A book written by Dave Courteen has been shortlisted for the Illustrated Book of the Year in the annual Telegraph Sports Book Awards.
Courteen, CEO of Mosaic Spa and Health Clubs, has been in the fitness industry for over 30 years. He wrote More To Gain Than Just The Game after his daughter, Rose, persuaded him to write another book eight years on from having his first book published – a journal-style account of his wife’s battle with breast cancer called The Last Chocolate Brownie.
We talk to Courteen about the journey of creating the new book.
What was the catalyst that prompted you to start writing?
I’ve always enjoyed writing as a way of relaxing and switching off.
The idea started out as a simple photographic book featuring the stunning work of Richard Dawson who takes some amazing action shots of the World Tennis Tour we hold at our Shrewsbury Club twice a year.
Over dinner with friends, they suggested I tried to weave some stories around the photos and so the idea was born. I set myself the goal that if I found someone famous to write the foreword and a publisher, then I would write the book.
I met someone at the club who worked for a publisher and they were really keen to get involved. Finally, I asked Judy Murray if she would write the foreword and when she said she’d be delighted to, I decided I’d better get writing!
What was the vision and purpose you set out with?
It was, and is, a passion project. I’m passionate about sport and believe it has so many benefits beyond simply the fun of the game.
It teaches us so many life lessons – how to work in teams, how to achieve goals, how to win with humility and to lose with dignity. It’s about building resilience and overcoming adversity.
I wanted to write a book that conveyed that message about sport through seven simple stories, based on professional tennis players I met at our tennis event.
I also just wanted to enjoy the process of creating a lovely coffee table-style book that had great images and powerful stories, which was creatively designed and would be something I could be proud of.
What did you learn through the process of evolving the book?
That you don’t make any money being an author! Writers get three per cent of sales.
I’ve never had anyone edit my work before and I found that a fascinating and enjoyable process and loved working with Andy Stewart the designer. He’s added so much to the book through our collaboration and I loved watching him bring the pages to life.
What did you learn about yourself while writing it?
That I work well when there’s a deadline and also that wine makes me write more creatively!
I think the key thing I discovered is that writing is something I really enjoy, but it’s a hobby and I wouldn’t want to do it for a living.
How would you describe the effect sport can have on someone’s life?
Sport provides such a profound benefit to individuals who learn to love a sport.
This is summed up in one of the stories in the book – Luca is nine years old and was struggling at school, underperforming in his classes and couldn’t break into friendship groups. He lacked confidence.
He couldn’t find a sport he loved, but came to watch the World Tennis Tour at Shrewsbury and decided he wanted to give it a go. He loved it and has gone on to play competitively and become a county champion.
The big effect is that his confidence has grown, he’s formed friendship groups and his school achievement has skyrocketed. His parents and teachers say he’s a transformed character.
Do we value sports participation enough today?
Probably not – we need to start by making it a higher priority in schools. I do think that Sport England and many of the NGBs are now doing a better job of promoting sport and participation.
Will you write another book and if so, what will it be about?
I know that I’m old enough to never say never but right now there are no plans. I would need to have a clear idea and purpose to write another book – so if that happens then who knows. I certainly won’t be doing it to make money!
What’s happening in your business right now?
We’re gearing up for reopening in our clubs and spas. We’re taking a balanced view and planning to be very clear with our members about the steps we’ll take to minimise risk, but we’ll also be asking them to play their part in terms of observing social distancing and being sensible.
Staff won’t come in if they’re ill and will wash their hands regularly. Hard surfaces will be wiped down and, where we can, we’ll prop doors open so they don’t have to be touched.
There’ll be a one way system and screens at reception and each member will be given a freshly laundered cloth and a bottle of anti-viral spray on arrival – we’ll ask them to wipe down all equipment before and after use.
What does your risk assessment tell you about reopening?
So long as social distancing is observed, the main threat is going to be the virus being transferred on hard surfaces. The issue is going to be – for example – people exercising hard and the droplets coming out and going onto – say – the console of the treadmill. That’s going to be where you’ll catch it if you touch the console and touch your face.
We’re going to focus on those issues – put a list together of all the things we’re going to do and then explain what we expect members to do – respect other members, respect the social distancing and don’t come to the club if you’re feeling unwell.
Don’t use the changing rooms unless you have to. Arrive on time, but don’t arrive early – we’ll have a 15 minute gap between classes to maintain distancing and give time for cleaning.
But we won’t be policing people in the gym. At the end of the day, they’re adults and we have to rely on them to be sensible. We won’t be taking people’s temperature before they can come in.
We can’t remove the risk completely, but that’s OK, because the same risks exist everywhere and the government has said it’s now safe for us to go out. When they say it’s safe to go to the gym, we must assume they’ve done the risk assessment that says the chances of you catching it are lower than the benefits of using the gym.
We’re doing staff training sessions in COVID-19, so they understand what’s expected of them – to deliver on the standards that have been set, but not to turn into security guards.