Gary Horvath is a USPTA master pro, founder and past president of the USA Professional Platform Tennis Association, charter member of PPTR, a certified coach with USA Volleyball and a long-standing member of the Wilson Advisory Staff.
His experience as a tennis pro has covered the entire spectrum from grassroots to college tennis. In addition, Gary Horvath has conducted extensive business and economic research that has largely supported the state of Colorado's economic development efforts.
THE BIG IDEAS - CAREER ADVANCEMENT IN THE TENNIS INDUSTRY
Six top tennis leaders address five high-level concepts
By Gary Horvath
The USPTA recognized International Women’s Day with a webinar addressing career advancement in the tennis industry. Panelists included (from left) USPTA Vice President Jenny Gray, Tennis Director Bunny Bruning, Senior Director of USTA National Campus Jo Wallen, and ATA President Roxanne Aaron. The co-moderators were USPTA Director of Education & Certification Ramona Husaru and USPTA First Vice President Trish Faulkner.
The Big Ideas
The panelists addressed five high-level concepts - engagement, integration, education, demographics, and workforce development practices.
This write-up includes a section for each of the big ideas. There is a summary for each concept, comments from others, and ideas for advancing each concept. The intent is to inform the debate about these issues so leaders can take steps to strengthen the tennis workforce.
#1 - Engagement
Panelists – Engagement is the involvement and enthusiasm of coaches in the tennis profession. Tennis professionals should have a support system to help them become engaged in the profession and industry. Such a process may include networking, a buddy system, or peer coaches.
Other Comments - Other options include requiring applicants to have sponsors to help them through the testing process. Local certification testers have often provided applicants with a contact point when they have questions.
Other engaging activities include tennis events such as pro-am tournaments, speaker contests, exhibitions, weekend camps, prize money tournaments, social events, monthly business meetings, or support activities for high school or parks and recreation programs.
Before the pandemic, it was a challenge to engage teaching professionals and coaches. In the era of lockdowns and Zoom webinars, that challenge has increased.
For example, some areas lack a critical mass of professionals with similar skill sets and job responsibilities. The tennis community may include coaches at high school, college, or recreation programs or instructors or directors at country clubs, tennis clubs, or resorts. Such a disparate group may have little in common other than a hopper of balls.
Advance the Concept - Hopefully, the panelists will continue to pursue the concept of engagement. Industry leaders should support research that tracks best practices for engagement and how these practices change over time.
Panelist Concept – Integration is the process of mixing professionals or different ideas into other groups of professionals. Coaches will share their knowledge and learn from exposure to the diverse ideas and experiences of others.
Other Comments - Situations from the panel discussion illustrated the need for integration. At one point, a panelist talked about meeting the needs of Millennials, yet there were no Millennials on the panel (except a co-moderator). On a similar note, men attended the discussion, yet there were no male panelists. The panelists talked about coaching college tennis, but none had worked as college coaches.
Would the learning experience have been better if the panel had included Millennials, men, or college coaches? That is a question, not a criticism, realizing that it is impossible to have a panel discussion that has perfect diversity of thought.
For over thirty years, tennis organizations have established special committees or initiatives to address the needs of select groups. They frequently fell short of their desired intent because they worked in silos and lacked the commitment to make a significant difference.
Advance the Concept - How can professionals work on special committees or initiatives, look beyond the silos, and discuss ideas that can be implemented in ways that make a difference? For example, instead of just celebrating Women’s History Month in March, can the special committees and initiatives support research that will help the industry better understand how to utilize the talents of women coaches? Then, can those groups take steps to bring about change?
# 3 Education (WTCA)
Panelists – The mission of the WTCA is to ensure that female athletes receive better coaching. It will accomplish this by educating men and women who coach females and increasing the number of women coaches.
Other comments - Education is the key to advancing the career of all coaches! The WTCA adds value to the profession with its unique perspective on tennis instruction. For example, when the group first started, they offered an excellent online course on coaching women. This course is a thought-provoking game-changer for all coaches.
Upcoming educational programs will address mental health and tennis in underserved communities.
Advance the Concept – With this mindset for learning, the WTCA can address many issues from a different perspective. Men and women professionals can support the WTCA by going to https://wtcatennis.org/membership/. Learn more about their efforts and sign up now!
#4 – Demographics (Millennials)
Panelists - The panel focused on the role of Millennials in the workforce, although other demographics are equally as important.
Other Comments - Economists define the prime working years as 25 to 54 years. Currently, the workforce is about 52% Millennials, and the remainder is from Generation X. Looking forward, the number of workers from Generation X will decrease, and the number from Generation Z (younger than Millennials) will increase. The bottom line is that the Millennials will be in charge for a while! Make the best of it.
Other demographic trends to be aware of are the decreasing fertility rate, the decline in the percentage of whites, net migration, and the Big Sort.
Advance the Concept - Over the next decade, the tennis industry will feel the effects of the change in demographics. Pay attention!
#5 – Workforce Development (Hiring and Management Practices)
Panelists – Many jobs in the tennis industry have extended hours, seven days a week, especially during the prime season. The panelists talked about attracting professionals by altering management practices during peak times. Ideas for accomplishing this include job sharing, overstaffing to allow people to have time off, and cross-training to allow professionals to broaden their resumes.
Comments - The current U.S. unemployment rate is 3.6%. Even with a recession on the horizon, the tennis industry is facing a talent shortage. In some cases, the ideas mentioned above may not work. More creative hiring and management ideas are needed.
Advance the Concept - Tennis leaders should look to other industries, industry associations, and workforce centers to learn how software companies, manufacturers, construction businesses, and healthcare groups have attracted, accommodated, and retained their workforce.
In addition, they should also consult with organizations that have successfully used mentorships, internships, and apprenticeships to attract workers (USPTA has a successful mentorship program). The education directors of the teaching associations should compile guidelines for these workforce development programs.
Closing Thoughts – The Big Ideas
The panelists for this discussion include some of the top tennis leaders in the country. They addressed five high-level concepts (big ideas)- engagement, integration, education, demographics, and workforce development practices. Hopefully, they will work with their organizations and the industry to make their ideas a reality.
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