Alex Hughes and his team at ITF preparing for Tokyo 2020

In our latest alumni spotlight we meet Alex Hughes, senior manager – Olympics, Paralympics, and Multi-Sports Games – at the International Tennis Federation (ITF). Alex graduated from the AISTS in 2010. From learning the art of patience to navigating the pressures of major events, here, Alex shares his advice.

In his role with the ITF Alex oversees operational planning for the tennis events at all multi-sports games that the federation is involved in. While his primary focus is the Olympic, Paralympic, and Youth Olympic Games, his department’s involvement extends to approximately 30 other Games worldwide including Continental, Masters, University and many more.

“Taking the Olympics as an example,” Alex explains. “My department sets the Qualification System and the Eligibility Rules to determine player entries. We then work closely with the IOC Sports team and the Organising Committee to ensure the venue, services, and technology are prepared exactly as required to host the Olympic Tennis Event.”

Speaking to Alex, it’s clear that there’s a lot more to this than one might think. For example, Alex had already completed 10 site visits to Tokyo in the run up to the 2021 Summer Olympic Games before COVID-19 happened. But for Alex, this intense planning process is all part of the joy of the job.  

Following your passion for sport

“They say do what you love and for me that’s always been sport and travel,” says Alex. “I was sports-mad growing up and played tennis internationally as a junior, so it was, I guess, always a natural fit. I didn’t seek out a role specifically in tennis – I actually took a long break from the sport after getting injured at 16 – but I knew I always wanted a career in sport. To be able to combine it with travel was the dream job and my current position provides that, so I feel very fortunate.”

His favourite career moment to date was leading the team as Technical Delegate at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. “We had two brilliant Athlete Role Models in Gaby Sabatini and David Nalbandian and it was just an enormously enjoyable and successful Games to be a part of,” he says.

But of course, working in sports isn’t always easy and the current situation (COVID-19) is proving to be one of the toughest times of Alex’s career to date, with tennis completely shutdown and Tokyo 2020 being postponed. But his biggest challenge was Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games.  

“It was my third Olympic & Paralympic Games,” he explains. “But first for the ITF and while the on-court action was brilliant, there was a lot going on behind the scenes.”

Opening up a world of opportunity

Prior to joining the AISTS, Alex worked in host broadcasting on the Beijing Olympics and stayed on in China to work on the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games in the same role. However, he soon realised that while he wanted to remain in sport, television wasn’t his calling. That realisation led him to Lausanne.

“My year in Lausanne with AISTS allowed me to explore and understand so many other areas of the sporting landscape and that was exactly my aim,” Alex explains. “I wanted to see what was out there and find the type of career I did want to pursue. It was also just great to be able to study a topic you love and to meet and make great friends with other sports nuts from all over the world.”

It’s a recurring theme for AISTS alumni that one of their favourite parts of the program is their classmates, who come from all across the world. And Alex is no different. “I genuinely just loved turning up each day and hanging out with a really lovely bunch of people,” he says.

Your dream job takes patience

When it comes to advice for others wanting to work in the world of sport, Alex has one word. Patience.

“After AISTS I worked for London 2012 but it took nearly a year after that to land my first role with the ITF,” Alex explains. “It probably didn’t help that I needed to stay in London at that time – having a fixed location does narrow your options significantly – so if you can be flexible and are prepared to move for your career that can really help. It’s also something I’d actively encourage when you first start out because you learn so much from living and working in different countries and cultures.”

Experience the world of sport in the Olympic Capital

Participants attend several full-day workshops throughout the programme to experience sport. These sessions are delivered by the sport organisations and federations themselves and provide a unique hands-on experience and well as an ideal opportunity to connect to our alumni and experts working in the industry.