JANUARY 2020

  • Tennis Mission Statements

  • USTA Phobia?

  • Why is the USTA sending out Coaching Videos?

  • Tennis Teaching Gobbledegook

  • HEAD one step AHEAD

  • Quote of the Month

  • Egg on Face of the Month

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Dear Readers,

A new year is upon us. I hope you all made it safely into 2020 and your year will be happy and healthy. As you can see, we are sporting a new look, trying to modernize TENNIS CLUB BUSINESS a little before we can make the big change to a flip-magazine. We'll keep improving as we go along, hoping you'll find our content interesting enough to stay with us on this journey of 'holding their feet to the fire' until we see positive changes capable of increasing tennis participation in the U.S.A. considerably.

Please, write to me with your comments, criticism (I can take it!) and suggestions. Every article regarding ideas to grow tennis in America will be considered for publication. 'Small' ideas will be put into LETTERS TO THE EDITOR. Big picture, game-changing ideas come under MAKE TENNIS GREAT AGAIN. (I hope we're not being sued for modifying 45's campaign slogan from 2016, haha)

A big THANK YOU to our contributors for their valuable content last year and hopefully in the future. Suzanna McGee, Alice Tym, Barbara Wintroub, Joe Dinoffer, Rod Heckelman, and Gary Horvath are all specialists in their area and their contributions are much appreciated. And a special SHOUTOUT to Suzanna McGee, our very first contributor since January of 2014, when she wrote about "Rotator Cuff Injury Prevention." Thank you, Suzanna.

Hope y'all have a good January. Check out our MARKETING section for some ideas on getting publicity in 2020.

Rich Neher

TENNIS MISSION STATEMENTS

After writing a few times about the USTA's failure to fulfill its own promise to the sport, I decided to take a close look at the Mission Statements of some of the dominant organizations in tennis. I wanted to see who is addressing growing tennis and who isn't. Here are my observations and comments.

USTA

Current Mission Statement

"The USTA is a progressive and diverse not-for-profit organization whose volunteers, professional staff and financial resources support a single mission: to promote and develop the growth of tennis."

I have several problems with that lofty goal, obviously necessary to maintain our governing body's non-profit status.

First, the financial resources are not at all supporting the promotion and development of tennis growth. The three biggest areas those resources are wasted on are:

  • Bloated staff including obscenely overpaid executives, lavish expenses and retirement funds.

  • Player Development (60+ staff wasting $20 Mio. every year)

  • Luxuries including financial fiasco Lake Nona, $6 Mio. investment in Laver Cup, lavish consultant fees to Deloitte and others, USTA University, or boondoggles like Net Generation.

We still have to find where hundreds of millions of wasted dollars ever supported any growth in U.S. tennis. And upping the US Open prize money to obscene levels doesn't answer that question, either. 

Here's what USTA members should demand in my humble opinion. Either change the Mission Statement to simply "GROWING THE US OPEN" or demand drastic action:

1. The Board that approved all those wasted millions should resign immediately, together with ALL executive staff.

2. A new Board should be made up of tennis club owners and people with an eye for BIG PICTURE Changes. Interim Executives should be selected by Section ED's.

3. The organization needs to downsize to half its staff, close Player Development, and give its Sections more say in general operations and future plans.

4. The new Board needs to devise a plan to recover some of the hundreds of millions wasted and return them to U.S. grassroots tennis.

Maybe it's time for USTA membership to organize and demand change more forcefully?

USPTA
Current Mission Statement

"The purpose of USPTA shall be to elevate the standards of tennis-teaching professionals and coaches."

Cut and dried. Understandable. However, I'm missing any hint that this organization is also interested in growing tennis. Folks, without growth, there's decline. USPTA Pros will not find tennis players to teach and coach without growth. Are you getting this, USPTA Board? You aligned your organization with a governing body of tennis that has seemingly given up on growing tennis in our country. You should develop your own ideas about growing tennis in the U.S.A. significantly. And you do have capable people to do that!

PTR

Current PTR Mission Statement

"PTR's mission is to educate, certify and service tennis teachers and coaches around the world in order to grow the game."

