Don Henson's Passing
Tennis and Pickleball
Note from "The Commish"
-------- Don Henson's Passing --------
July 1, 2020
Wow, Don passed away.....so sad. He was such a great guy. When I first started he was so generous to help me learn. I’m kinda in shock. Sweetheart of a guy.
-------- College Programs --------
July 6, 2020
I see you had some criticism of the ITA and college programs being dropped. It was quite unfair to throw Tim Russell and the ITA staff under the bus. I say that from experience. College athletic programs being dropped are seldom put out for a public hearing or even discussed much amongst athletic department staff. The AD decides, with some help, but by the time the public knows a program is going to be dropped, it's water over the dam. Some are resurrected through aggressive fundraising, but most are diminished before anyone can help.
Tim, the ITA and those of us who love college tennis would love to anticipate these decisions, but it just does not happen that way.
-------- Tennis Today --------
July 24, 2020
I hope that the tennis industry demonstrates an improved quality of instruction and a wonderful learning experience for children new to the sport. The beginning of schools is hotly debated nationwide and the parents are as engaged more than ever, with not only safety and health concerns but meaningful education.
The tennis industry and all the tennis associations should have a mutual perspective on providing the best programming that attracts families to tennis and most importantly maintaining their interest and participation…staying in the game. Club management and staff need to offer what members are expecting in an unprecedented time of uncertainty…check all the boxes. Hopefully, the tennis courts will be considered a “second home” for kids to look forward to as a new way of normalcy.
Whether it’s face-to-face or remote, teaching pros attention should be paramount. Time well-spent is more critical than ever. Given the financial and economic burden these days, the sport has to bring their “A-Game” to encourage the kids, tennis is for them now and for the future. Parents are going to keep a “closer eye” on their kids so the pros have to be accountable for their standards and product. Parents are making important decisions, so the staff has to “connect” to assure confidence in the overall plan. Professionalism and leadership are elements families are thriving for in our new cultural lifestyle.
If the tennis industry wants to continue to be mainstream in the sports-world at the recreational level, this is an opportunistic time to provide a setting worthy of getting into. Every industry is being creative and using imagination but I think that tennis can set an example and lead the way…
-------- Tennis and Pickleball --------
July 25, 2020
I’ve had two days of experiencing both sports over this weekend in late July. Playing doubles Pickleball among friends and then watching an afternoon of ITA men’s and women’s singles tournament. The contrast is a difference of “night and day” how the sports are played strategically given the players' skill set, experience, age, and all the other factors.
Pickleball requires an “all-purpose” selections of shots, in most if not every point: an underhand serve, groundstrokes, volley’s, drop shots, lobs, and overheads. Having the ability to hit both forehands and backhands, plus agility to move around the court. Advancing to the service line is generally the philosophy and playing from that area but adapting to the moment and situation. In other words, full-court playing point after point…major fun. It’s a total court experience…
Tennis style of play from the majority of the field of young athletes: serve and then groundstroke after groundstroke after groundstroke. All-purpose play is not in the “playbook”, especially from the women and girls. And as far as the service court area is concerned, it’s far and few between. College and teenagers play so “one dimensional” that I don’t see the overall quality of a fun experience. It’s as though the service court is a “caution do not enter” taped off section of the tennis court. After watching many talented players seriously compete, I came away with the feeling the style of game needs a “reset” for the sport to evolve at a certain skill level. Their baseline coverage and range are really good but the courage to move forward is not in the mindset. Imagine playing several sets for 90 minutes or so, and not hitting basic and fundamental shots that are required to play a competitive match. Golfers usually play every shot from any lie in a round of play: fairway, rough, bunker, out of bounds, and green. Plus, maybe using 14 different clubs…
As I played one, and a spectator to the other, I can see why Pickleball has so much upside. If variety is the “spice of life” than Pickleball has it, and tennis needs a dose.
I hope that someday soon, that the tennis industry, professional teacher associations, etc. make a dedicated transition to encourage full-court play at the young age of our kids in the sport. Let's expand our playing style and I’m sure our game will generate a new enthusiasm within our current players base and future participation. Athletes play our sport, so we need to prioritize the overall talent and use every shot in the book, as well as every section of the court. Explore and adventure…our tennis excitement and future are out there.
-------- Tennis Pathways - Holy Grail or shadows in the cave? --------
July 30, 2020
Furthering the conversation regarding title ix and the multi-factored barriers to entry begs me to dig deeper into the foundations of how our sport has been eroded from below, even below the grass-roots level. For the past 50 years, we have been sold an end game that points to elite pathways and the professional levels of tennis as being the most critical driver of our great sport. The Holy Grail that the sports International Peak bodies, National, State, and Regional Associations, larger clubs and of course the self-professed, “I’m better than you” coaches, now consider the bullseye of why they exist.
