'Extra hours training and travelling is all worth it'
FOR many young people playing sport in the county the step-up to senior level can appear daunting.
The competition can widen to take in people from across the country and the world. Education and life pressures also come increasingly into play.
Here, county squash player Nathan Lake, 20, a former European Junior champion now ranked 117th in the world, writes about moving from amateur youth sport to the professional ranks.
WHEN I first picked up a racket, aged nine, I had no intention of trying to take on the world and play for England.
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I just enjoyed playing and trying to beat my mates.
It wasn't until I got older that I became more and more obsessed with how to get better.
Starting on a local level, I wanted to become the best in my club and then the county,
I started playing at Old Pats Club where there was a good group of players all of a similar standard which helped us bring each other on.
I started playing events most weekends in order to compete against better players and with this my improvement continued, winning both county and regional titles.
As I got better, my training levels increased and it started to clash with school.
I found it increasingly important to manage my time so that I could do all the training I needed and still get my school work done on time.
However, this was something I never did quite master and quite often school would come second in my list of priorities.
My parents may not like me for saying this, but for me all the extra hours training and travelling around for competitions has been worth it.
I have been fortunate to play for, and captain, my country, travelling the world doing something I love and going to places I never would have been without squash. For example, I played in the two World Junior Championships, the first in India then in Ecuador.
But behind every successful sportsman or women there is a team of support that without which everything would fall apart.
My family has played a massive part in my development, driving me to and from training every day and travelling to league matches late at night, coaches who show belief in you and help guide you in making the most of your potential, and, last but by no means least, sponsors.
Especially at the start of your career, it is hard for an athlete to make money so sponsors' help is massively important.
My club East Glos have been fantastic with their support, Nutrition X are a recent addition to the team helping me make the most of my training.
Also, the University of Gloucestershire allow me to use their fantastic facilities.
Although sports is tough and very frustrating at times, on the whole it is a fantastic ride, meeting great new people and having that feeling of achievement – however great or small!