What to learn from the crisis?
Tennis Pros need to look out for their own business
Brought to my attention
PHIT America Petition
Tennis and Betting
Merger of ATP and WTA?
Rich Neher is the owner of Tennis Media Group, formerly a Consulting and Publishing Firm for Tennis Clubs, now Publishers of TENNIS CLUB BUSINESS. He is also the Executive Director of Los Angeles based California Social Tennis Network. Besides managing tennis clubs and organizing community tennis, Rich has been the Team Lead for Adult Leagues and NTRP ratings on the USTA Tennislink Team and was a Board Member of the San Diego District Tennis Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 Community Service Award from the USPTA San Diego Division and of the 2019 PTR Media Excellence Award.
Are we over the hump? We hear all sorts of people talking about 'reopening the economy' and I heard some tennis facilities have started to open their doors - even in Southern California! So, shouldn't we be happy? Well, according to our experts, not so fast! Tim Bainton is warning that reopening clubs at full capacity may be more beneficial than a gradual opening in a LETTER TO THE EDITOR. Rod Heckelman describes the current waters as "calming but treacherous" in his article. Scott Mitchell opines that it's "time to plan your summer camps" while Gary Horvath in his Feature article "Getting The Consumer Back In The Game" predicts the industry might be fighting "an uphill battle." And as always, he is producing hard data to back up his predictions. (Between you and me, the USTA should hire Gary to help them make better decisions.)
This is the biggest issue of TENNIS CLUB BUSINESS ever. We have 28 contributions, 19 of those are one way or another related to COVID-19 effects on our sport. Things are moving so fast right now, your e-mails sent to me at the beginning of April for inclusion in LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, may not be quite relevant anymore. I can't even begin to imagine what this kind of news environment does to the editors of TENNIS magazine or RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY, publications with much longer lead times than TCB.
As far as I'm concerned, I remain upbeat, convinced that tennis is at a crossroads. Here is a quote from Rod Heckelman at the end of his article: "You know the saying, some see the glass half full, others half empty…well, in this case, the glass was nearly empty, but as luck or opportunity may have it, we could very well be experiencing the glass overflowing." There you have it, folks. Think positive.
Btw, on April 18 we had an International Tennis Virtual Happy Hour and that was fun, too. Bill Patton, Ken DeHart, Martin Baroch (Switzerland), Delaine Mast, Gary Horvath, and Armita Omidian (Iran) came together and shared information, discussed stuff. Let me know if you want to be invited to the next one May 2.
WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THE CURRENT CRISIS
1. RESET IS NEEDED
My vision for a new tennis movement in this country: I want to see a time where a kid looks at their parents and says, “Wow, this is way cool. I want to play tennis! I want to be a part of that tennis tribe!” And I want to see adults look at the message on their screen about a fitness movement called TENNIS and say, “Wow, this seems way more fun than a boring workout at that sweaty gym. I want to try that tennis thing. I want to play!”
Question is, can this be achieved with the way things are arranged currently? I say no. We're looking at a self-serving USTA that is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars in questionable areas like Player Development and highly compensated top executives that make questionable decisions without fear of losing their jobs. In my opinion, there is no way they are able to create anything that is even close to my vision.
I've watched Michael Dowse's latest video message and noticed he refers to the USTA as "the company." Now, this non-profit shouldn't be called a company but I want to give Dowse the benefit of doubt. He came from a corporate environment and probably misspoke. But, let's say the USTA is a for-profit company with shareholders, ask your self this question: Are they creating shareholder value? And the answer is, yes! But only for the entertainment side of the business. Not for the rest of the tennis community.
I think Dowse needs to understand what a friend of mine shared with me the other day: What the USTA does very well is running the US Open. That's the entertainment side, the cash cow for everything else they're doing. That's the reason they are calling their tennis efforts a growing business. What they forget is that otherwise, tennis is pretty much insignificant as a sport. Looking at my vision above, when was the last time you heard a kid say that tennis is cool? When have you ever heard an adult say, "I want to try that tennis thing? I want to play!"
When I hear the TIA write that we have tens of millions 'latent demand' adults out there, I'm cringing. How many years have they been telling us that? Ten? Twenty? What have they ever done to effectively reach out to them and make them say, YES, I WANT TO PLAY TENNIS?
