Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Pat Cash, tennis player

'I made more money than the teachers'
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Pat Cash, 44, is one of the few winners of both the junior and senior Wimbledon singles titles. Born in Australia, he was at 17 the youngest Davies Cup singles winner and at 19 was a Wimbledon semi-finalist. He is a BBC tennis commentator and has been leading a masterclass for Sky Sports Living for Sport, a free initiative for all UK secondary schools (www.skysports.com/livingforsport).

I ran away on my first day at Our Lady of Good Counsel Primary School in Melbourne. My mum had to chase me down the street. The teacher put me by the window so I could look out of it; I crawled out and ran away again. My mum said she would belt me within an inch of my life! Then I got the hang of school and liked it.

At 11 I went to Marcellin College, a Catholic boys' high school. One of the teachers was an Australian Rules football superstar, Peter McKenna. I played a lot of sport: cricket, hockey, lots of athletics, which really made me a better sportsperson. I quite enjoyed it. I played tennis outside school; it was not regarded as a school sport. Instead of kicking a soccer ball around in a park, for tennis you need a court – and courts aren't free. To get young people to play, I think there should be free coaching at parks every weekend.

Through my mum and dad, who were social players, I got into tennis at about nine, a bit later than other kids but I soon caught up. Tennis in Australia was pretty cheap: $100 for family membership of a club for a year. At first it was just another sport and at about 14 it began taking over. By the time I was 15 I was beating men and was the best tennis player in the state (playing football, I was only in the under-16 team). I got a good coach from the age of 12 to when I was 30, which is very rare.

My parents moved and I went to Whitefriars College, still in Melbourne. This had lovely facilities but just two tennis courts, which I never really used. I didn't like too many subjects. Going off for a couple of months at a time for international junior tennis, I was falling behind. Homework didn't interest me and was rushed, to say the least. I was focused on catching the bus to the tennis courts.

My son is at Cheam High School in Surrey and is doing drama and music, but my schools just didn't have that. There was nothing wrong with them but, if you weren't particularly academic, it was bad luck back then. I didn't do well in the final "projects", the exams we took at 16. I got a bare pass in various subjects. In science you had to be in the classroom with the Bunsen burners but I was away.

Because I couldn't do a handstand for ten seconds, I didn't get an A in sport all the way through my schools: a blip in my education! The nearest I got was A-minus. I still can't do handstands. I got on great with the kids. It was the teachers; they were jealous that I was in the newspapers. By the time I left school, I was making more money than the teachers, which didn't go down too well.

If I went back to education now, I would do fitness training, athletic conditioning and nutrition – but I don't have the grades. Probably because of my sporting injuries, I'm very interested in reiki medicine, using your hands to channel energy. It sounds like witchcraft but it works.

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