THE UNDERSERVED BUSINESS SIDE OF TENNIS
Computer Nerd Tennis Lifestyler
Creates Transforming SaaS/AI Technology
Serving Tennis Communities Worldwide …
By Cesar Octavio Andrade
This is not a lone ranger story. Rather, it is a tale of how a group of tennis leaders, working as a remote team together with gifted software gurus from countries around the world, are making reality my decade-long vision of a digitally assisted community of tennis players and providers.
With gratitude to mega influencers like Fernando Segal, Billie Jean King, Delaine Mast, Noel Walsh, Fabio Caparrelli, Charles Allen, Carlos Salum, Gustavo Parodi, Haroldo Zwersch, Howard Moore, Larry Krieger, Oscar Borras, and so many more around the world who have been extending support and thought leadership, and hoping to inspire others sharing my passion to improve the customer experience in tennis by creating and sharing innovation, I am sharing with you the beginnings and evolution of TennisAppSuite™, just as we go to market with 12 international language versions of the app worldwide.
The computer nerd … Yes, you might surmise that I do not have the classical nerd look, but many of us have been hiding in plain sight for decades. We are amongst the front-runners in the computer revolution and the emergence and evolution of the digital information age. Ever heard of the seven dwarfs? Not the ones in the Disney story The seven other-than-IBM computer companies that emerged in the 60s and 70s.
In that story, Snow White was IBM and the seven dwarfs
were Burroughs, UNIVAC, NCR, Control Data Corp., Honeywell, General Electric and RCA. IBM achieved world domination with its second and third generations of mainframe computing. The first-generation machines - you can visit them in some museums now - were water-cooled, and you literally walked into them!
I became a third and fourth-generation computing solutions road warrior for NCR, one of the seven dwarfs
surviving still today - a major accomplishment since all the other six have disappeared or morphed into other forms of life. I went to battle against the IBMers and won a few and lost a few. In the process, I was part and parcel of the once-in-a-millennium phenomenon that brought us our present universe of ever-shrinking and ever-more powerful galaxies of computing capabilities.
These are the new and ever more affordable and human-useful generations of digital systems including software solutions, spanning every conceivable business and personal applications. Too many to even keep track of. In which today you hold in your hand a mobile phone, a
computing device exponentially more powerful and capable than a building full of the IBM or NCR mainframe computers I provided and installed for my customers in the early years.
Indeed, this has been and is my bread and butter. I mentored my son, Shannon, who is the true computing genius of the family, writing sophisticated code from age 11. I spent several decades in the international business computing technology space; helped many governments and business organizations to optimize and make better use of their people and material resources using digital computing and software solutions.
I became what is known nowadays as a software architect and learned to discover and isolate problems and pain points of human work routine, redundancy, inefficiency and plainly doing things out of force of habit. I also learned to create computing software solutions to help those workers to accomplish more with the support of computing technology.
For example, I led the team introducing machine learning software to optimize ships' transit traffic in the Panama Canal and created one of the first online merchandising systems in one of America’s premier department store chains. I had a lot of fun, traveled the world, and made a handsome living with that!
The Tennis Lifestyler …
In parallel, during those years in Santa Barbara, California, no longer able to play soccer, I adopted tennis just as my son, Marco, was becoming a good varsity player.
I hated the fact that during those years I had to build my business career, travel constantly, and miss out and not be there to enjoy his matches! Something most tennis parents suffer even today, more about that later. Tennis became a family joy, and together we began to participate in community-organized tennis and joined a number of father-son tournaments. We loved it! And it motivated us to form a tennis community and a local league. As the initiative grew, together we founded and ran The FTTC.
The FTTC program received the support of the then Southern California USTA leadership and soon caught the attention of Billie Jean King and Delaine Mast, who licensed The FTTC as a WTT branded program.
To make a long story short, we went viral in the region and ran multiple league events. Frustratingly, its rapid success became its own downfall, because our team was unable to cope with the WORK required to set up and run FTTC events.
The better way …
The senior software architect in me, plus my experience as an avid club player – I have been, a member in a dozen clubs in as many cities around the world in my traveling days, a community tennis tournaments player/leader, and USTA league player and team captain wannabe. I thus had a front seat and felt the pains and problems in the tennis ecosystem, which taught me that, just like in any other human endeavor involving organizing people activities, timely communications, record keeping, transaction processing, data gathering, and management, those tasks were simply not being addressed with available digital computing technology already widely used in almost any other organizations everywhere else.
Specifically, I saw the need for a digital tennis operating system, delivered as a SaaS suite of integrated mobile apps – present and future – catering each to real and interconnected needs of tennis providers and players worldwide. Not one isolated app or PC desk-bound system, because the highest workload and activity takes place on the courts, away from offices, and all data pieces are interconnected and interdependent - players, courts/facilities, coaches, event managers, providers staff, schedules, results, stats/history, and derivatives - all or most, are touch data points in virtually every tennis match. It called for a mobile smartphone tennis apps suite to create and grow networks of digital tennis communities and automate the WORK side of all such interdependent component pieces of tennis … in essence to serve More Tennis with Less Work!
