From tennis to podiatry

Nicola George is a former elite tennis player, who retrained as a podiatrist and is the owner of Foot Faults podiatry clinic in Ormskirk. She competed at Junior Wimbledon at 16, but after retiring from sport pursued a career in podiatry. You can connect with Nicola on LinkedIn. Interested in using your sporting expertise in a new career? Click here for more.

From as early as I can remember, I always wanted to play tennis and to become a professional player.  I left school at the age of 12 and was home educated to allow me to prepare for the Junior World Tennis Tour.  However, with regards to academia, I only managed to sit two IGCSEs due to playing Junior Wimbledon at aged 16. In singles, I reached a career high of 160 on the Junior World Tour and 662 on the Women’s World Tour.

By the time I was 22, various issues started to occur, and I decided to retire from tennis; I had a long-term injury, the cost of staying on tour was becoming too much and I split up from a very difficult relationship with my coach.

Suddenly I felt lost in the ‘normal’ world and ended up in a very dark place needing help as well as wondering what to do with my life.  Whilst I loved playing, I decided I needed to take steps to forge an alternative career path.

The obvious choice was to become a tennis coach, but this had never appealed to me as I always preferred to be the player rather than the teacher.  I needed to rebuild my life and decided to return to education. I wanted to gain some more academic qualifications to give me a wider choice of alternatives. I bought what I deemed the hardest IGCSE book possible to try and prove a point – Physics. Over the next couple of years, I collated four more IGCSE’s resulting in top grades. It was not easy to study alone at home rather than in a class, but my tennis training had prepared me well for this.  It taught me to persevere with things until you get it right.

At the same time as returning to education, I started to play golf, a sport which I play far more frequently than tennis nowadays. I try to play at least weekly at my club and a few years ago I had the privilege of playing in the Women’s British Open as a ‘Marker’ for one of the professionals.

I considered a career in Physiotherapy as I knew a lot of sporty people pursued this, but a friend of mine, who is a podiatrist, convinced me to study Podiatry instead.  Among the benefits of this career choice aside from the satisfaction that goes with relieving patients from their discomfort are; the potential to earn a comfortable living; being my own boss; and the flexibility to work around playing sport which is important to me.

I went to university to study Podiatry and came out with a First-Class Honours degree. From the moment I left university, and ending 6 years of education, I started my current clinic.  Working in the private sector over the past 18 months has been very fulfilling for me due to the variation of medical complaints which come through my door.

I truly believe that this is the most under-appreciated medical profession.

Additionally, I have been able to develop new skills for medical conditions that are not treated within the NHS. For me, podiatry is a fantastic profession. I love working in the medical world and continue to learn new things all the time.  It gives me great satisfaction to know I have helped patients who then go away feeling much better.  I particularly love having the flexibility to play sport.

In the 18 months since I qualified as a Podiatrist, I have built a business in a clinical setting, from zero up to currently having a full to bursting diary.  I have employed another podiatrist who helps me on an ad-hoc basis, but I am now looking for a permanent part-time podiatrist and looking to extend my premises.  My long-term plan is to grow the business further with more podiatrists as well as becoming a multi-disciplinary practice.