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Post Graduate Tennis
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There is much talk about the lack of fresh, young blood in the tennis teaching profession. It appears the millions of new beginners that the USTA says have entered the tennis ecosystem last year have created that big void that needs to be filled if many of those new players are expected to stay in our sport.
We think that the college players that do not take the pathway to play professionally are a large reservoir of very good players who could potentially become certified tennis coaches. While most PTM programs are already involved in getting their graduates employment, other colleges do not. So, we want to address those graduates and give them a chance to explore the possibility of going into full-time or part-time teaching tennis.
With the publication of The Athlete Centered Coach, Bill Patton is working hard to influence sports culture globally. There is a revolution going on in coaching, and Bill has always colored outside the lines, so he is ready for new lines to be drawn. Bill is currently coaching his 10th different high school with 30+ years of experience in the field.
He has coached at several schools with many great results. He is now featured on coachtube.com, with three different tennis courses. Bill and his business partner Styrling Strother have started USATennisCoach, LLC, which trains, certifies, mentors, and collaborates with high school tennis coaches.
Post Graduate Tennis
Give them a great experience and watch your retention and growth increase!
By Bill Patton
Postgraduate tennis is one of the great safety nets to save and capture tennis players in the sport of a lifetime. It’s true that after graduating college and to a lesser degree, from escaping high school, young people face a major life transition. Caring people who contact graduates can touch them for the sport. A greater effort paid to retain them playing can be the lynchpin that helps the graduate to learn how to network through tennis, but also they can be among the greatest agents of growth. Tennis officials have long bemoaned the graying of the organization and have long ignored my advice. In recent years some effort has been made to reach out to the under 40 crowd, in the name of reaching the under 30s. It’s time to get serious and show moral courage, going out of the comfort zone that you yourself urge others to do.
Know The Way, Go The Way, Show The Way
Come with us, do it this way. I have been wildly successful at recruiting young up-and-coming coaches in spite of the barriers to entry you might have placed. From J.D., Vinh, and Aaron, to Nicole and Kirsten, former players and camp counselors, became camp leaders, and in some cases my replacements, and established tennis professionals. You, tennis leader, do the same thing my high schoolers do when I introduce a new drill. They give a half-assed effort, then they turn and whine, ‘Coach, it doesn’t work’. I turn back them scolding ‘YOU didn’t work’. The drill works great for those who put in the effort. Yes, first efforts might be awkward, such is life.
1. Change your attitude.
Don’t look at graduating seniors as lost opportunities to cash in on, instead see them as great people in which to invest. I will never forget as a teen, being in tennis camp with college tennis players as counselors. Younger teens look up to that next half-generation ahead of them. You really want to get high school and college players as your counselors at camps, and teaching beginner classes. They are much more inspiring than the guy in his 50s. Recruit them to teach, and watch their burnout turn into joy. High school kids who have a job for the summer when they come home will appreciate that. College players who can be a part of the staff, even on a part-time or temporary basis, will have a safety net and fewer breaks in their resume. Build that bridge. Make it a great experience, this generation seems to crave unique experiences.
2. Be the dog with an old sock.
Don’t give up on people. Tell them that you expect to hear that they are playing tennis. Let them know you want them to come to visit you at the club when they are in town. This only works if you have actually made some sort of connection. Alas, if all you see are $$$,$$$ then you might miss out on the actual human relationships and the attending influence you can have on the outcomes for young people. It’s too bad the phrase ‘It takes a village’ was ruined by politicians. But, you can be the village chief if you want to be. Take on the role, really care about each and every person who steps foot inside your sphere of influence.
Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash
3. Fully Engage.
When you become known as someone that people confide in, and some of your lessons are actually mental health sessions, then you become a watershed of positivity in your community. It’s scary when my players tell me about the difficulty they face in life. But that’s when I have to take a full stop, really listen and care. No one cares how much you know until they know how much care. That thing that I do, that you do, where we aren’t really listening, but we are thinking about our lunch break, the next phone call we need to avoid, or anyone else we would rather talk to than the person in front of us, that needs to go.
4. Answer the phone, return the phone call or email.
Give real answers. You can’t please everyone all the time, so just be upfront and honest. Wasting time lying, prevaricating, shading the truth, painting too rosy of a picture, overpromising and under-delivering, there is no future in that.
When your people can count on your honesty, integrity, kindness, and over delivery, then you will really have created that trusty bridge, people know that you are there, you are not a mirage, and that when you say something, you mean it, that gives a lot of certainty in an uncertain world. When you get to the place when your words assure or re-assure, then you become a touchstone for a young generation that has little in the way of certainty. You can’t be deconstructed, and you are not a social construct, you are a rock they can cling to before being swept out to sea, or over the falls.
A great example of how to capture post-grad and young coaches is Agape Tennis in Atlanta, Georgia. Amy Pazahanic does an amazing job of ‘teaching our culture so that players become leaders, is my paraphrase from a recent interview. Children who had gone through the program for years, then become camp counselors, and she now has two camp directors who are under 22 years of age. It can be done, you just have to be enterprising enough, want to do it, and have moral courage.
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