Christopher Hagman is founder and President of Atlantic Recreation. As a small business owner, he brings a diverse business background including insurance and real estate. “This helps me see things from a business perspective and someone else’s view. My other-centered interests include learning how I can truly serve clubs and their goals. My broad business background and combined abilities in fitness and tennis put me in a unique position to do this well.”
Chris has rare qualities as a dual certified Fitness and Tennis Professional and has worked as Activities, Fitness and Tennis Director.
He has 35+ years of experience in amenity operations and has personally recruited, hired, and trained over 200 Professionals for leisure services. Many of these Professionals he brought into the industry or nurtured and now are Directors. Since 1991 his team has served numerous country clubs and residential communities in various roles.
Mr. Hagman is a graduate of the University of Florida, Dale Carnegie Training, and The Living Foods Institute. His personal interests include playing tennis, community service, and wellness programs.
Brave New Amenities
Even when we get a vaccine for coronavirus, which is several months away, the way clubs operate amenities has changed. While painful in the short-term, these changes are necessary to survive. Everyone must rethink facilities, maintenance, and programs, and implement new safety guidelines. These have major effects on operations, and before you reopen effectively communicate with members and let them know what your club is doing differently.
What facility adjustments should we make? A key goal is to make amenities as touchless as possible. While safety has always been the top priority, now, everything members and staff can touch needs to be reviewed. Have people make reservations, sign-ups, and payments online. How someone enters a court or door needs to be rethought. Latches may be obsolete and side gates could be removed. Light switches need to be considered and potentially changed to automatic. Water coolers, court benches, and whether you provide mats and towels need to be considered. Something as simple and frequent as picking up tennis balls needs to change. Note, in group lessons, there are ways players can collectively pick up balls without touching them and sharing equipment while social distancing.
How will maintenance change? Frequently sanitizing areas contacted by people is a top priority. This includes systematically wiping down items, like ball tubes, water fountains, court benches, and fitness equipment, after each session. Plan and schedule staff for this important responsibility. Stagger tennis lessons and group exercise and budget time accordingly.
How will our programs change? In the short-term suspend social programs and activities where people could gather. All competitive and instructional programs need to be delivered so members can participate with physical separation. Private, semi-private, and small group lessons are still doable. However, if you had Pros whose primary responsibilities and income were teaching large groups – plan on ending that format. For decades the tennis industry has recommended a ratio of four students per Pro for group lessons. Four to one is the gold standard and could be a safe limit. Also, I have not witnessed an excellent group lesson with more than six students per Pro. The smaller groups have less revenues yet deliver quality instruction in a safe environment. Players can still safely compete in singles and half-court (one on one doubles). A format for serving is having two cans of balls with different numbers and a player only serves with their number. Fitness center orientations should be mandatory with everyone trained in and wiping down equipment right after use. Limit the number of people in the fitness center and in group exercise classes based on square footage. Similar to reserving courts, fitness areas and equipment may need a reservation system. Also, look at ways to increase space such as doing some formats outside. Deliver group exercise classes through video platforms with real-time feedback where members can participate from home.
What equipment assists healthy and safe amenities? Infrared thermometers can daily check the temperature of all staff and members and screen participants. I recommend a first-rate ball machine to supplement the Teaching Pro(s). A ball machine assists teaching on one or more courts and allows members to practice on their own or in a small group. If you can, build a practice wall or integrate one into fencing. If you hang a backboard on a fence, the line poles and foundations need to be in very good condition. Also, consider a hydromassage table that does not require a therapist. While some items are significant investments, the ball machine and hydromassage table will generate revenues. As physical separation is a priority, you will likely need to change the layout of the fitness center and remove some machines. While I really like machines, such as cardio equipment and dual cable cross, many facilities do not have enough open space for functional training. Strange as it may sound, you may be selling face masks and protective gloves in the pro shop.
How should we restructure? Each facility is unique and has its own circumstances to assess. In reopening, key questions are the amount of staff needed, their roles, and compensation. In the short-term I foresee participation in programs to be a fraction of what it used to be, and it will take time to rebuild attendance. Hence, many facilities may need less staff, and those who continue will need to be creative and open to do more responsibilities. Besides instruction, Teaching Professionals may be doing facility maintenance and sanitizing responsibilities too. More diversity is the trend, and with the popularity of pickleball and bocce, a Director of “Racquet” or “Court” Sports is likely best. Pros who used to make significant income from large groups will need to teach more hours for comparable pay. Unless a club is very financially stable, I can see some Director and Head Pro salaries being reduced. Some amenity leaders may be doing more responsibilities yet earning less money. While this new reality may not be welcome news to Professionals, Managers should offer reasonable incentives and be willing to look at contracts again in a year. Sometimes a step back is necessary to take two steps forward, and someone’s willingness to do this reflects their motivation and fit for the job.
In reopening amenities, show members you are competent and consistent in delivering safety guidelines. This will give people the confidence to sign-up, play, and stay well.
Chris Hagman ACE, USPTA is a Wellness and Tennis Director. He works with clubs and communities in program development, Professional recruitment, and amenity courts. You can contact him at 404-307-4893, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.atlrec.net.