Rod Heckelman's career started in 1966 when he began his five-year role as a teacher at John Gardiner’s Tennis Ranch in Carmel Valley, California Later he opened as the resident pro for Gardiner’s Tennis Ranch on Camelback in Scottsdale, Arizona.

In 1976 he took over as head professional/tennis director at the Mt. Tam Racquet Club in Larkspur, California, and added the title and responsibilities of general manager in 1982. 


In 2010 he was awarded “Manager of the Year” for the USPTA NorCal Division and the “Manager of the Year” at the USPTA World Conference. Rod has written several books including, “Down Your Alley” in 1993, “Playing Into the Sunset” in 2013, and most recently, “250 Ways to Play Tennis.”

He also produced the “Facility Manager’s Manual” and the “Business Handbook for Tennis Pros,” which is distributed by the TIA.

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many Latin employees we have working in the maintenance, house cleaning, or the foodservice, their business could not operate. They are a large representation of the many behind the scenes working constantly and with great loyalty to their job. 

The many Latin workers who have come here to find a better life for themselves and their families, have in the process become a very important part of the fabric that operates most clubs.  If you think about it, as important the tennis pros are, you could operate a business, for a few days, maybe much longer in their absence.  Those who operate the Front Desk or entryway to any facility are also very important, but again, could be replaced by a card reader or a temp worker…at least for a small period of time.  But if the courts are not playable, the facility has services that are down and not operational, or the locker rooms or bathrooms are not clean enough to use…your done…operation closed.

Unsung Latin Heroes in Our Industry

By Rod Heckelman

You're expecting some insights about Andres Gomes or maybe another blast from the past like Rafael Osuna, Maria Bueno, or Guillermo Vilas, and you would be right in your expectations, but this is about those that are seldom mentioned, if ever, and who without, most facilities would suffer tremendously.  You talk to most club managers and they will tell you, without the 


Obviously, there are some smaller operations that could function without these valuable services, but once most clubs begin to operate with more volume and demand, there is no way around not having reliable and well-run maintenance and house cleaning service.  In fact, if you are involved in any such facility, you will note that almost 80% of the complaints about any club operation, will always mention issues with poor services related to equipment not functioning or the cleanliness of the operation.  Note that when someone goes to any website that provides a review of any facility, the most often mentioned characteristics are hospitality and cleanliness. 

What has always been the trademark of these employees is their loyalty and dedication.  For most, having a job is all-important.  They see that opportunity as a gateway to a better life and, in turn, make the most of it.  They are also extremely proud of their work.  To many, the club is their home, not just the location of their work. 


This work ethic is tied to their family values.  To work is to have security, not just for them, but also for their families.  Family values are very important to many Latins, values that contribute to a steady and reliable employee.  Once they have found a home for their family, they soon find a home in the workplace, and commonly work at a single facility for many years.  That quality is often not appreciated, but it is that quality that many members take personal pride in and feel they know these employees at a personal level.  This feeling of a bond with these employees transfers to a bond to the facility.  It also helps contribute to consistent performance and less need for training.  Many large facilities that are located in communities have moved away from contracting outside services from a large organization, to hiring “their own,” due to these many positive influences.  This soon becomes another notch for a good owner or manager realizing that a positive and healthy club culture can be the foundation of success in this industry.  They recognize that this culture comes from every sector of their staff, especially the staff members that most often interact with the members. 

Having now mentioned how these people are so important to our industry, can it be said that we have properly returned the favor, or at least taken the time to recognize their contribution?  Sadly, not enough, but thankfully there have been many stories of Latins who started off in our industry and done quite well.  The percentage of their children that move on to acquire success through education is quite high.  Their community service, especially with churches, is also very active and influential.  All and all, they have made for a better environment, not just for the tennis world, but for our communities in general.  

Muchas gracias!

Tennis Club Business is the only tennis business newsletter that calls out the failed policies and programs of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the 17 USTA Sections, the Tennis Industry Association (TIA), and the International Tennis Federation (ITF).