One of Radley’s longest-serving staff members, Mick joined the Common Room in 1978, teaching Geography and coaching Rackets until his retirement from teaching in 2010. Mick continues to coach Real Tennis and we joined him just as he finished working with a group of Shells. We asked him to take us back to his pre-Radley days.

I was a Real Tennis pro for five years at Oxford after my degree and then I went into town planning for a while before deciding to do a PGCE. While I was running the Merton College Real Tennis Club I would meet Radley dons who brought boys to play there on Wednesday afternoons. David Goldsmith, Tutor of E Social and subsequently Sub-Warden had been looking for someone to run Rackets and teach, so it felt like the job had been made for me.

Over the next 15-20 years I taught more and more until I was teaching Geography full-time and trying to fit Rackets in. At that point, someone else took over Rackets which freed me up to take boys further afield to play Real Tennis. There’s a good overlap in terms of technique between Rackets and Real Tennis, so I could see which Rackets players might be successful at Real Tennis. I spent a lot of time advocating for a Real Tennis court to be built at Radley. Eventually, Ian Balding (former Member of Council) and I managed to raise the money needed and the court was bult in 2008. I retired from teaching in 2010 but have carried on coaching Real Tennis and Lawn Tennis in the summer.

Tell us about your role at the Real Tennis Club now.

After I retired from teaching, I was asked to return for a couple of terms to fill in when someone left – it reminded me how lucky I had been for 30 years, doing what I loved and interacting with boys in the classroom. It’s wonderful to have an official College position and to carry on coaching the boys … but I must admit, I don’t miss the marking!

I coach during each of the weekly games sessions, from the players who do this as their main sport, to boys who will come to us straight from the rugby or hockey pitch for a few social games.

Coaching the boys now, especially doing the Shell Games Circus, I often come across boys whose fathers I taught, and several ORs have remained in the area and are members of the Real Tennis Club – some of whom I started playing 30 or 40 years ago!

I have the chance to meet a lot of prospective parents which is lovely; and if they are ORs, even better!

We are one of only five schools in the country with its own Real Tennis court, so it really is an unusual and popular part of the tour for prospective boys and parents. I tend to remember an OR’s Social very clearly because I still associate their face with their Social tie. I think it often impresses people that while I might not recall their name immediately, I can almost always remember their Social.

The pleasure of working here always was, and still is, the people. I’ve had the privilege of working with very able and really nice people over the years.

Do you still play?

I do still play in veterans’ tournaments. I’ll be playing in the British over-seventies team this year – every two years the tournament takes place in one of the countries that play the game and this year it will be on home turf; our age group will be playing on the court at Hatfield House.

Can you pick a highlight from your time at Radley?

I loved the Geography field trips, especially to places like Lulworth Cove and the Alps to look at physical geography and landforms, which I taught at A-Level. In terms of sport, the most outstanding players I had came very early in my career – the pairing of Julian Snow and James Male. They won prestigious doubles and singles titles while at Radley; James went on to be world rackets champion for nearly 20 years and Julian was the top Real Tennis amateur in the world for over 20 years as well. That was a wonderful experience, to have two boys of that quality here at the same time.

What makes Radley a special place to work?

The pleasure of working here always was, and still is, the people. I’ve had the privilege of working with very able and really nice people over the years. For years the Geography Department was run by an exact contemporary of mine, John Harris – in fact we retired in the same year. The atmosphere in the department was just brilliant – we supported each other and everyone pitched in. It adds so much to your working life if you can get that atmosphere of camaraderie right and I never took it for granted.

Dennis Silk was Warden for my first 13 years and I remember the impression he left on me very distinctly. He would appear during the day at the Rackets court to ask how things were going, or he’d pop a little card in my pigeonhole commenting on a result or congratulating me on a win – those little gestures meant a lot. He had such an enlightened and positive attitude and his interest and support meant we, as members of Common Room, were prepared to go over and above in return.