Thank you for jumping into this interview with me today.
We met around 8 months ago when you wrote some great in-depth articles for my SuperGreen TONIK blog. I was blown away by your level of knowledge and how passionate you were about the subject.
This led to us chatting more about our experience in Sports Science and soon discovered your fascinating back-story. So, I knew I had to get your story out and so here is the result.
Thanks again Brenton, I am super excited to discover your journey into the professional sporting world and how you transitioned into working with an amazing supplement brand 😉
- 1 It would be great to get a little background information from where you were born to where you live today.
- 2 You have lived in Japan for 17-years now, are married to a Japanese woman, and have a daughter. Were you always fascinated with Japan, what made you decide to live there?
- 3 You have held some impressive positions in Sport, such as Head Advisor for the Japanese Government’s Sports Science Institute and Managerial and Head Coaching roles with Australian National Governing Bodies. What are some of the skill sets and experiences that allowed you to be successful in those roles?
- 4 You spent 10-years as a manager/coach in women’s professional Tennis. How did you first get started in this field?
- 5 Can you give us some highlights of your proudest achievements in coaching?
- 6 You’re a huge fan of cycling and normally not a day goes by when you’re not on the bike, whether inside on the rollers or outside in undulating Japanese countryside. What’s your fascination with cycling?
- 7 You were about to start a new job in Australia when the pandemic struck last year having a dramatic impact on your lifestyle. What happened?
- 8 This year you joined SuperGreen TONIK as operations and content manager. What got you interested in this company and how’s it going?
It would be great to get a little background information from where you were born to where you live today.
Hi Adam, and thanks for the opportunity to tell my story.
I was born in Mt Gambier, a small country town in South Australia. We packed up and moved to Adelaide when I was about 5yo, just because there were no opportunities for my parents in such a small town.
That small town seems like a lifetime ago, especially being based in Japan now for 18 years.
I grew up in a sporting family with mum and dad playing professional sports, so I guess it was almost inevitable to have a career in sports. As a kid growing up, I was good at all ball sports but wanted to be a professional Australian Football Player; that’s “Aussie Rules” for those who may not know.
Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with Von Willebrand’s Disease, a blood clotting disorder, so not the best idea to play contact sports. That’s when I started pursuing other sports like cycling, golf, basketball, and tennis.
[Nice Mullett hairstyle there mate – Adam]
You have lived in Japan for 17-years now, are married to a Japanese woman, and have a daughter. Were you always fascinated with Japan, what made you decide to live there?
Great question. I knew nothing about Japan at all and couldn’t speak one word of the language. I moved there in my late 20s to take up a position as Head Advisor to the Japanese Sports Science Training Centre. I have to give credit to my mum as she was the one who convinced me to give it a go because, at first, I was going to turn the offer down.
The first few months were rough; I remember heading back home after work to my little [miniscule] studio and sobbing, thinking, holy crap, what I have done.
I couldn’t speak the language, I had no friends, any idea I tried to implement was quickly shut down, and I just started thinking, what was the point? Why am I here?
I really thought I had made the wrong decision, but as you just read, 18 years later and I’m still here.
If I hadn’t toughed it out in those early days, I would never have met my wife of 15 years and raised a beautiful daughter. There’s an old saying that goes, “good things come to those who wait,” but I disagree.
I think it should be;
“good things come to those who stay positive and are willing to make something happen.”
You have held some impressive positions in Sport, such as Head Advisor for the Japanese Government’s Sports Science Institute and Managerial and Head Coaching roles with Australian National Governing Bodies. What are some of the skill sets and experiences that allowed you to be successful in those roles?
When I was a kid, even from a very early age, sports made sense to me. I don’t know how to explain it, really. I could pick up a new sport very quickly, not just technically but also tactically and strategically.
I’m good at seeing patterns, and I’ve always had an ability to see what others couldn’t, or very few anyway. So those two things combined, plus I’ve always had an excellent memory, probably allowed me to excel.
As a coach/manager, you need to understand that every athlete is different, and the “cookie-cutter” approach just doesn’t work; in fact, in the long run, it leads to disaster, especially for governing bodies who are trying to build sustainability in terms of talent for the future.
Unfortunately, many of the coaches coming through today haven’t been exposed to real-world experiences; they’ve gained most of their knowledge from textbooks and coaching manuals.
Many of them don’t understand;
“you can throw a piece of paper on the floor 100 different ways, but it still lands on the floor”
You also have to be compassionate, selfless, flexible, determined, have a sense of humor, and be a good listener when it comes to managing athletes.
