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  • Writer's pictureBen Stannard

The coach to Richard Branson & Irish Davis Cup star – who is making waves in the Corporate World

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

James Cluskey (33) was a successful player on the Junior and ITF circuit throughout – reaching the world’s Top 150 in ATP doubles, with a plethora of titles. The Davis Cup stalwart, started his tennis journey, aged 6 in the outskirts of Dublin. Consistently a top junior – he captured the Under 18’s Irish championship before embarking on a successful College career at Lousiana State University – a top 10 school in the United States.

I asked James about the potential pitfalls of growing up in the Irish tennis system. With a population of under 5 million and government funding of less than 500,000 Euros per year – Tennis Ireland – could rarely be considered a governing body powerhouse. You’d have to cast your memory back to 2011, where Conor Niland was the first Irishman to play in the Wimbledon Singles for over 30 years.

“My start to tennis was cheap and cheerful (…) a local park set-up. It was only when I was 14 and a Canadian coach was brought in to improve the tennis programme across Ireland.” Cluskey was able to have solid results on the lower realms of the professional tour, in singles, post his graduation. He reached ATP 800 in 2007- but it was on the doubles court, where mainstream successes started falling his way. Cluskey captured 16 titles on the ITF circuit and regular wins on the ATP Challenger Tour. Successful partners included Wimbledon champion Frederik Nielsen and familiar names including Dustin Brown, Liam Broady and Australian Open semi-finalist, Kyle Edmund – in the 2014 season.

However, it was at a tournament in late 2015 in Italy – where Cluskey decided the grind of the professional tour was dawning and he wanted to pursue other interests outside of the sport. However, tennis was something he wanted to build on, “it is a great sport which can translate into the world of business and other successes”.

Through the contact of Swedish professional, Andreas Siljestrom – Cluskey was invited to Necker Island – the famous home of Richard Branson to compete in the annual Pro-AM. A little bit of research shows the luxurious environment of the event!

In 2018 – James alongside three others – broke the world record for the longest double match ever – lasting over 60 hours, with Branson tweeting his support. His passion to bridge sports and business has led him to set up the successful, High Calibre Collective – an executive coaching firm. In 2019, he also published his first book, “Advantage”, which centres on using sporting lessons to achieve your personal goals- this has been advocated by Linda Kiely (founder of VoxPro) and French Open finalist, Fabrice Martin.

We wish James well on the rest of his journey.

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