April 2017 -- That concept goes far beyond the lines on a tennis court. At the Spring 1999 USPTA Executive Committee meeting, Russel Warner from the Intermountain Division made a proposal for “Lessons for Life.” The proposal called for the American Cancer Society to be the official charity of the USPTA. It was accepted. October was named Tennis Across Cancer Month and all USPTA members were asked to conduct one lesson or clinic and donate the fees to the ACS.
In 2002, USPTA made Lessons for Life an umbrella program that recognized the contributions by members to any legitimate charity. Through 2016, USPTA members have raised more than $55.6 million for charity. That’s a big number. That’s a big story. That’s a huge service to others.
This brings up the question, “What have you done to contribute to the Lessons for Life program?” To answer this question, we must go a step further, asking, “What does participating in Lessons for Life do for you?” The idea of Lessons for Life was to encourage USPTA members to get involved with charities for the good of the community, the game of tennis, and the organization, as well as the specific cause. Many times helping others pays big dividends for those involved, as well as for the organization and/or cause. The following are some positive reasons to get involved with Lessons for Life.
- Create a signature charity event that makes your facility stand out in the community.
- Working with charity organizations will get you involved with many community leaders, which will enhance your ability to advocate tennis.
- If the goal of your event is to raise funds for a non-tennis purpose, it will expose tennis to a group of people you normally would not reach.
- Getting publicity for tennis has become extremely difficult. Despite this, media coverage for a charity event is almost always a guarantee.
- The tennis charity event will bring people into your facility/club. In any business, increasing foot traffic is critical to the success of the business.
- Working with charity groups and the people involved with an event is like networking on steroids. Many times these community leaders can assist you and your business in other ways in the future.
- Your involvement will contribute to your becoming more than “just a tennis pro.” You will become a community leader and a complete professional.
- An important part of many award applications (including Master Professional) look for your contributions to the community. Being a community leader will greatly improve your chances to earn recognition and help to secure important career awards. These awards enhance your creditability within the tennis industry as well as your community. Securing speaking and publishing opportunities are as much about what you have to say as they are about your creditability.
- Your event can be big or small. It can start and grow into a major event if you can get everyone working together toward a common cause. Like in life, the important thing is that you have to get started now. When Andy Roddick asked Andre Agassi what was the biggest mistake he had made in his career, Andre answered, “It was not starting the Andre Agassi Foundation sooner.”
- The self-satisfaction you receive from being a part of a fund-raising team is a very rewarding feeling that will inspire others and make you a positive force in both the tennis and local community.
Keep in mind that the largest sporting event in the world, the US Open, raises the necessary funds to pay for all the tennis-related projects of the USTA. The USPTA is not the only tennis organization that advocates doing for others. The PTR tag line “Making a World of Difference” is an outstanding way of encouraging tennis professionals to utilize their tennis skills and celebrity status to grow far more that the game itself.
Tennis great Arthur Ashe had coined many insightful quotes during his career as he was a great humanitarian, one of which is: “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to SERVE others at whatever cost.”
It is time for all of us to improve our service!
Tom Sweitzer is a USPTA Master Professional and the 2008 USPTA Alex Gordon Professional of the Year, as well as the 2013 USPTA Manager of the Year, Large Facility. During his career, his events have contributed more than $9.5 million to charities and earned him a PA Governor Citation for Community Service. His current free lesson program provides lessons to 3,000 inner-city children. This attributed to his being named the City of Orlando Employee of the Year and Tri County League of Cities Employee of the Year. He and his wife Mikel, who is also a tennis professional, reside in Orlando, Fla. … the Land of Tennis Magic.