Having spent upwards of 40 years standing on a tennis court, playing alongside numerous pro’s who really did ‘make it’, starting and growing a large successful coaching school, training scores of coaches, working with National governments and Tennis Federations in the area of sport policy and in the dirt tennis development, gives me a very different picture. That the Holy Grail of the top, the end game, we keep getting sold through sports media, advertising, and yet ‘another’ development pathway, more resembles Plato’s allegory of chasing shadows in the Cave. An industry held as captives and forced to look at what the controlling light wants us to focus on.
But is that what our Tennis Federations should be keyed into? What is the main game? Should not those who have been given the responsibility of stewardship for our wonderful game have a much broader view in mind? A view that sees the game of tennis for the incredible gift that it is rather than a tool that can leverage a billion-dollar industry. You know things are off track when National Tennis Associations, in going for the ‘win’, now include viewing or attending tennis events as ‘tennis participation’. A perfect example of how slippery language alters the goalposts by those in control of the light or in our case the messaging medium.
“History never repeats…” a classic song line that all our antipodean flock know well, highlights the grim reality that this idea is a dream, a wish that we could, tomorrow, wake up and find our tennis centers full of great local competitions, where every local court has an open, welcoming, engaged and community-driven committee with a ton of tennis literacy. What happened!? I remember this! Growing up in a family-centered tennis community, that yes, was a thing of the past, but it was also the secret to the success of our sport.
REAL grass-roots mass-participation club-based development models are what positioned our sport to be the iconic community-led pastime across the world. Fifty years down the road, we are tuned into another dial. One played by the popular media and broadcasting rights owners, the voyeurism of the professional athlete's life, leveraged by a goliath gaming industry that is actually causing great harm to our sport and a social media that keeps everyone plugged into it 24/7. A tennis industry that sees itself as the main game….in a weird image akin to your clothes telling you who you are...
Accessibility is the key to turning participation around. But that comes after understanding what Tennis actually is philosophically and what it isn’t, a tool to be leveraged to bring in more dollars. Tennis is a game. The best game. A game that tests the participant. Building character, loyalty, confidence, and efficacy in each individual that touches a racket and steps onto a tennis court. It’s a game that transcends gender, age, race, social status, education, and ability. It builds community belonging and acceptance that enables people to stop reflecting on their own woes and look at the incredible world around them and perhaps consider with gratitude what they themselves can actually do.
It was Einstein that coined the well-known phrase “you can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it”. The capacity to bring back the essence of community tennis can be reborn at the grass-roots level. However, it’s not going to come from the same people, many of them key industry stakeholders, who are currently tied into making their living through the status quo. The way back, to a sport that can talk of thousands in local clubs and regional programs, not tens, is a road that means getting our hands dirty. Re-inventing the game at the grass-roots level, turning away from narrow pathways that deliver low participation, high adolescent drop-out rates, and scarce local competition numbers, and an un-learning of the ‘picking the winners’ transactional pathway model that has been the modus operandi for too long.
The capability to create a new generation of tennis lovers instead of tennis users is doable. If you are involved in a club or regional association and would like to see a large mass-participation tennis community that grows into a strong club, please feel free to connect with me. One final word on this. It doesn’t happen by listening to the latest craze of sport development guru’s holding webinars or the latest COVID hype around reactivating sport through ‘Zoominars’ on ‘How to’….where you are left to do it. It happens through doing it! Implementing a guided framework from sport development professionals who have walked their talk over many years, across numerous multi-cultural and multi-lingual settings, imparting the necessary skills to succeed and build on within your club community.
Scott Windus is a development sociologist, Tennis Australia Senior Club Professional coach, and has many years of successful experience in the tennis development arena. In September 2019 Scott’s development work was recognized by the sports peak body, the ITF, in presenting him with the ITF services to the Game award at the ITF AGM in Lisbon, Portugal for his services to the development of tennis. In January 2020 Scott was invited by Tennis Australia to be the keynote speaker at the President's Breakfast for the ATP Cup in Brisbane. He has recently joined forces with Laykold, the US OPEN court surface manufacturer, to facilitate turn-key development opportunities to tennis communities around the world.
He can be contacted on: (+61) 407 035 451 or at email firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn.
-------- Note from "The Commish" --------
July 30, 2020
The Commish, along with many former members, received a heartwarming post card from a large teaching organization. It said how much they miss... His... Money. They want to extend FREE dues, of course AFTER paying an unknown reinstatement fee. It Sounds FREE.
It was also nice to know that not only would they accept the former member, but also maybe the current resident, just in case the member had moved away.
The Commish would like to know who checks these communications for comedy, and whether a better way to reach out might be to actually have a human being dial a phone number and thus speak to the other person that they 'miss seeing on the court'.
Nothing says care more than investing the littlest amount of funds, time, energy, personal attention, and service.
The Commish strongly urges caring people to have divisional, district and regional reps make actual phone calls or if convenient, face to face contact.
Note: nothing on the postcard says anything about it being a privileged communication.