Every so often I’m asked who’s your inspiration/role-model/mentor?
I always answer, I try to learn from everyone but if I was to pick one.
It would be Michael Gerrard,
He inspired me to be the best version of me and a man that has given me pure hope and belief in myself. Most importantly, recently he has shown me that anything can be achieved.
But first a quick story…
17 years ago Michael walked into my club (back then Barnet TTC), asking for some table tennis coaching.
He wanted a private session (1-2hrs per day) 4 times a week. At first I thought great I’m cashing in (not in a selfish way but in a way of, this is helping me) and then I wondered why is a 47 year old man having so much coaching?
Michael had played a little as a kid at Barnet and decided to come back into the game after 20 odd years out. But this time he had a purpose, a special tournament! A charity event held at Lords Cricket ground (London).
Entry fee: £10,000
Rules: must never have had a ranking or played league table tennis
Michael set his mind that he would win this event and donate all the winnings to a (Cancer charity) in memory of his former business partner, who passed away from the disease.
Michael’s level back then I would say bottom division local league (depending on the league of course).
I had no idea about his potential opposition but the aim was to give him the best possible chance of winning.
The key focus was to elevate Michael’s strength (forehand), develop a block and a spinny serve. After a few months all of the above had upscaled and it was show time.
A lot of extremely influential people had entered including Michael Sherwood (CEO Goldman Sachs), Philip Green (owner of Topshop) turned up to watch, Ray Kelvin (owner of Ted Baker) and a few other hot shots…
I looked at each player knocking and made notes, I formulated a strategy against all possible opposition. Michael was focused and determined in taking this event, and put all his trust in me (his coach).
First match Michael cruised through, eyes turned on him plus Michael Sherwood for the title. In the semi’s Michael faced Mr Ted Baker and was routed on by Philip Greene who was worth £9 Billion at the time. Ray was able to hold his own in the rallies but struggled to return Michael’s spinny serves. I have another story that followed on from that match, involving Philip Greene (but I’ll leave that for another day).
In the final Michael was in the zone and overwhelmed Mr Sherwood to take the title.
Michael paid for my Nobu meal and gave me a kind donation to my table tennis centre to say thank you. Yet that was nothing because that day created a life long bond between us.
As the years passed, Michael was always there when I needed a friend with a big wallet but bigger heart. He always picks up the phone to have a chat but never answers any text messages 😜.
I saw Michael as a father figure, a man that had build a small empire yet is the most humble guy. He treats everyone the same and cares for people’s well being.
I was down a few times over the years and Michael always provided me with his wisdom. He encouraged me to keep driving forward and to always keep the light lit no matter how dark or dim it may be…
Most importantly Michael believed in me and kept having his coaching sessions every week.
He joined the local league Barnet plus Harrow & Wembley where he began at the the bottom moved up to the top division over the years.
Success, beyond belief:
In the past few weeks just gone, Michael beat two players whom I would never have dreamt possible, considering his level when I first met him and the age he took up table tennis seriously.
The players are top local and national league players;
Darius Zurwaski and the legendary Costas Papantoniou. When I received a message showing me the score card, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
How has a man who’s level was so low and began playing seriously aged 47 moved into the top division local league and beaten some of the best players in the country, (Both players had played Premier British league).
Veteran scene here we come
Michael is 64 now and we are both aiming to hit the world veteran scene. I’ve learnt that age is just a number and that the table tennis ball doesn’t know your age. I’ve also learnt to believe in the impossible because of Michael, who is Mr Impossible…
And that’s why Michael is my inspiration!