Name: Melissa Harvey (Dowse)

Nickname: Dowsey

Playing Period: 1997 – 2002

Home State: NSW

Current Location: Melbourne

BTT: Mel where are you located these days and what does life look like?

MH: I’m currently based in Melbourne and have been since 2005. I’m a registered nurse working as the Cardiac Rhythm Management Nurse Consultant at Monash Heart, Monash Health. I am married with 9 year old twins, they are my proudest achievement.

BTT: Looking back at yout playing career, what moments make you proud and or the most memorable?

MH: Looking back on my tennis career now, I have many moments which I’m proud of. Representing Australia as a junior in all age groups, being part of the Australian junior team in the Commonwealth Games in 2000 and playing in junior events at Grand slam level. My proudest moment and one that I was able to share with my family was winning a round in main draw Australian Open. A very memorable time which you may also remember was somehow travelling from rural Japan to rural Italy. There were 3 or 4 of us, we were only 15 or 16 and had to make the trip without an adult……..

BTT: Reflecting on your pro tennis career, what are the takeaways from it? And how did it prepare you for life beyond?

MH: Reflecting on my tennis career was and is so important for life after playing. There were many life lessons and attributes that tennis taught me like hard work, independence and dedication. I always have my best on the court and it come through now in my new career as a nurse – just in a different way.

BTT: How long before you officially retired were you thinking about the end of your career and what was the actual process of retiring like for you?

MH: I had thought about retiring for some time before I actually did it. I was only 20 when I stopped playing – so young but at the time I felt really old! Like I’d missed the boat. Quitting felt terrible for me, like I’d failed. I felt I failed my family, tennis Australia and worst of all myself. Also, once I stopped I felt very isolated as all my friends were from tennis. And at that time, I don’t remember ever being asked if I was ok, I just retired and that was that. I was lucky my family and partner (now by husband) supported me through this time even though they must have get disappointed themselves.

BTT: In the first few years after retiring what did things look like? What was your daily life like and was it a difficult transition for you?

MH: The first few years after retiring were tough. I did some coaching whilst thinking about what I actually wanted to do and what I could do as I never finished school. I ended up with terrible anxiety, which I think came from going from training all day and having your day mapped out around schedules to not having any of that. Once, I started getting that sorted I got a job in a nursing home as an assistant nurse which I loved, I then started setting myself new career goals. I feel lucky to have found a second career which I care about just as much as tennis.

BTT: If you did have any difficulties, what might have helped you to better get through those and the transition off the tour?

MH: I definitely had difficulties coming to terms with retirement. Things that helped get through this time we’re having family support, setting goals no matter how small, find something else you love and continue doing some sort of exercise. Exercise can be like a drug for athletes and when you stop suddenly your mental health can suffer.

BTT: What advice would you have for a current player in terms of preparing for life after the tour?

MH: I think I answered that above but I think it is so important to keep setting goals and working towards them – athletes are good at doing this and most have inner drive to meet their goals. Find something that means a lot to you, that’s what nursing did for me. In the beginning – every day I walked away from work feeling as though I’d helped a people which have me a sense of achievement. I was proud of my job.

BTT: When players retire they often speak about feeling quite isolated – is this something you had to work through?

MH: Yes, I felt extremely isolated. I was really lucky with the family support I had around me. Most people I knew were from the tennis circuit so when I finished, I hardly seen these people. At the time of my retirement, there was no support for young tennis players who were transitioning into life after tennis. Apart from some close friends, I didn’t really hear from anyone. So, very thankful to my family, those friends and my now husband Mark. Reestablishing goals and finding a job I loved got me through!

BTT: What involvement do you still have in the tennis industry or in the tennis world more generally?

MH: I don’t really have anything to do with the tennis world anymore. I have kept in contact with some close friends and we catch up when we can. My daughter plays and has a lesson with a great friend of mine once a week, so I am on a tennis court weekly. I love watching the tennis on tv too.

BTT: Since retiring do you ever find time to catch up with old tennis mates or would you like the opportunity to attend get togethers?

MH: Yes, I would like some more opportunities to connect with the tennis world. I miss a lot of my childhood friends. As I have been away from the game for so long now, the reconnection with the game may not be as important for me but reflecting on my time, it would have been wonderful when I initially retired. I think these sorts of opportunities are really crucial to those young players that may be retiring now.

BTT: Most athletes have a very clear purpose aspiring to be the best they can….with that chapter closed, what would you say your purpose is now?

MH: I love this last question…..you’re correct – as an athlete you are always aspiring to be the best, not much has changed for me – I’m just aspiring to be the best in another career. My purpose now is to be the best nurse I can be. I’ve worked my way through nursing the long way and now have a post graduate degree in cardiac nursing (which I completed with my twins who were two at the time) and then went onto get my Masters degree in Nursing practise. I have been lucky enough in my current role as a Heart Rhythm Nurse Consultant to build the role for scratch. This has been and still is challenging but my purpose in the role is to help improve care for patients with heart rhythm disorders whilst helping pave a new career pathway for other nurses. I have also been given a research grant by a company to look at a new way of managing patients with a specific heart rhythm disorder which is exciting for me.

Mel, thanks for catching up with us, we know a lot of your childhood friends will enjoy reading about the wonderful life you have created Beyond The Tour!