Wow. I applaud the PTR for at least mentioning a desire to grow tennis. But, are they following through on this promise? The latest initiative makes me quite optimistic they would do just that. PickTEN is a great idea, in my opinion. In fact, I think it's a GAME CHANGER initiative. Designed to bring new players into tennis and to provide work for PTR members. Nice. I'd love to see more of those initiatives, though. Create a task force and include club owners. They know stuff. They have their ears to the ground like no one else.

WTT

Current Mission Statement

"World TeamTennis is dedicated to promoting tennis as a sport for everyone and anyone by tapping the competitive, social and entertaining spirit that comes from being part of a team."

Interesting statement but somewhat in between, don't you think? Carlos Silva has lofty ideas with his professional circuit. But how is that helping tennis grow unless his pro teams suddenly show up nightly on NBC? I think he has to expand the pro side to many more cities, promote the hell out of it, and let Delaine Mast develop the recreational side faster. The WTT concept is too good to just linger and not grow exponentially. I think it is so good it should pass USTA adult leagues in size.

TIA

Current Mission Statement

"Promote the growth of tennis and the economic vitality of the tennis industry." 

Good. Theoretically. Practically, since most of the TIA programs have been organized and conducted mainly by the USTA, few of them have ever shown any significant success. My advice: Get away from the USTA and their money. Let your industry members develop programs and initiatives. Listen to club owners.

 

Btw, I don't understand the secrecy around the new management company that has apparently been selected to run the TIA but no one is ready to name them. Why is that? What are they hiding from us? Is the company not kosher? In trouble? Was there a problem with the selection process? Did the USTA not approve? Did the TIA Board not approve the USTA's choice? What is it?

TENNIS CHANNEL

Current Mission Statement

"Tapping deep into an affluent and passionate market of 30 million tennis enthusiasts, including more than 5 million extremely active players, we deliver an unparalleled audience of achievers and influencers."

Oh man, tennis growth is not their objective at all, but there's also so much wrong with that statement, it's not even funny. Not sure if Steve Bellamy wanted the Tennis Channel to be broadcasting only for the affluent. Absolutely flabbergasted by Ken Solomon thinking there are 30 million passionate tennis enthusiasts in the U.S.A. Not sure why Sinclair Broadcasting thinks their 60 million subscriber base is all influencers and achievers. All I know is that the Tennis Channel has priced itself out of the living rooms of at least another 60 million households.

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USTA PHOBIA?

Are you reading this, Mr. Dowse? Are you planning to do something about that? Are you planning to have an open and honest dialogue with tennis professionals and club owners? That would be a great beginning.

A reader whose name I won't mention, and who owns a tennis and pickleball club, wrote to me passionately how spot on I am with my participation number doubts and how much of a walking disappointment the USTA is to him. But then he asked me not to publish his letter. "I’m still dependent on the USTA for a big part of my income stream. No publication of this letter please."

Bummer. So many people in this industry are afraid to speak their minds. Fear of retribution is real, too many stories are out there where pros and club owners were hurt because they voiced criticism. 

WHY IS THE USTA SENDING OUT COACHING VIDEOS?

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A good friend sent me a link to this video. I was puzzled. Didn't the USTA just certify the USPTA as the one and only accredited teaching organization?

Click on the image and watch the video. It is from the USTA National Campus under the headline USTA Improve Your Game. Head Tennis Professional Ben Zaiser explains how to poach in doubles. Nice. 

So, the USTA is continuing their teaching ambitions? Some of you have warned us, remember? They predicted that the only reason the USTA is getting in bed with the USPTA is to cheaply obtain their large 

member database, haha. Funny. Or, is it? If I was on the USPTA Board I would be rather upset, to put it nicely.

TENNIS TEACHING GOBBLEDEGOOK

I was watching a training video by a well-known teaching pro who has dozens of videos on YouTube. He almost painstakingly explained the serve motion and I saw one more time what has been bothering me for years about the way we are teaching tennis. Within the first 4 minutes, he threw 9 terms at me, which sounded quite confusing, to be honest. Here they are: 

Trophy position - Crack the whip - load the feet - ready position - split-step - continental grip - pronation - bounce the racquet - turn and power up.

