In the second part of this extensive interview, Ukrainian businessman and philanthropist, Ihor Kononenko, founder of the International Tennis Academy talks about how the critical role tennis plays in a person’s mental health.
Our academy works like a sports club. In order to be a part of it, you have to purchase a club card or a packages to which the card is automatically linked. Today there are over 1500 members of the club which is testament to the way Ukrainians are now approaching fitness and a healthy lifestyle. In this day and age when people are spending more and more time on their devices, to have people unplug and look after themselves is amazing.
Unfortunately, due to the current situation with Covid-19 and having to be in quarantine, people aren’t able to maintain their fitness as they would like. It’s a really difficult time – people are wanting to work out and can’t while many sports establishments are empty because people aren’t allowed to be there.
What gets lost in all this is that it’s not just the body that is affected by a lack of fresh air and exercise but the mind. Physical health and mental health impact each other and the damage caused by this virus to mental health is unbelievable.
It really is destructive. When you finish a workout or playing some tennis, you’re on a natural high. Maybe not as much of a high if you lose the tennis game, but on a high nevertheless. That is great for both your physical and mental health. You’re happier and you will probably be more cheerful to those around you.
So now, there is a lack of people having that high and most likely they’re on a low because of the stresses and pressures this virus has created. It is critical that when this is finished that people break out of whatever slump the virus caused and do all they can to get on the bike, the horse, the treadmill or the tennis court.
Back to the tennis academy, for all of our players who sign with us, we help them. Help them with training, we worry about them, support and cheer for them. This is all Ukrainian tennis. I would like it to develop, grow, and I wish we had more champions.
Going back to mental health, there is nothing like a champion to inspire the next generation to follow in his or her footsteps. If we have a champion tennis player, it inspires other boys and girls all over Ukraine to pick up a racquet and play. It’s just wonderful.
Two such players are Marta Kostyuk and Daria (Dasha) Snigur. Snigur won Junior Wimbledon in 2019 while Kostyuk is a member of the Fed Cup team and won Junior Australian Open in 2017 and the Junior Doubles at the US Open also in 2017. She made the 3rd round of this year’s US Open where she lost to eventual champion, Noami Osaka. She took her to a third set after winning the second in a tie-break. It’s just an incredible achievement.
One can’t underestimate the power that something like this can have on people. Give them someone to cheer in these crazy times.