His goals are taking shape

SQUASH 'EM: Dannevirke High School’s Michael McLean is a keen squash player and a bit of a business entrepreneur.
SQUASH 'EM: Dannevirke High School’s Michael McLean is a keen squash player and a bit of a business entrepreneur.

It has been a busy year for Michael McLean. He has trimmed down, toned up and turned his focus towards business entrepreneurship. Lucy Townend sits down with the dynamic Dannevirke teen to find out more.

All that stands between Michael McLean and his dream of becoming a personal trainer is a few NCEA exams.

In the next few weeks, he'll tick off English, biology, chemistry, statistics and sports science assessments. Just the right mixture to study sport and exercise at Massey University in a few years' time, he says.

The Dannevirke High School student is relaxed about next year. Not wanting to leap right into tertiary study, he will instead take a year off to "earn some coin".

The 18-year-old has already secured the fitness contract to whip the Dannevirke Tigers Rugby League team into shape next year and he's sorting out the paperwork for a similar role with Dannevirke High School's 1st 15.

Bossing around the boys appeals to Michael and he knows from personal experience what it's like to knuckle down in order to trim down and get fit.

He did a Gateway programme placement at Dannevirke's gym this year. It gave him a taste of what the industry would be like and helped him drop 17 kilograms.

It's like being a new person, he says.

"It was pretty easy to lose. I just had real bad eating habits, especially chocolate, that's my weakness."

He used to eat two or three chocolate bars a day, but said enough is enough.

"It was hard . . . but you can't have everything. You have to make some sacrifices."

The weight loss was worth it, Michael says. His revamped body means he's more agile playing squash, which is his real love.

He travels five or six times a week to swing his racket at the Palmerston North Squash Gym and he has a list of accolades as long as his arm in the sport.

This year alone he has played at the under-19 North Island and South Island championships, scooped first place in the teams' section of the regional super championships C grade and at the nationals.

He was also Dannevirke Squash Club's open champion, C-grade champion, and junior champion.

The modest teen says he hasn't had quite the year he wanted to, but is happy he is heading in the right direction.

"I know this season my results have been pretty crap, but the progress has been amazing.

"The level of my squash has improved. With losing weight and improving my fitness, I feel a lot better on court.

"Every time you know you're playing better and you come off the court, even when you get your ass kicked, you're sort of really excited. It's like ‘oh, man, I played really good there'."

Michael's love of squash has opened doors in the business world as well.

When he first picked up the racquet as a 13-year-old he was smashing through equipment at an alarming rate, so he bought a stringing machine to fix his broken racquets for cheap.

This quickly expanded into restringing others' equipment, then into importing equipment.

He imports from America and supplies shops all round New Zealand.

Michael says the chance to market and sell a fairly new brand, Harrow, throughout New Zealand was too good to resist. "I just wanted to make stuff cheaper than it was, and make a bit of coin . . . and I've made a decent amount of profit, I'll just say that."

He's got most of the Dannevirke Squash Club holding the Harrow brand, as well as a few players in Palmerston North too.

The most enjoyable part of his squash sales and gym work sales is networking, he says.

"All that stuff has opened up to me . . . I enjoy talking to people, that's why I do it'."

Manawatu Standard