Hu? I've been playing for a while and heard it all. But imagine a beginner. It must sound quite scary to them. 

And it's only the serve! Imagine all the other strokes and grips and all that mumbo jumbo. There must be close to 50 terms we are throwing at tennis students. Isn't there something we can do to simplify that language a little?

What do you think?

HEAD ONE STEP AHEAD

When I received the below press release I had to smile for two reasons. First I know Sophia Bott and think HEAD couldn't have made a better choice for this position. Second I have to congratulate HEAD on creating a position like Grassroots Marketing Specialist, combining some existing functions into one that really shows their priorities for 2020 and beyond. They have become quite a forward-thinking company under Greg Mason's leadership. (I truly hope he is recovering and on his way to be healthy again!)

HEAD Penn Racquet Sports promotes Sophia Bott to Grassroots Marketing Specialist
Phoenix, AZ – December 3, 2019: HEAD Penn Racquet Sports announced today that Sophia Bott will be promoted to Grassroots Marketing Specialist. In the role, she will work more closely with our coaches, sponsorships, and grassroots marketing efforts at a national level.

 

Sophia Bott, originally from Southern California, has been working for HEAD Penn for the past two years as the Western Regional Tech Rep. Bott was a top-ranked junior player in both the Pacific Northwest and Southern California Sections. As a junior, she also competed at the national level. Bott also competed in Division 1
Collegiate Tennis during her freshman year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and then transferred to the University of Washington for her remaining three years. She graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in Communications and worked with Kodak Motion Pictures in Los Angeles.

 

As a Tech Rep for HEAD Penn, Bott has conducted hundreds of HEAD Experience events, worked with HEAD Ad Staff and retailers, and represented HEAD Penn at events such as the BNP Paribas Open, USA Pickleball Nationals, and the USPTA World Conference. She has increased brand awareness through social media and
key partners like the CIF Southern Section.

 

“I am very excited for this new opportunity to continue to grow in my career at HEAD Penn," said Sophia Bott.
“I’m looking forward to working more closely with Sophia in this new role as the Grassroots Marketing Specialist,” said Allison Barnett, Brand Manager, HEAD USA. “Sophia’s dedication and professionalism representing HEAD Penn at multiple events has elevated our brands, and I know she’ll continue to do great things in her new position.”

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

I had to laugh when a tennis aficionado sent me his opinion after reading the press release announcing the USTA and ClubCorp partnership:

"The USTA just announced a partnership with a company that is devoting the majority of its assets to competing with TopGolf, that is about to start selling off its properties and has a ton of debt and is cash poor. And forcing the existing ClubCorp tennis pros to be Net Gen trained only increases optics, doesn’t solve the problem, doesn't grow tennis."

Pretty funny. No?

EGG ON FACE OF THE MONTH

A friendly insider at the National Campus called me a while ago. I was thinking long and hard whether I should publish it. But, what the heck, here it is.

"Rich, if you thought you'd heard it all, check this out: K. sends out a message to all executives asking them their input for creating a business plan for Lake Nona. Two years after opening it and 5 years after the planning started they realize they don't have a business plan."

I had to laugh so hard, I fell off my chair. But then I realized one more time: The USTA is a non-profit that acts like a for-profit but works like a clown show. You can't make this up, folks.

This Month

 

Congratulations to our first-ever Pro of the Month from Iran: Armita Omidian, a PTR-certified professional who works at the Bank of Industry and Mine Club ( Ajoudaniye Tennis Club) in Tehran. Nice!

Next Month

 

I am excited to announce at least three more articles for our MAKE TENNIS GREAT AGAIN section. Andrew Hill (Australia), Pierre Lamarche (Canada) and Walid Fattah (U.S.A.) will share their thoughts on growing tennis.

Happy New Year from all of us at TENNIS CLUB BUSINESS. And, please, keep the comments and letters coming!

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