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How to become a director of tennis in seven “easy” steps

by Patricio Misitrano, USPTA

<i>It’s amazing how many contacts are made and the amount of networking done by teaching pros during conferences.
It’s amazing how many contacts are made and the amount of networking done by teaching pros during conferences.

November 2011 -- We all know that in order to be a good tennis pro you should be an excellent communicator, good player and great teacher, and also have superior people skills on and off the court. But what does it take to land a director of tennis position?

If you have never held this position before, the first step is actually knowing that you want to be a director of tennis. Once you have decided that the way to continue and advance with your professional career is to become a director, you are on the right track.

Step 1: Are you sure?
I know what you are thinking: Hold on a second! Who would not want to become a director of tennis? Hiring staff, managing the tennis shop, dealing with ladies', men's and junior teams, and organizing events and tournaments are only some of the tasks that would fall on you. Even the most basic activities such as buying the tennis balls will now be your job. Guess what? You have to teach lessons and clinics too!

Step 2: Job search
Once you have made that decision, let's move on to the second step: Start your search. There are many ways to do that. If you search online, you should go to the USPTA Find-a-Pro website (usptafindapro.com). But my favorite approach is networking. Stay in touch with colleagues, participate in industry conventions or seminars, play tournaments, or simply go watch tournaments (USTA, USPTA, ITF or even ATP/WTA). You would be amazed how many contacts are made and the amount of networking done by teaching pros during tournaments and conferences. Also, it may seem obvious, but you should never contact a general manager if a position is not open or a fellow professional is gainfully employed.

Step 3: Resume and cover letter
Now that you have started your search, you must tailor your resume to the job for which you are applying. We all know that resumes should be updated at least twice a year, and particularly every time you switch jobs, receive an award or simply change your mailing address. You should describe your duties as a manager (i.e. budget preparation, budget management, pro shop buying, merchandising and sales, staff supervision and communication with various committees). If you have never held this position before, you should detail your current duties and all of the different programs that you were part of in years past.

Are two pages too many? Absolutely not! When applying for a position as director of tennis, you better have a resume longer than one page (but no longer than three pages). Otherwise, your experiences may not look diverse enough for this upper-management position.

Your resume is your first contact with the search committee and it should be as detailed and relevant as possible. When listing your job-related experience (from most recent to earliest, of course), always include numbers - volume of students, how many assistants you managed, etc. Words such as managed, organized, scheduled, created and initiated should be all over your resume. Also, don't forget to list your personal website at the top with your contact information.

Next on your resume should be job affiliations, seminars and workshops attended, awards obtained, tournaments won, etc. Avoid any mention of junior or high school rankings, but you may list college accolades. If it's a short list, start playing USPTA championships!

Along with your resume you should include a cover letter informing the search committee of your current employment status and why you're seeking this opportunity. There is no need to write a biography here. Your resume and, hopefully, the interview are much better opportunities to explain why you are the right person for the job.

Other skills and references (upon request) should be listed last. When listing references make sure that you call each person to confirm their participation. You should also be sure that they support you! You could even offer to write a letter of support for them and have them edit and sign it if they would rather not write it themselves.

When you send your resume and cover letter you should make a reference to your current job (if you have one at the time of applying). You should ask the search committee to keep your application confidential and not to contact your current employer. They should understand that you need to be the one telling your employer that you will be leaving them. Of course, this conversation should happen after you are actually offered the job and you accept it.

Step 4: Research
You have decided that you want to be a director of tennis, your resume is up-to-date, and now you have already begun your search. Luckily enough, there is a job that appears to be interesting. Now your job begins: research the club as much as possible, find out who is on the search committee, learn about the facility and its programs, and talk to fellow professionals in the area about their programs. No two clubs will be the same, but there is no shame in "copying" someone else's success. That is what I do - I talk to other directors and I ask them what events, programs and tournaments work at their clubs, and then I adapt them to my members. During the interview emphasize the fact that you are informed about what is going on at the clubs in your area. It is extremely important to know as much as you can about the club where you are applying.

Step 5: First interview
Once the search committee contacts you and a first interview is scheduled, you should ask them about the format of the interview. Normally this is the time when they just want to meet you and get to know who you are. This is your opportunity to let your personality shine! Bring extra copies of your resume and your portfolio. The portfolio is where you should document everything you have done (programs, certificates, rankings, tournaments won, seminars attended, etc.).

If you have never held a directorship position before, don't worry. Were you the captain of your college team? Then you have experience motivating and leading others. Did you play college tennis? Then you must be great at managing your time. Describe how you were able to manage your time successfully, to attend practices, to travel with your tennis team and still be able to excel in school. Did you play and train for tennis for 15 to 20 years? Then you must be a very hard-working individual who continuously tries to improve his or her skills and always wanted to become a better player/teacher/person.

