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If You Want to Go Far... Go Together

by Chuck Gill, USPTA Immediate Past President

There is an African Proverb that states “if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far… go together”. I strongly believe this is true for the tennis industry. When I think of the most popular events at my club, we need the tennis staff (front desk, court maintenance, tennis professionals, etc.) to be “aligned” with the F&B team, the communications department, the set-up crew, and of course the member committee that helps in the conceptual planning of events. If any of the above are not aware of what is happening, the event will not be as successful. Sadly, at times something as simple as alignment is often overlooked in our business.  When you look at successful sports teams, while teams may have superstars, the extraordinary teams are almost always selfless, and can put personal goals and spotlights aside to make sure the group succeeds.

USPTA is no different! For us to reach the goal of elevating standards and creating better jobs in our industry, doing so in the proverbial silo is foolish, inefficient and destined to fail. One of our CORE PILLARS is centered on developing partnerships with stakeholders in tennis where collaboration can be mutually beneficial. I would like to list a few that have been nurtured and established both inside and outside our organization.

Central Florida USPTA and NET GENERATION:
For this initiative to succeed, pros need to be engaged in the process. Two hours “up the turnpike” from my club, one of our U30 professionals Greg Heartt (with Section assistance) has formed five active school partnerships in Orange County. As part of this, he has visited the schools and assisted PE teachers with their curriculum on how to best bring tennis to kids. While Greg is currently teaching at a private club and will likely receive no direct benefit to himself…. he has the foresight to know that more youth tennis players will benefit the “teaching pro” community and provide a long-term demand for the services of him and his peers at some point. Greg works with Magali Holt who is the Youth Recreational TC to partner and provide play opportunities for kids that would not have access otherwise. Around the country, many pros have been doing this for years to help kids get exposed to our sport.

Section and Division Contracts:
Several of our divisions have actually aligned with their sections to sign partnership agreements that serve as notice of the intent to grow tennis together. To date there are agreements in Florida (the first), Middle States, Southwest, with others in discussion.  These agreements are more than just symbolic and can involve how they intend to jointly promote Net Generation, Leagues, alternate format tournaments and the Youth Pathway. In Florida, the section has agreed to support the U30 Initiative, hold joint conferences, and support grassroots efforts for tennis pros who promote the sport locally. While attending the Southwest meeting in May, it was great to see the SW division board operate seamlessly with the SW section leaders. Not only was the weekend supported financially, but the President Susan Grabham and Executive Director Eric Mitchell were visible (and engaged) throughout the meeting as were other staff members and volunteers! Growing tennis helps everyone, like the proverbial “rising tides lifts all boats”!

Teaching Professionals volunteering for USTA positions:
At the recent USTA Annual Meeting, the importance of a well-educated and engaged teaching pro population was expressed to our industry and out of nearly 500 volunteers in attendance, about 100 volunteers stood up to be recognized as members of the “tennis/pro-coaches” group. It was evident that we as tennis professionals are key to the growth of the sport and without this group, programs will have a difficult time being launched. Currently half of our national board are members of USTA national committees and others are involved with their sections. Many of our division leaders and Executive Committee members volunteer at the national and/or section levels. Not only do they provide input and leadership, they also help keep the coaches community aware of what programs are being developed in conjunction with the governing body. During the most recent executive committee meeting at our home in Lake Nona, it was apparent that our 17 division leadership team is the most informed and aligned group we have ever had at USPTA.

Collaboration with CMAA:
In addition to being the Boardroom Magazines “Association of the Year” several years ago, we continue to work together on education that benefits professionals in the private club sector. In addition to regional workshops and joint conferences, we now feature well known CMAA managers as part of our national and division conventions, along with having speakers at their education events. In the first quarter of 2019, we will have tennis seminars at their World Conference, and will be featured in their first BMI (Business Management Institute) on Sports and Recreation. While this group has historically been very golf centric, tennis is an important part of their recreational offerings that help to make a club more family friendly. In closing, I urge all professionals to volunteer in groups outside of USPTA and engage others in the effort to grow tennis…and their business. *

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