Mr. Dowse, I challenge you to create that movement, that tribe
that makes adults and kids WANT to play tennis.
2. TENNIS PROFESSIONALS NEED TO LOOK OUT FOR THEIR OWN BUSINESS
My message for tennis professionals and club owners: Don't rely on the USTA to save your business during extreme times. Think much more about your profits throughout the year. Savings is king! Try to fortify your business and make it pretty much recession-proof.
I want to point out three articles that may be able to help you more in the long-run than any short-term subsidies from the USTA or our government. Will Boucek is the founder of TENNIS TRIBE MARKETING and is also a man I'm going to with my own marketing needs. He knows tennis and he knows how to market a tennis business. His contribution "The Definite Marketing Guide for Tennis Coaches" is a well-written and thought-out plan. PR-Expert Marsha Friedman needs no introduction. We've been posting her articles for many years. Her article, "Landing A Media Interview During COVID-19 Is One Thing; But Then What?" is worth a look. Ramon Osa is a Southern California professional who writes on his LinkedIn page, "I teach highly skilled and passionate tennis pros how to create multiple streams of income (on and off-court) by utilizing the enormous power of video." His article is called, "Tennis Coach’s Consultant Ramon Osa Creates FREE Training - How To Create Tennis Videos That ACTUALLY Make Money." You can find it under PASSIVE INCOME.
Michael Dowse - for being accessible and engaging. The TENNIS INDUSTRY UNITED site was built under his watch. I hope over time I can add some more attributes to his name, like Spider-Web-Remover!
Carrie Cimino - for working for HEAD Penn for 25 years now! How does she do it? Read the article about her.
PTR - for publishing some of their content in the Spanish language now. Kudos!
Kalindi Dinoffer - for putting this exciting training program with Gigi Fernandez together. Well done!
Jolyn de Boer - for putting her considerable expertise après-TIA to better use and starting Racquet & Paddle Sports Alliance, an organization created "to help bridge racquet and paddle sports through technology, innovation, and education." I can't wait to hear more about that!
Adeline Arjad Cook - a tennis entrepreneur who changed her manufacturing business from tennis fashion to fashionable face masks.
Karen Helf - for looking out for the little guy, the touring pro ranked lower than 100, whose income was erased by COVID-19.
"Lake Nona was created so USTA top executives don't have to shovel White Plains snow anymore."
BROUGHT TO MY ATTENTION
"I wonder if the USTA email telling people not to play tennis is part of a greater plan to cancel the US Open and collect on their pandemic insurance policy. And if the USPTA has a similar policy, I wonder if they are setting themselves up to cancel their conference in New Orleans. It is certainly much easier not to run events if you can collect the money from an insurance policy.
I hope my suspicions are not true and that all parties are acting in good faith."
USPTA Forms Partnership with WTCA
"I think the USTA should be bringing the pros and coaches together. It seems they are playing games to split the organizations apart with the accreditation. There are some people in the USPTA who really don't like the PTR. I don't get it. I remember Tim Heckler telling me once that the PTR and USPTA pushed each other to greater heights. I think that is a good way to look at it. "
Michael Dowse's video message
"The only thing I am hesitant about is tennis programs. We don't need any more tennis programs. We need investment in infrastructure and human capital. Keep every college and high school program in place. Look at the fiscal stimulus by the federal government - businesses and workers (consumers). In tennis, it needs to be businesses, the pros, and the players."
70% of play occasions happen at public parks, schools & colleges
"70% of play at public parks, interesting. Yet USTA focuses on leagues at clubs. Hmmmm."
USTA and on-going education
"The vision with our partners (PTR, USPTA, TIA, ITA) is to not be viewed as the experts in these blogs and podcasts but to provide a platform for those to use as an access point. Our role is to facilitate excellence via all the great knowledge that is currently across the different levels of the sport."
U.S. Soccer closed their Development Academy
"Imagine this: in the last decade, the USTA spent $230 Million for Player Development and now gives away $15M from top salaries of one year."
USTA announces next phase of support for tennis industry
Among the many resources and support being offered is assistance for certified tennis-teaching professionals to renew their membership dues.
