ERS Tennis LLC
Greater Atlanta area
Bobby Schindler is a USPTA professional and member of the GPTA (Georgia Professional Tennis Association). He co-founded ERS Tennis, specializing in professional instruction, facility management and event creation in 1996. He is the director at Windermere subdivision a twelve-court facility in Cumming, GA.
Bobby worked with Northside Hospital to create their Breast Cancer Awareness Day held annually throughout Atlanta. He partnered Cadillac with the WTA Family Circle event for two years and was the courtside announcer for the Atlanta Thunder of World Team Tennis. He works with Kourts.com introducing their APP-based reservation system.
Bobby received his undergraduate degrees from TCU and masters from Georgia State.
While working toward my Master's degree in Sports Administration I was in a class where the professor went around the room asking students their favorite sport. When my turn came I answered baseball and was quickly met with the reply, "Good you should look into a job in professional soccer."
I was initially confused but his point became very clear. Never lose sight of the fact this is a business first. Let your passion make you better, make you more energetic but do not let it fog your judgment. Tennis' preoccupation with the past is leading to its extinction. Our sport is governed in the US by an organization without a clearly defined mission statement and led by individuals who have existed solely through our sport who find it hard to accept outside advice when rendered.
Please let's put egos aside and remember this is a game and therefore an experience from which pleasure is derived. Our coaches are wonderful teachers but not necessarily best suited to lead a resurgence. Those responsible for growing the game have not done so by no means a mortal sin. Together we should appreciate the effort but look to a new direction.
I often wondered how NASCAR enjoyed such tremendous success in the early 2000s when their races only featured left turns. WWE has scripted outcomes yet is a billion-dollar company. The physicality involved in today's tennis is beyond any level seen throughout history. Players are bigger, faster, stronger our professional product is awe-inspiring. Our top players are admired worldwide for their tenacity, determination, and grit. Rafa Nadal and Serena Williams are two of the greatest fighters all of sports have ever seen and Roger Federer's on-court majesty places him on Mount Rushmore with Pele, Michael Jordan, and Ali. Yet despite all this, tennis ranks below darts as a sport played and enjoyed by recreational athletes.
Tennis must separate church and state. Coaches should coach and provide wisdom from their experiences. This knowledge should be bestowed upon individuals with creative backgrounds to market our game. Coaches will benefit from more players coming to the game by an increase of talent pool and revenue. Facilities will become more financially solvent enabling them to take more ambitious approaches. Will we at times fail? Absolutely, you cannot learn without failure.
Tennis must embrace technology. Last year I was fortunate to be introduced to a technology company trying to gain a foothold in tennis. I was stunned equally by the research presented and the response they received from sharing. I learned 90% of facilities were still using paper and pencil when it came to court bookings, relying on people calling the front desk. In addition the majority of people looking to book a drill, lesson or court did so after 9 PM in the evening when their day was over. This made sense but considering the number of clubs closed at that hour how many potential reservations were lost? Fifteen months later they continue their mission trying to overcome the status quo.
Tennis must embrace professionalism. At every level we need to follow up phone calls, emails and texts to make all interested in our game feel wanted. Professional organizations need to shift focus onto topics beyond the court, move past the same five individuals who dominate speaking engagements at seminars and conventions and create a narrative with the public that secures our members' place in the community. You need a license to cut hair yet anyone with a hopper and balls can call themselves an instructor. Tournaments need to be realistic when asking for money. Yes, it is a business but overcharging and under-delivering leads to failure. How many domestic professional events are left?
Tennis must embrace fun. Can you imagine being a kid participating in a sport where the crowd is not allowed to acknowledge your successes and being told by organizers that's the way things are done here? Do we wonder why they would rather play football, basketball, lacrosse, etc? Let's make it easier for parents to place children in leagues by accepting the responsibility for team formation and not on the participant. No entry-level league mandates you sign up with a complete roster. Tennis wants to compete with team sports then act like team sports. Make it easy for parents to register their children and make it fun for the child to play.
Tennis must embrace noise. Noise is an offshoot of fun, so be it. Adults and children both look to recreational sports as a form of entertainment. Yes tennis is a game for a lifetime and yes it is far better than riding a stationary bike or an elliptical machine but people play mostly for social reasons. Look at the success of ALTA in Atlanta. ALTA made tennis a team sport and wrapped it in a half-day activity surrounded by friends and has enjoyed unrivaled participation rates as a result.
Play music during lessons, drills, and events so it becomes part of the sport. Try watching a movie without the background score. Running time feels much longer. Music creates flow, energy, and enthusiasm. Instructors will benefit from their voice not being as dominant and the sense of urgency created when they do speak over Journey or ACDC.
I get tired of the need for silence in order to concentrate BS purported by our industry. I was fortunate to give lessons to a former quarterback at Michigan State University. The subject of crowd noise affecting play was being debated by several club members so I asked him what it was like playing Michigan in the Big House in front of 100K plus screaming individuals and how it affected his play? He answered, "What noise?"
Tennis must embrace listening better. Communication is found in the ears of the recipient not a speaker of words. If we are listening to the consumer and following the money we must recognize the steady decline of tennis in public perception. The number of players has continued to decline as has the money spent by those playing. The industry has not attracted the next generation of teachers due to its inability to identify the motivations of younger audiences. This lack of younger voices has led to technology not being utilized in tennis as it is in all other aspects of our lives. The narrative of the tennis industry has not built a sustainable community from which all benefit.
Rich, I appreciate your call to arms and look forward to this continued conversation. Thanks for taking on the role. I hope it creates an urgency among beyond the usual suspects who spend their time pontificating through social media garnering their five likes and two comments believing they have had an impact on the world. "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle," said MLK. His goals were loftier but words appropriate. Have a good day.