From Federer to Foster
HE is the personal massage therapist to former world tennis number one, Roger Federer, and the Swiss Davis Cup team.
He has soothed the injuries of Australia’s cricketers and relieved the aches of Commonwealth Games athletes.
Now the next role for Wonthaggi’s Gary Hamilton is coaching Foster’s Thirds boys.
The massage therapist and personal trainer has worked with Federer’s camp since 2007 and while he has travelled to grand slams and tournaments across the globe, Hamilton remains as passionate as ever about grassroots footy.
Hamilton talks football like it’s another language, discussing fat and skinny areas of the ground, playing zone defence and not afraid to overturn longstanding football tactics in a bid to improve results.
“Coaching the Foster Under 18s is certainly different to my experience in elite sport, although the Foster Football Club is an open, friendly, welcoming club.
“I will endeavour to prepare the boys well covering all the components of fitness, encouraging respect, good sportsmanship and team work – a level of professionalism as close to elite as possible.
“Grassroots football or any sport for that matter is where we all began, so it has to be supported well and I think that I should put something back into the sport and club that supported me.”
Hamilton played most of his senior football at Foster: he played in three grand finals, was captain in the club’s centenary year in 1990 and coached the senior team for four years.
His sons, Trent, 17, and Ty, 15, play at Foster and his wife Jacqui is team manager. Her family is involved at the club and the boys play football with their cousins every week.
Hamilton has also played with Wonthaggi Rovers, coached Wonthaggi Power and served as assistant coach with the TAC Cup side, Gippsland Power.
Hawthorn’s Under 19s side enjoyed his services.
Hamilton issued Foster’s Thirds with their preseason training program last week, before he spends January at the Australian Open, the tennis grand slam of Asia-Pacific, and then flies to Switzerland to work with the Swiss Davis Cup team in the opening match of the year.
“There are certain moments when I think ‘What am I doing?’ but with Roger it’s like being with friends and that’s the really important thing.”
Hamilton returns to the open on January 4, treating players contesting the qualifying tournament in the lead up to the main event. With 250 hopefuls playing in the singles competitions alone, he expects long hours.
“Most of the work I do is recovery work, working closely with physios and sports doctors as well. When I’m with Roger, it’s just me and him.”
Hamilton’s work will continue into the open proper, working 14 days straight, anywhere up until 1am, soothing players’ bodies after practice sessions and matches.
Switzerland’s first Davis Cup match will be played in the city of Geneva, and contested indoors due to sub-zero temperatures.
The team will most likely comprise Federer, Stanislas Wawrinka, Marco Chiudinelli, Michael Lammer and Henri Laaksonen.
Hamilton will work alongside the team coach, captain, doctor, physio, team manager and racquet stringer, and add strength and conditioning duties to his massage therapist’s role.
“It’s a team environment where everyone does a bit of something.”
On match days, Hamilton monitors players’ drinks to ensure they are not tampered with, and is charged with supplying towels and tissues.
He is the only Australian on the team working alongside a team of not only Swiss, but also an American and a French physio.
“The Swiss fly me everywhere. It’s about the opportunity. You always hear of people that want to go overseas to do what they want to do.
“It’s great fun and is exciting, but I have to remind myself why I’m doing it. I do not want to take it for granted because it could all end tomorrow.”
Ironically, his first tie with the Swiss team was against Australia in Sydney in 2011. Federer’s former coach, Tony Roche, then the Australian Davis Cup coach, saw Hamilton wearing the Swiss red and white, and remarked: “Gary, what are you doing?!”
His foray into elite tennis began after he secured a role as massage therapist at the 2006 open. At the 2007 grand slam, a tournament official rang him at home in Wonthaggi and said Federer would like a massage at 1pm. After the second session with Federer, the tennis great asked Hamilton to work with him for the tournament.
So impressed was Federer, he invited Hamilton to Europe and since then Hamilton has travelled around the world with Federer’s camp, including the Beijing Olympics, and numerous Wimbledon and French Open tournaments.
“Roger is just like you see him.”
Always interested in sports medicine, Hamilton studied massage therapy later in life after initially training as an electrical inspector with the former State Electricity Commission.
His work at the elite level results in advanced treatment for his clients at the Wonthaggi business, New Level Body Therapy, he runs with Jacqui, herself a personal trainer and keen tennis player.
“Working with athletes, you are always treating similar injuries, but when I come home, I can get five-year-olds to 85-year-olds.”
He continues to expand his knowledge, studying for diplomas of sport and fitness.
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