Targeting the dwindling tennis player participation …
The 2022 ITF world conference brought to the table PLAYER PARTICIPATION, one of the greatest issues in the sport of
tennis, the fact that not only has been tennis hemorrhaging players who were finding more welcoming player communities amongst PickleBall, Padel, and other derivative sports but simply are not finding adequate play opportunities to satisfy their love of tennis and all its lifetime health and fun benefits.
In my own research and consideration of areas of pain and need looking for digital computing solutions, I came to the conclusion that the first order of business was to create software that will enable simple, direct, and non-threatening access to tennis players by tennis players of compatible ranking and time scheduling availabilities, and further, a way for players to flag on or off, their pre-acceptance to match invitations by such compatible players, removing the social discomfort and cringe of asking other players to play with you.
Addressing the player rankings challenge …
Enabling players to find and set matches with available and compatible ranking - NTRP/UTR/WTN/Local - became an emerging challenge in the environment where worldwide ranking systems evolved into strategic means of world domination of the tennis ecosystem Our player-centric solution, or any solution, needed to support ALL major ranking systems and even provide for custom local ranking systems amongst local tennis communities that have not adopted any of the other three/four letter systems. I held early design concept discussions with the then owners and managers of UTR to create mutual application interfaces to enable automatic update of player scores, from our app to their databases for rankings maintenance. They were very supportive of the collaboration concept and even shared the results reporting specs we built into our SaaS app. As we stand, we are looking for the major tennis ranking engine providers to adhere to the ITF Tennis Open Data Standards (TODS), as we are, and enable match scoring and record-keeping apps like ours to update their databases from our digital scorekeeping services and not requiring that the only way to update player rankings in their databases is by meeting complicated requirements - even purchasing licenses - to have match events sanctioned by their ranking brands.
The joy of watching/sharing your family and friends' live tennis player matches with your loved ones, friends, and fans …
We all enjoy video broadcasting or recordings featuring elite world players. It is a joy for us tennis lifestylers to watch ATP/WTA professional tennis and some ITA/school level tennis live matches, pretty much on demand. But, like in my case, when my son Marco had important school varsity matches, and I was traveling, or when other varsity/school/academy playing daughters, sons, families, friends, amateur tennis players, or emerging ITF pros play an important match when we cannot physically be there, we just have to miss it!
The GOOD NEWS is that, where ESPN/ABC/Tennis Channel/other major broadcasters do not find a mass audience to target, current computer vision technology, integrated with digital tennis community networking ecosystem software, has enabled us to democratize video streaming of matches to very small audiences in highly affordable streaming services. Even an audience of one person can enjoy a live-streaming of their loved one with live scores on demand, viewing multiple camera angles on phone or internet cameras, anywhere a Wi-Fi connection is available!
Deliver easy and friendly community tennis visibility and access …
One of the problems in tennis is that players have zero visibility to potentially many play opportunities that likely are literally next door, perhaps even within a club membership. Or a close neighbor may be the most compatible player to enjoy matches with you, but you do not know they even exist, much like before Uber or Airbnb, people who needed rides or a place to stay did not know of each other’s availability.
Digital networking technology sensibly designed to breach this separation and invisibility creates tennis play opportunities where they were not visible before and in the fullness of time when tennis players and providers around the world have adopted the solution, traveling players - of which I was one for many busy career years - will find compatible matches paid hitters and instructors, find and book courts, easily join ladders, leagues, and tournaments, anywhere, on demand.
Serving a way for tennis providers to increase their income and expand their tennis outreach and player participation … Digital technology empowers providers to configure and run tennis events in fractions of time and with reduced labor. It is a transformation of the equation at the core of my own The FTTC initiative downfall, FROM: more events and participation equals unbearably more work and not so much more income; TO: more events and participation equals a fraction of the work and exponentially greater income, For example, set a tournament or league first round, and the machine learning app creates, provides and notifies participants, all following round’s draw, player-court assignments and schedules, editable by the event director. Or create one or multiple ladders for challenge matches in your tennis community in a matter of minutes and then see your players notified and enjoy self-service match setting and recording, and automatic player ladder realignment with the support of your rules-based app. Further, with low-level effort, monetize NEW provider services to exponentially new income levels offering match streaming services to pay-per-view clients, and player practice or match KPI analytics. Further, monetize your tennis business brand to new dimensions, sell YOUR branded app banner ads supporting tournaments, leagues, or ladders, and event naming rights to your own local sponsors. Yes, those local businesses that currently pay you for static court fence and greeting posters and such …
High value-added innovation technology provided free to customers worldwide …
In the model of other SaaS apps of global adoption, like Airbnb and Uber. Players do not pay fees. Tennis Providers, from an individual teaching pro to a major club or federation, set their tennis services pricing appropriate to their local economy & competitive requirements, contributing to the app team for support and ongoing R&D, modest transaction fees for highly value-added services enabled by the app features, such as Ladders, Leagues, Tournament events management; match streaming and analytics. Other integrated utility apps like Court Reservations, Lesson Bookings, and Player Match Up are provided at nominal fees or even free. Further, the app provides due consideration to nonprofit tennis providers including schools, benefit organizations, and fundraising events …
Your role and your serve! …
My story serves your own leadership story in the world of tennis, I invite you to achieve exponential player participation and business income growth, to transform, together with your players, into the thriving and fun digital tennis community of the future, perhaps empowered by TennisAppSuite™
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