Melbourne coach Lynton Joseph occasionally wonders how he found himself in the midst of a career dedicated to helping children and adults better themselves in tennis.
When not spending time with his family, the chief executive of the Australasian Academy of Tennis Coaches focuses on offering courses aimed at improving the standard of coaching. His motto is “Learn Locally. Teach globally”. It is a wide ranging philosophy.
While Joseph is based at the East Coburg Tennis Club, he has a broader world outview and, through the AATC, is responsible for running courses internationally in India, Singapore and the Philippines.
A driving passion for Joseph, a sponsor and supporter of The First Serve, is offering opportunities in Australia for aspiring coaches from those nations to enhance their expertise.
Australia is his home. But he feels a deep connection with India, having been born there. His father Michael was born near the Himalayas and his mother Susan in Kanpur, before they shifted to Australia when he was a toddler.
Such is the affinity the 52-year-old has for his country of birth, when India and Australia play against each other in cricket, he barracks for the blue and yellow over the green and gold.
Among his treasured possessions is a photograph taken alongside Indian great Kapil Dev and, having grown up playing cricket, he retains a keen interest in what is a national sport.
Which is why he ponders how he is lucky enough to be running a club he loves while pursuing a coaching venture he believes will help tennis in both Australia and India.
He can remember watching Indian star Ramesh Krishnan, who reached three grand slam quarterfinals in the 1980s, defeat defending Australian Open champion Mats Wilander in the opening round of the 1989 tournament, captivated by the skill with which he played.
But his mother played a critical role as well in helping him find his feet at the baseline.
Deciding footy was too rough for her sports-loving son, he was steered towards tennis at the age of seven, though he resumed playing Australian rules again in his late teens.
Joseph, who met with Krishnan on-line during the pandemic, has been attacking the net where possible since then while sharing his passion through coaching.
The 2023 Tennis Victoria winter pennant season, which started in late April, marks his 37th year in the competition and Joseph feels he has plenty of competitive tennis left in him.
“There are parts of playing I don’t actually enjoy as much now, but I want to keep going. I figure the longer I do so, the longer I live, the more I am going to keep challenging myself,” he said.
“I love the interactions you have with it. I love the connections you can make. Community is the biggest thing. It is like raising children. You want to bring them up in a positive way.”
As a man who hates flying, running a business with an international connection might seem a curious pursuit, particularly for a man who describes himself as a homebody, with Joseph is a homebody who loves his family life in North Coburg.
But he has always wanted to honour his Indian heritage and felt the best way to do so was to offer his expertise in a pursuit he knows best, namely tennis coaching.
The AATC has been running coaching courses in Australia for more than a decade, in line with Tennis Australia guidelines. In recent years, the AATC has also expanded its offerings overseas, especially in the Asian region.
The company has an office in Ahmedabad and runs coaching conferences lasting up to ten days in a different city or rural area of India on each visit to foster expertise in coaching.
“You have to be inclusive in tennis. The experiences these people have with you, it gets passed on to others. If your staff are happy, they are your most valuable asset,” Joseph said.
“We are always evolving our courses. Quality is important. We don’t want someone coming in and saying, ‘That is crap’.
“We want to give them everything we promise. We have online resources, online plans, learning manuals, lesson plans, videos of drills. They get the whole gamut when they come.”
More recently, the AATC has moved to offer talented international coaches an opportunity to travel to Australia and work with experienced coaches in Victoria and New South Wales.
Working in partnership with the Sydney-based Voyager Tennis Academy, 17 aspiring coaches have already earned placements around Australia this year.
“Our point of difference is that we are offering opportunities for coaches to come to Australia and we are placing them with coaches here,” Joseph told The First Serve.
“These young coaches, if they get a good mentor, someone like a Paul Osborne (in Berwick) or a Paul Kleverlaan, they will care about the staff who are coming.
“Once they have had two or three weeks under their wing, and understand their work ethic, and look at the Australian way of coaching, which has lots of engagement, hitting a lot of balls, having a lot of fun, and focusing on two or three learning points, they will do well.
“It is that simple. We are not reinventing the wheel. But we are offering good opportunities. Not everyone who completes an AATC-certified coaching course will be offered an opportunity in Australia. Understandably, there are immigration requirements to satisfy.
Australian coaches who hire graduates of the AATC from overseas must also be willing to provide transport and accommodation, which has become even more critical at a time where the rental market in Melbourne is the tightest in Australia.
“If we find a good coach, I’ll often ring up a colleague and say, ‘We’ve got this guy or girl and we can’t place him, but they might be worthwhile for you’,” he said.
“We say to our Indian coaches, ‘We will do everything we can, but if you get knocked back by Immigration, there is not much else we can do’.
“With our coaches, all I want from them is to be compassionate and to understand that there might be some cultural barriers or language barriers to overcome, but that the investment will be worthwhile. They are very diligent in that regard.”
Such are the demands of running different businesses, the 52-year-old tries to fit the equivalent of a couple of days of work into every 24 hours.
From mid-morning he will be pursuing activities at the popular East Coburg Tennis Club on Bell St, which is situated next to the former home of Pentridge Prison.
The barbed wire is long gone, so too are most of the foreboding bluestone walls, with the infamous site now redeveloped into a lively housing and entertainment precinct.
After finishing coaching at the club, Joseph is on the phone speaking with his employees and colleagues in Asia late at night and into the early hours of the next day.
Opening the sport to all is a goal.
He is hoping to raise the number of women who participate in his courses, noting only five percent of the 210 prospective coaches who have attended recent courses in India are female.
That, he said, is “not good enough”.
But the Melbourne coach has high hopes for his next course, which is running in June, believing up to 60 of the attendees will be women.
“The first person I will be taking in my business here is a woman. It is a statement. We have to give women opportunities,” he said.
What gives Joseph confidence is a non-government organisation body he has helped found called the Women’s Coaches of India.
The acting president of the WCI is Nirupama Sanjeev, who was the first Indian woman in the Open era to win a match, doing so at the Australian Open in 1998.
“I’m really excited to see where this venture takes us because we already have 35 inquiries from women for the course we are running in Bangalore in June,” he said.
It is an endeavour Joseph believes will further the aspirations of the AATC in India and also add further to the fulfilment he feels for investing in both his homeland and country of birth.
“The first four or five years in India were tough, but we persevered, and you have to persevere in a business. It is a good quality to have,” he said.