Gilly Cutugno is a qualified ITF (International Tennis Federation) level 2 Tennis Coach who founded ‘Gilly’s Tennis School’ after reading for a degree in Communications and spending most of her life on a Tennis court. During the summer, she runs a summer school called Energize Kids’ Programme together with Jo Barron who is a fitness instructor. She is married to Chris and they have two girls, Pippa age 4 and Ally age 2. I caught up with Gilly to chat about her active lifestyle, tennis, kids and everything in between ….
Gilly, were your family very sporty or did you develop an interest over time?
I started playing tennis when I was 8 years old. Being the youngest of three girls, I wanted to be just like my sisters. I used to go and watch them play until finally it was my turn to join. I played tennis for many years and from the age of 12 I played and trained with the Malta Tennis Federation.
Were your parents always supportive of your sporting ambitions?
I was very lucky as my parents supported me as a tennis player in all possible ways and also nowadays with my busy schedule as a tennis coach.
Tell us a bit about why you started your tennis school?
By the age of 17 my ambition was to teach children how to play tennis. My dream was to provide the opportunity for as many kids as possible to learn tennis and reach their highest potential. I wanted to give them the chance to travel and experience the challenge as an athlete overseas. My passion to accomplish my dream propelled me to start my own school and I have never looked back! My school caters for children from the age of 4 upwards, as well as adults. I believe that organizing tennis events such as parent/child fun tennis, doubles team tournaments and charity events, encourage the players and helps them grow holistically which is fundamental with our hectic life style today.
You also run Energize Summer Camp, what is the inspiration behind all of that? Is it a purely sporting concept or is there more to it?
Together with my partner Jo Barron, our aim is to energize both the mind and the body of every child who attends by incorporating activities inspired by the arts as well as a variety of sports. We believe that it is imperative for children to change from their regular school environment in order to go back refreshed and with a new perspective.
How do you make good health part of your parenting?
As many working mums may know, working and having a family is one of the biggest challenges in life. However it is also a choice. Like everyone else, there are days where I have no idea how I got through my day and there are days where everything somehow goes by smoothly. Thankfully, my husband Chris helps me with the cooking and the good thing is he enjoys it! We love to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and luckily our girls are not fussy eaters. I spend a lot of time preparing the girls lunch boxes in the morning and they enjoy seeing what’s inside. I vary their school snacks between carrot sticks, olives, corn, cherry tomatoes, crackers with Marmite, slices of fruit and raisins.
I also encourage my girls to be active, we play a lot of races together, ball games, they love to use their scooters and we go to the swings as often as I can. I know we’ve had a great time together when we go home dirty. My eldest daughter Pippa started playing tennis at a very young age, we would play over the kitchen table! It was great fun but soon became dangerous so we transferred our practice to the tennis court and she loves it!
Finally my love for this sport is something that has become a big part of who I am today and I am constantly trying to pass on my passion of tennis to my children as well as my nephews and nieces since we often play fitness games whenever we meet. The energetic smiles oozing from their innocent sweaty faces makes it all worthwhile!
Do you have any tips or advice for eating healthy as a family?
From a very young age I involved our kids in outings to the supermarket. I explain the difference between healthy and non-healthy food and I encourage them to help out in the kitchen. I don’t believe in treating my children with fast food on special occasions or rewarding them with sweets when they do something right. I opt for healthy juices or a smoothie with a fancy straw or a sticker.
With your busy schedule today, do you still find time to exercise?
Before I had children I used to run daily at 5:45am, play tennis and attend a gym 4 times a week. Nowadays I try to fit in as much exercise as I can on a regular basis since it is imperative for my job. Occasionally, I even enjoy a 7 minute workout with my children!
Moving forward, how do you hope your influence on the children you teach will impact them in later life?
I hope that my positive attitude together with the relationship we build as a player and a coach leaves an impact on their future. I work very hard to help them realize that sports is part of the their education. Tennis as a sport teaches discipline, socialization, respect towards those in authority as well as their peers, and last but not least gratitude towards their parents for their time and dedication. I always keep in mind our Energize slogan ‘ Their Smiles are our Energy’ and I hope my body will allow me to keep on doing what I love most.
Should you be interested in trying out Tennis yourself or to enroll your kids, find out more here at Gilly’s Tennis School and to keep updated with information regarding the Summer School head to Energize Kids Programme.