobs of PR manager, coach, or physiotherapist I decided to focus on something a little bit different, something that is not really a job but certainly has a crucial role on the success and life of an athlete, partners. Often forgotten, the wives, husbands, girlfriends or boyfriends haven’t a really conventional life. Many of them can’t travel with their beloved one all the year and have to live a long distance relationship, some others have made a choice and have decided to do everything they can to help theirs partners to reach their goals and achieve their dreams, and today we will have a look on these latter. And to know a little bit more about what is it like to be a wife on the tour I would like to warmly thank Kelsey Anderson who accepted to take a bit of her time to answer my questions. As her name indicates, Kelsey is Kevin Anderson’s (ATP world n° 12) wife, and since few years she is part of her husband’s team and thus travel with him all the year. And contrary to what several people think, being a tour wife is not just going shopping and watching your loved one from the best seat. As Kelsey reveals, there is a lot more to do, and sometimes it’s a little bit challenging… If you want to know more about Kelsey’s life on the tour, feel free to follow her blog on The Changeover or her Twitter account!
First of all, a lot of people are wondering what looks like an average day in your life ? I read on your blog that, actually, there is no real typical day, right ?
Our team’s schedule changes a lot from day to day and week to week. We usually sit down the night before and write the schedule for the following day. You have to be flexible because with the nature of tennis and travel unforeseen circumstances always arise. It is impossible to plan for everything, we just do our best and go from there.
Kevin’s typical day involves some sort of on-court tennis work, fitness or strength training (but not usually on match days), and rehabilitation work. We try to fill everything else that needs to be accomplished in around this tennis schedule first.
What are the challenges and the rewards of your situation ? And does it help to be a former athlete yourself ?
I definitely believe playing a sport myself has helped me to understand Kevin’s level of commitment to tennis. I think my own experience playing golf has helped me to recognize what a long road it has been to arrive at this level of the game. I can better appreciate that there have been years of sacrifices, hard work and dedication.
How would you describe your role in the team ? For instance, what’s your “job” just before a match ? Is it more about the mental side with just some supportive talk, or also some technical or tactical advices…
We often joke that my job title on the team is « support team chairperson ». This includes a lot of different roles, but my biggest job is to facilitate the entire Team Anderson operations. Sometimes this is as simple as making sure everyone on the team has been fed, sometimes it means running to get supplies for Kevin’s physiotherapist, but the day to day tasks are ever changing. My biggest obligations are to make travel arrangements for the team, pay the bills, coordinate with Kevin’s managers, perform our bookkeeping and help the coach organize tickets for guests. It is more all-encompassing than that through, because we all do what we can to help make the team work efficiently and keep Kevin from having to worry about anything other than tennis. It is a group effort from all our team members, and I think we are very lucky to have a group of dedicated individuals who sacrifice a lot for the common goal of Kevin’s excellence.
I do try to help Kevin with his mental strength. I think he and I connect very well together and I understand him on a deeper level. I also did a lot of psychological work myself over the years with golf as it is such a mental sport, so I try to impart as much of that as I can on Kevin.
It’s already not easy for members of a player’s team to keep their nerves during a match, but for a wife, like you, it must be even harder… How do you deal with it ?
The biggest thing I do is try to ignore what might be at stake for Kevin. I don’t worry about or even look at the points or prize money to be won, because I feel that heightens nerves and anxiety. I also don’t look at the draw beyond the current match. I think staying in the present is the easiest thing to do to calm the nerves. I also talk with Kevin’s coach and physio during the matches which helps ease the tension of the moment.
I heard that you are the one who deal with the business… And contrary to what many people think really few players actually travel in business class, right ?
We don’t often book tickets in business class because the ticket prices can be really exorbitant. It is hard to justify spending $10,000 for a 10 hour flight. A lot of the players I have spoken with feel the same way. We do what we can to use free airline upgrades or air miles to get into more comfortable seats on long flights. Kevin is really tall, so it is important that his body is not cramped up. We are always looking to see what seats are offered, because even the business class seats on some airplanes can be uncomfortable for him. I really love the website seatguru.com to check out what type of seat you are booking.
At the end of the day, we have had to spend the money here and there to make sure Kevin is traveling comfortably, and when we do we approach it as an « investment » in a way. However we definitely explore all the other options first before springing for the expensive purchase. It is fun in a way through too, as we are always learning more about air travel frequent flier perks and how to maximize our travel benefits. Players will exchange tips and tricks with one another, and there is always more to learn. Our expert for travel tips and advice is doubles player Frank Moser, I tease him that he is my travel agent!
You haven’t always travelled with Kevin during all the year. And there is several wives or girlfriends who can’t travel with their husbands or boyfriends… How to deal with long distance love ?
Spending time away from loved ones is one of the most difficult parts of tour life. I think a lot of players bring their families to bigger tournaments, so there always seem to be a lot of wives and girlfriends around at the slam tournaments and masters series. If you aren’t able to be together, you have to invest a lot of time into maintaining relationships from afar. Technology now is so much better than it used to be, so things like Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, and social media really help.
The biggest piece of advice I could give to someone in a long distance relationship would be to recognize that it is not a life sentence; this time in your life is temporary and someday you will be able to spend more time together. It is easy to take for granted how difficult it can be though, even just maintaining friendships when you are gone so much can be challenging. It takes a lot of time, energy and dedication to maintain relationships from a distance.
As you’re now travelling all the year with Kevin you’re not very often at home I think, is it a strange feeling to don’t really have a home ?
We have a home in Florida, and we really love being there. Living out of the suitcase for weeks at a time is challenging, but we have made an effort to spend more time at home and I think that is very important for mental rest and well-being.
After having travelled and experienced a lot of tournaments, what are the criteria that make a great tournament for you ?
Usually my favourite events are ones where the organizers and volunteers do what they can to accommodate players and their teams, and constantly ask: « what would make this easier for the competitors? » Players really appreciate hotels close to the site, efficient transportation, generous laundry service (it is easy to forget that the teams and families also need their laundry done too!), and healthy food options on site.
And finally, Kevin’s ranking has significantly grown up since you’re a full time part of the team, is it the best answer to those who are septic about the contribution of a wife in the team ?
Every player has different preferences about traveling with their partners, and they know what works for them. People forget that the partners also have to be interested in « working » for the team. Kevin and I are lucky in that he enjoys my company and help, and I also enjoy playing a part in the team’s success. Our partnership has been a successful one, so I consider us very fortunate. This lifestyle certainly is not for everyone, but I really love being with Kevin during this special time and I want to help him achieve his dreams in any way I can. I feel so privileged to be a part of it all, and I do my best every day to make the most of this incredible opportunity.