When preparing for the interview always have a sounding board. Have someone in the profession that you can learn from and bounce ideas off. Consult with him or her on resumes, tailoring your portfolio to the job, what he or she thinks the job is paying, what type of membership - equity or private - and what it's like to live in that area. Your "mentor" should know what type of questions you will be asked. Practice answering the questions before going to the interview. That is the best way to prepare; just like when we tell our students to practice their forehands, you will be practicing your interviewing skills!

Depending on the number of applications, a search committee may want to narrow down the final candidates to 10 or fewer. If that is the case, they may schedule a phone interview. Set a time away from work where you will not be disturbed. Never ask about compensation. If you did your homework, you know the range.

If the first interview is not over the phone, then some things change. Wear business clothes. Give everyone a copy of your resume. During the introductions, always make eye contact and try to remember everyone's names. Speak with enthusiasm as much as you can. You can refer to specific points on your resume to emphasize experiences you want them to know about. You will know you are in trouble if the interview is short.

At the end of the interview you will be asked if you have any questions. Here is where you need to be prepared to ask the search committee a few questions. You could inquire about how many members play, participate in tournaments, clinics, and events. You should also ask why they are looking for a new director. That is a fair question and somehow similar to asking you why you want to switch jobs and be a director of tennis. You should also inquire about the next steps in the hiring process, such as when you can expect to be contacted again and when they plan to make a final decision. As soon as you get home, send a thank-you note to everyone in attendance at the interview. If you don't have their contact information, then extend your thanks to the person who contacted you to set up the interview. Handwrite the note and compliment the process, the interview and state that the interviewers are truly dedicated to the club and its ­membership.

Step 6: Second and third interviews
After shining during the first interview, you are asked to come in for a second interview. The search committee obviously liked your personality, and they think that you may be the right person for the job. Now is when you will explain and show how you will improve their tennis program.

Based on all the information that you have been collecting (during the first interview, asking your mentor and colleagues) you should be able to prepare a draft of your tennis program. This outline should be two to three pages and describe the different areas that you will be in charge of: women's, men's and junior programs and events, lesson rates, tournaments, hiring and supervising staff and shop management. Put special emphasis on explaining exactly how you plan to advertise, communicate and run all the programs and events. At this point you should have already inspected the facilities. The second interview is your chance to make any suggestions. Add anything to spark the conversation and show them you know what you are doing!

After your second interview the search committee will probably ask you to demonstrate your teaching skills. They know you can manage and run a great program but now they also want to learn about your teaching philosophy and how you execute it on the court. Dress as though you are taking the USPTA certification exam. Wear new clothes and shoes. If the club has an all-tennis-whites policy, then come prepared. A collared shirt should be worn at all times. Arrive at least one hour early so you can get comfortable with the facility. Know where the baskets, hoppers, and teaching aids are and get them ready before the lesson starts.

You may be asked to teach an adult clinic and a junior clinic. During the lesson use the students' names as much as possible. Give compliments and instruction but don't spend the entire time correcting their strokes. They just want to see your personality and teaching philosophy in action. If you play with some of the top players at the club, avoid playing sets or games where scores are kept. You could play point and drills without actually keeping track. Have a few copies of your portfolio on hand again for students to read while waiting for their lesson.

Step 7: Accepting and negotiating the offer
If you've gotten this far, things are going well! Be absolutely thrilled and thank them for offering you the job. Be advised that you do not need to accept immediately. You know that you will be a very valuable asset and they also know that as well. You can (and should) ask for 48 hours to evaluate the offer. Get all the details of the compensation package. Now is when you need to ask about salary, hourly private and group rates, percentages of lessons, stringing commissions, benefits, health, dental, USPTA conferences, disability and life insurance, cell phone, time off, 401K, pension plans, relocation fees, housing, and starting date of job.

Once you receive the offer you are at one of the two ideal times to negotiate. The other opportunity is after the first year of service. That is when you should try to "bump" the lesson rate, salary or benefits.

After you accept the offer and sign a contract, you should inform and give ample notice to your current employer. Write a letter to your general manager, immediate supervisor, and members about your positive experiences at the club. You should also inform your references that you were awarded the job and thank them. Follow these seven steps and be ready to get your dream job: director of tennis!

Patricio Misitrano has been the director of tennis at Tamarack Country Club in Greenwich, Conn., since 2008. Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, he has been directing, teaching and coaching throughout the Northeast, Florida and Argentina for more than 15 years. As a player, he holds two USPTA national doubles titles and earned a third place in the USPTA Men's Open Doubles in 2006. He was an All-American player at Webber International University. Misitrano is a member of the Wilson national advisory staff and a certified USPTA Professional 1. He also is a certified APTA Professional 1 and national tester and was a member of the 2009 President's Cup National Championship team. He has been ranked as high as 16th in the nation and currently serves as a member of the APTA Exhibitions and Clinics Committee.
 
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