Today we remember Todd Reid on what would have been his 36th birthday.
The following is an edited transcript of a speech Renee Beck gave at the launch of the International Tennis Club of Australia’s initiative Beyond the Tour for retiring players. Renee’s brother, Todd Reid, passed away in October 2018. He was only 34.
I wanted to share with you my own and my family’s experience with professional tennis.
Since losing Todd less than four months ago, it has been tremendously hard for us. Todd was our son and little brother and to suddenly not have him there came as a huge shock. The grieving process is still only in its infancy for all of us and we are trying to get by. There has, however, been a small silver lining in that we have had unimaginable support from wide and far from people who knew Todd and remembered him fondly.
All three Reid siblings played tennis from a young age. Our parents ran, and still run, a tennis centre in Sydney. My parents are passionate about teaching kids how to play tennis and have coached, mentored and guided many young players on their tennis journeys for the past 30 years. I can’t see them ever retiring. They simply love the game and want to give back.
Tennis was a significant part of our upbringing, travelling together and supporting each other at tournaments as youngsters, allowing us to see the world as we entered our teens and teaching us the valuable skills of resilience, dedication, hard work and healthy competition.
I played on the tour back in the late 1990s and got myself into the top 200 in the world before injury cut my tennis career short at the age of 20. I had several ankle surgeries over a couple of years and quickly realised I wasn’t going to be able to play at the level I needed to. I landed a job which kickstarted my career and I have never looked back.
My sister, Tara, went to college in the US on a tennis scholarship after finishing high school. She graduated with a double degree, came back to Australia and has forged a successful career in the media industry.
Todd was the tennis stand-out in our family: a natural with bucket loads of talent.
He learned his skills following his older sisters around from tournament to tournament. He would ask anybody he came across to have a hit with him. He possessed a huge love of the game, which he retained throughout his life. As well as being a fair sportsman he had a fighting spirit and was a warm, effervescent character with a twinkle in his eye that attracted people to him throughout his career and beyond.
Much has been written about Todd and his tennis achievements. He was a hugely successful junior. He won junior Wimbledon, among other highlights. He was much talked about as Australian tennis’ next big thing before making the third round of the Australian Open as an 18-year-old and his Davis Cup debut the year later.
But things didn’t go to plan.
After suffering from glandular fever, followed by injuries, Todd was sent home from Melbourne where he had been based while on contract with Tennis Australia. He was left to his own devices.
Todd seemed destined to be a tennis player from a young age so, when it didn’t work out, it was hard for him to adjust to life beyond tennis, to deal with the loss of his career and what could have been. Like many players at that time, Todd had left school at a young age and had no formal training in any other field. Todd spent the past ten tears years working as a hitting partner for up-and-coming juniors as well as teaching kids how to play tennis at Mum and Dad’s tennis centre. He would also play a tournament here or there.
In addition to dealing with his new reality, he suffered from loneliness and the loss of his network. The people that had been around him throughout his life on the tour were no longer there. The guys he played with were continuing to forge their own paths and those that had been working with him moved on to the next player. At the time there was no formal or informal support network for Todd.
As the saying goes, the higher the highs the lower the lows. That was certainly the case with Todd. He had his own personal struggles with his health alongside those related to not being the tennis player he was expected to be.
My family is a good example of the different pathways that tennis players can take after playing.
That’s the reason I am here talking to you now.
When many players stop playing – and that includes drawing on my own personal experience – they feel like they have failed and have to quit, rather than retiring. That is obviously a difficult feeling to confront when you have sacrificed so many things for a sport.
There is the sense that you did not succeed and it leaves you wondering what is next. It is almost a feeling of shame, knowing the sacrifices that were made by the people around you, particularly your parents, and that you have let them down.
There are lucky ones, like myself, who are able to quickly get on with life. But many like Todd – and others who have reached out since his passing – really struggle. They have difficulty adjusting to the loss of their network and community, the loss of previous meaning, value and identity, and with adjusting to everyday life and related responsibilities.
As well as being a fair sportsman, Todd had a fighting spirit and was a warm, effervescent character with a twinkle in his eye that attracted people to him throughout his career and beyond.
Tennis Australia provides many players with the opportunity, support and monetary investment to become successful athletes, something that the Reid kids benefited from and that we are grateful for.
I have spoken to people working in player development and performance for Tennis Australia over the past few months and I know they are incredibly passionate about helping current players not only be the best tennis players they can be, but also well-rounded individuals with multiple options should it not work out. As we know, for most tennis players trying to make it on the international circuit, this will be the case.
After much reflection of late, I understand tennis provided me with many skills which have helped me to live a great life and be successful both personally and professionally. However, I walked away from the game when I stopped playing. I didn’t see anything there for me. I didn’t want to coach or work in tennis. I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.
I realise now that I have more to offer and can give back to retiring players. Over the years I have enjoyed playing tournaments and fixtures, but I’ve had no formal role within tennis.
It’s time for me to get involved again.
Thinking back on Todd’s experience, he certainly would have benefited from a support network. Though his family were there for him – as well as a few close friends who stuck by him – it was still difficult when he found himself in the wilderness, particularly in the initial stages of his retirement.
The International Tennis Club of Australia, with its network of previous players, is well positioned to help players coming off the circuit – by acknowledging their career and supporting them in the right way, at the right time. We, as a cohort, cannot let our contemporaries and colleagues drop off the radar anymore.
Originally this transcript was shared by https://www.athletesvoice.com.au/renee-beck-when-cheering-stops/2/
At the same time, we need to keep the networks open to ensure that we don’t lose previous players to the sport, with the positive input they can bring to the game and its players in retirement.
My family supports the IC in their retiring players program and Todd Reid legacy fund.
The aim of the program is to give the player who quits the tour the opportunity to gain a broader perspective about their journey onto the next stages of life, and to help and connect them with appropriate skills, training and support through what can be a difficult transition time.
I urge all of you to get behind it to ensure there is a safety net for those finding it hard.