Nancy Ehrola writes on her LinkedIn page: Growing up in New Jersey, I was a basketball player and runner before discovering tennis after my three children were born. Following successful careers in Hospitality, Banking and Real Estate, I combined my new passion for tennis with my sales and business management skills at The Atlantic Club Tennis Center in Manasquan, NJ. I started as desk staff but quickly moved on to coordinating special events, and marketing.
Soon I became the Business Manager of the 18 court facility and finally took on the role of Corporate Tennis Director in 2010 overseeing all aspects of the operation. In October of 2017, we made the decision to bring Pickleball to The Atlantic Club. I now also oversee a community of 600+ players participating in clinics, contract time, leagues, and match play on 6 courts with blended lines.
I am a PTR Member with a 10 and Under Coaching Certification and a PPR certified Pickleball coach. In 2016, I was honored to be chosen as PTR New Jersey Member of the Year.
I have spoken at several industry conferences and advice directors across the country on best business practices for both tennis and Pickleball.
My goal of growing and supporting the number of women in the tennis industry as coaches and directors is a personal project. In my free time, I am a dedicated supporter of The American Cancer Society hoping to find a cure for breast cancer in my lifetime.
Questions for Nancy Ehrola
TCB: Nancy, where were you born?
NE: I was born in New York City but lived most of my life at the Jersey Shore.
TCB: On LinkedIn, you state you started playing tennis as an adult. How did this come about? Did someone entice you to start it?
NE: I was close friends with a group of young moms from my community. One of the girls decided that we were going to buy “Tennis Contract Time” at The Atlantic Club one night a week to get out and exercise. I didn’t even know what she was talking about! When I told her that I had never played tennis, she said that wasn’t a problem because I was athletic and could pick it up quickly. Not wanting to embarrass myself, I went right to the club and asked about lessons! At the time, there was a USTA beginner’s program called “Play Tennis America” that provided group instruction for a small fee. It had three levels in six-week sessions to teach you all the basic strokes, footwork, and strategy to get you going. Long story short: I fell I love with the game. I took tons of lessons, joined leagues, made new friends, and even won a couple of local doubles tournaments with the help of some very good partners.
TCB: How did you decide to go from the corporate world into the world of club tennis in 2003?
NE: As we all know, tennis can be an expensive sport. One day when I was playing, the desk manager came out on my court and asked if I would be interested in working there. She said if I committed to 12 hours a week I would get a free membership, discounts on lessons, and even play for free in most programs. It was too good to refuse! I started out at the desk but quickly became involved in special events and marketing. As the club grew, I was promoted to Tennis Business Manager which gave me a hand in all aspects of the business. I found I really enjoyed this job! Having a background in hospitality, sales, and banking—combined with my experience as a former customer—gave me a unique perspective on how the Tennis Center should operate. In 2010, I took over all operations and continue in that role today.
TCB: At The Atlantic Club you went from desk staff to Events Coordinator, then Business Manager and finally Corporate Director of Tennis. You must like it here. What's so special about this club?
NE: The Atlantic Club is a unique facility. It is a 44-acre property with a world-class fitness center, three pools, racquetball, platform tennis, indoor and outdoor soccer fields, spa, café, nursery school, and two tennis centers. In the winter all 13 courts are covered and heated. In the summer we take down the two air structures and those 8 courts become
beautiful outdoor facility. Putting all that aside, the best thing about the club is the people! Our staff and players are the reason I love my job. I am very fortunate to have an incredible leadership team, along with passionate pros and support staff. They are a second family to me. Additionally, after 18 years of playing and managing at The Atlantic Club, there are relationships with players young and old that I cherish.
TCB: How many tennis professionals do you employ here?
NE: We have 17 pros on our staff. In the summer, we add a few more for our camps and to accommodate the seasonal residents.
TCB: How many members or memberships do you have?
NE: The Atlantic Club Tennis Center doesn’t require a membership. Our facility is open to the public. The roster currently has over 2,500 active players throughout the year.
TCB: How many outdoor/indoor courts are there and what surfaces?
NE: We have two different tennis buildings on the property, housing a combined 13 hard courts. Tennis Center 1 is the main hub. It has eight courts that are covered in the winter and open in the summer. Tennis Center 2 is a year-round, indoor facility with 5 courts.
TCB: How was the club able to deal with the perils of COVID-19 so far? What happened to the staff? Did any members leave?
NE: On March 16, 2020, the Governor of New Jersey ordered all fitness and sports clubs to close. At this time, we are still completely shut down. All employees were paid through March 29, 2020, and then received a payout of accumulated PTO and sick pay in April. At this time, we don’t know how many players will choose not to return when we are given clearance to open. Social distancing rules will certainly reduce the number of players allowed to be on the court or in programs so we know there will be a forced decline in participation. In the meantime, I am working daily with industry leaders and our club executives to be ready to provide a safe environment for both staff and players by developing the best sanitizing protocols possible.
TCB: During "normal" times, what are the biggest challenges for you in your position?
NE: The hardest part of my job is attracting and keeping new players. This is true for both adults and juniors. We market effectively to adults through social media, Google Ads, and search engine optimization for our adult beginners’ programs. Once we get them, we are constantly tweaking the formula to improve retention. The juniors are a little trickier. We have a lot of competition from soccer, lacrosse, and surfing. We need to find a way to attract more kids into tennis locally. I don’t think we are alone in that challenge. Fortunately, I have ROGY pros who do an exceptional job in their classes to make the kids love the sport and want to stay with us.
TCB: Is there pickleball and do you have dedicated PB courts?
NE: We added Pickleball in November 2017. The Club now has six pickleball courts with blended lines that utilized four tennis courts. We were on track to exceed $150,000 in Pickleball revenue this year when the pandemic hit.
TCB: How are you able to combine the pickleball and tennis demands at the club?
NE: The challenge was to find a way to have tennis and pickleball coexist and keep both groups of players happy. After a comprehensive analysis of court usage, I found availability during off-peak hours and a few openings on two weekday mornings. When pickleball is in full swing, we only use the tennis courts in that area for programs with music or high-performance players. Pickleball players don’t mind the music and the pros don’t have to worry about bothering the other courts when the music is playing. It works!
Initially, we only offered “Open Play” in the afternoon and late evening. Shortly after that, we added clinics and private lessons. Recently, we started up some leagues, special events, and corporate team building experiences. We now have 9 PPR certified coaches and over 800 players.
TCB: If you had unlimited funds for your budget, what would you do?
NE: My dream is to add four Har-Tru courts for the summer months and to enlarge the Clubhouse to create more space for socials, retail, and just relaxing.
TCB: What is your tennis racquet of choice?
NE: For years I’ve been playing with the old Wilson Juice 100. Recently, my pros have been pushing me to change so I was testing the Head Gravity racquets when the pandemic hit. I’ll probably switch over when the club reopens. Also, the Head Extreme Tour is my go-to pickleball paddle.
TCB: Thank you, Nancy Ehrola.