These athletes have dedicated their entire lives to achieving their goals, and my job was to help facilitate that. I was grateful for every moment, good and bad.
You spent 10-years as a manager/coach in women’s professional Tennis. How did you first get started in this field?
I just kind of fell into the role; coaching women’s professional tennis was not a role I pursued. During my work at the Japanese Institute, most of the athletes I worked with were female golfers, cyclists, and tennis players.
Early on, I provided advice in terms of intrinsic and extrinsic goal motivations, anticipation, and decision making, not really anything related to technique. But as time went on and some of the players I worked with had success, my coaching evolved.
I started providing technical analysis, developmental reports, cultivating skill learning and expert performance, and even topics like physical activity and quality of life, which I’m very passionate about.
Can you give us some highlights of your proudest achievements in coaching?
I have won more than 10 Professional events with five different players over more than ten years. I’m proud of this because it shows I have the ability to work with a range of different personalities, many of which had vastly different playing styles.
Also, achieving it over such a long period shows I’m a person, who once makes the decision, is fully committed.
However, my proudest achievement, without a doubt, is knowing I played a part in helping these athletes achieve their lifelong goals.
Professional sports is a roller coaster ride; one minute, you experience incredible moments of inspiration and euphoria, only to bought back down to earth with a devasting loss or a career-ending injury.
You’re a huge fan of cycling and normally not a day goes by when you’re not on the bike, whether inside on the rollers or outside in undulating Japanese countryside. What’s your fascination with cycling?
My dad was an elite cyclist, so my passion for cycling started when I was a kid; I’ve got to be honest, I don’t have many regrets, but not pursuing professional cycling is one of them; that’s how much I love cycling.
I could give you all the typical answers like I love hearing all the little sounds like gears changing, the freehub spinning, and the whoomp of the disc brakes, but honestly, I just enjoy being outside by myself.
I find it relaxing, which my wife finds hard to believe; When I’m out by myself, cycling allows me to reflect and look internally to see if there are areas in my life that need improving or areas I’m doing well. Most of the answers to my problems come to me when I’m on the bike, and it’s a great way to stay fit.
You were about to start a new job in Australia when the pandemic struck last year having a dramatic impact on your lifestyle. What happened?
Yes, I signed a 3-year contract at one of the most prestigious, if not the most prestigious, Universities in Australia to manage the sporting facilities across the three campuses.
The start date was May, so seeing it was still March, I jumped on a plane back home to Japan to see my wife and daughter. Little did I know that when I hopped off the plane in Osaka 8 hours later, all international flights in and out of Australia were suspended. I was quite literally on the last flight out.
I believe strongly in the Lord above, and things happen for a reason; this just wasn’t meant to be. In saying that, it was an incredibly big shock because I was now forced to make some tough decisions.
Being in sports was taking a toll on family life with all the travel, and quite frankly, I knew deep down it was time for a change. Sports teaches many skills and provides you with a lifetime of experiences; I knew I could crossover into other areas; I just wasn’t sure what that was.
This year you joined SuperGreen TONIK as operations and content manager. What got you interested in this company and how’s it going?
Late last year, I wrote a few articles on nutrition and mental health for SuperGreen TONIK. Adam, who is the CEO, and I started taking more just as friends, really. As time went on, I became interested in the brand and then the story behind the brand.
Adam had suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) for many years, and this was a condition I had deep personal experience with. A professional athlete I coached basically lost her career due to CFS.
Adam had tried countless superfood supplements, but they also seemed to be coming up short and lacking in transparency. That’s when Adam had the idea to develop SuperGreen TONIK.
What initially drew me to the brand was the cornerstone of our philosophy is transparency and authenticity. As a coach, I knew how critical it was for athletes, or anyone for that matter, to not only know “what” they’re getting but “how much” they’re getting.
We are still in the early stages of growing the business, but I genuinely believe we are on the way to becoming a household name.
So many ordinary everyday people struggle to get proper nutrition, and over time this starts to have negative effects on quality of life. Things like constantly feeling sick, poor sleep, lack of focus, tiredness, and memory loss all begin to rear their ugly heads.
I’m thoroughly enjoying my role here, and it’s great to be involved in building a brand that’s sole purpose is to help people take control of their lives.
And just to think, if I hadn’t boarded that last flight from Australia to Japan, I wouldn’t be here talking with you today.
Instagram page: @jonnybakks