“We applaud USTA’s foresight in helping tennis-teaching professionals with their certification and professional development,” USPTA CEO John Embree said. “This grant will help our pros as they get back to work and focus on attracting and retaining more tennis players.”
The commissioners of the Group of Five Conferences are asking for a reduction in NCAA Division I sports sponsorship minimums
"It appears that some of the mid-size conferences are looking for ways to cut their sponsorship of programs. If this goes through I'm sure there will be tennis programs that get cut. It will be interesting to see how tennis organizations react."
Jon Wertheim (Sports Illustrated)
"Despite USTA optimism, the 2020 U.S. Open is unlikely to proceed as planned."
USTA sanctioned programs
"Please note that the local decisions on phased opening will not apply to USTA-sanctioned programs. These programs will remain suspended until at least May 31 as previously announced."
"The USTA should send all its members a $50 gift certificate for the purchase of a new tennis racquet. They could work out the details with suppliers, manufacturers, or retailers. They could have a list of approved court builders and give a subsidy $5,000 for each court built, or $1,000 for each court resurfaced. It would be interesting to hear what others have to say about how to get tennis players back on the courts."
Pandemic costing youth team sports millions
"Every tournament that is canceled will cost the USTA or the sections money. Maybe they should rethink their model for funding tennis, so the sections are motivated to promote tennis, not just USTA events."
PHIT AMERICA - SIGN OUR PETITION TO GET KIDS HEALTHY
Jim Baugh sent me this note
I hope you are well and healthy. This week, PHIT America is launching a national campaign to get 1,000,000 Americans to sign a petition, Petition.PHITAmerica.org, supporting Every Kid Getting At Least 30 Minutes of Physical Activity At Least 3 Times a Week In School. We think every American will sign this petition and be surprised to learn almost 50% of schools have no PE and many schools have eliminated recess.
While I would love for you to sign the petition, I was wondering how we can tap into your network to help us get 1,000,000 signatures. It is a simple, no-cost request to bring awareness and action to an issue, getting kids active, and the lack of physical education in our schools.
Please send this link and petition to your contacts via email, social media, etc. This petition will also get Americans away from the issues of the Coronavirus Pandemic temporarily. Thanks. Help us get 1,000,000 signatures!
Let’s talk soon.
Sign the petition here. Thank you!
TENNIS AND BETTING
Thank you, everyone, for replying to my April 17 email requesting information and opinions about the betting aspect of tennis. We could still use more of that from you!
The latest information I have is that the ITF is getting $190 Million annually from two companies. I'm asking questions here, such as,
Does that pass the smell test?
Is it legal? Is it moral?
What are they giving away in return?
Are they illegally selling NGO membership data?
When are they starting to accept bets on USTA Adult League matches?
And how about bets on Junior Team Tennis matches? Is that already being discussed
Where is the money going?
Who, if anyone, is personally getting rich on this?
What were ITF Board members promised in return for a deal with the devil?
I am, of course, constantly asking myself if I'm really out of touch, a dinosaur who doesn't understand where the world of sports seems to be going. On the other hand, are the temptations too much for ITF and other NGO's to make a quick buck? Should someone check out the legal side of all this?
There's a lot of data to digest. A fair amount of foul smell is in the air. Some of it already makes me wanna shake my head in disbelieve. I hope to be able to write a larger article about this in our July issue. Like a summer surprise, haha.
KEEP THE EMAILS COMING, PLEASE.
MERGER OF ATP AND WTA?
What do Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, and Stan Wawrinka have in common with Billie Jean King, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova and Garbiñe Muguruza? According to the New York Times, they are all in favor of a merger of both ATP and WTA tours. It all started with Roger's tweet "Just wondering…..am I the only one thinking that now is the time for men’s and women’s tennis to be united and come together as one?" And BJK chimed in, "We are stronger together speaking with one voice. We need to be united together as a family to keep improving and to compete with other sports."
Wow, not too long ago a high-powered tennis tournament executive told me in private, "What do we need the women's tour for, anyway? They should just go away. No one's watching them." he will probably not like these headlines, haha. I like the fact that Micky Lawler, the WTA’s president, has been a public proponent for united governance. I think it's a step in the right direction. What do you think? E-mail me.
Have a productive May, everyone. Use your downtime to plan for the future! And make sure you keep yourself and your family safe so there is a future for you after all this!