In 2010 I was ranked #705 in the world. Heady days!
I also made it to #105 in Britain. I won a bronze medal in the British Championships and had beaten a couple of tricky opponents at the English Open.
But then I quit.
Not burn-out for sure. No injuries to speak of. No drug rumours swirling! (My agent took care of those.)
I quit because I didn’t want to practice. I was playing 2-3 times a week but I was getting tired of the late nights, it meant a lot of travelling, and winter was coming.
So I quit, and abandoned my world ranking.
But how did I get it in the first place? Skills + Niche.
I’ve been playing tennis since I was a kid – I’m not great (ok club standard at best), but it means my hand-eye coordination is decent so I’ve always been ok at other racket sports.
My world ranking came in a sport called racketlon. ‘Racket-l-o-n‘. It’s a Finnish sport: you play the same opponent in table tennis, then badminton, then squash, then tennis (with a two-minute break between sports). It’s first to 21 points in each sport, and you add up all the scores at the end to see who won.
Racketlon is pretty niche. My friend Jo told me about it and the next day I discovered I could simply sign up on the internet to play in the British Championships, which were happening the following weekend. I got my British Champs bronze by beating one guy – there were only four entrants in the amateur category, so by winning one match I came 3rd and got the bronze.
Skills + Niche = World ranking!
That’s probably true in lots of areas outside Finnish sports. Wikipedia’s list of sports is enormous. Maybe you would be a world-class player of Hooverball, Yukigassen or Old Cat? Figure out what you’re good at, and apply it to a niche.
The same must be true outside sports as well. It’s pretty cool to be the best damn recycled pencil maker in the world. Or the finest mandolin stringer in the world, or the funniest fridge poet. And if you combine >1 thing you can create all sorts of other niches – I’m sure someone out there is the greatest maker of brail for packaging, and there must be world-class manufacturers of shoelaces for football boots and utterly brilliant writers of jokes for Christmas crackers.
Who knows who they are – who cares? So long as they know, so long as they get the rewards of a feeling of mastery, and so long as they can hang out with the other best guys and girls around, it will still be a pretty cool feeling.
It’s not so hard to be one of the best in the world if you combine Skills + Niche.
So if you want a game of racketlon, come and get me.
But be warned: I’ve got this little bad boy in the trophy cabinet already, and your head is next.