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.


What Is Your Member Retention Quotient?

By Rod Heckelman

Now that the country is slowly recovering from this pandemic, we can't help wonder how this will impact our industry and, more directly, our jobs.  Add the fact that tennis instruction has been fortunate enough to fair quite well during these times, and that makes this moment in our industry a great time to reassess our input and influence as tennis teachers on our own clubs. 

Most pros will enjoy this upward trend, but many clubs may still find a negative impact on their membership, especially the privately owned or corporate-owned facilities.  Unlike membership owned clubs, the loyalty of paying dues stops quickly when there is no access.  As a result, many of us are in a position of both rebuilding the membership numbers as well as retaining as many members as possible. The rebuild will be a long arduous process, but it will happen, just takes time and energy.  The retention of members is another story.  The smart club pro will put together a program that will accomplish both goals – member increase and member retention.


Surprisingly, few pros really know how to measure their impact on member retention. They're aware of their lesson income and the demand they create for their instruction but are unable to accurately calculate membership retention. Any pro who can show their value in this area can create a positive impact on business, and with that comes job security. So, the question is, how does a pro measure that impact?

Some facilities have introduced financial systems that keep track of this quotient by providing a commission that spins out of monthly membership dues. Although rare, this proves to be very accurate. Most of the software clubs use will track the salesperson when a new member joins. If the teaching pro is programmed into that software to show credit for any sale of a membership, these numbers can also be accurately tracked.


Short of having these programs, new members or members who retain their memberships by virtue of the tennis pro, are seldom tracked or kept on record. There are several methods tennis pros can use to measure their membership retention quotient. Not all of these methods will be applicable. For instance, some clubs have a strong demand for their membership, or a cap, that eliminates the importance of tracking membership retention. Other pros may work at resorts or recreational facilities that use different measurements when evaluating the impact of their teaching pros. They may measure the number of customers who return to a facility due to the popularity of their tennis pros. Resort pros, therefore, are more inclined to keep track of customer or client retention, as compared to member retention. But for the majority of tennis pros who work with members, here is a simple scoring system with several methods to calculate your impact.


  1. The first method is the most obvious: Keep track of those who join the club as a result of your lessons or programs. If you have been working at a facility for 10 years, you may have brought in 35 members every year. What will be most impressive to the decision-makers at the club is when you are able to show them that of those 175 members, 160 or more are still active at your club. A less than 10 percent loss in members is a strong number in this industry, especially in an area where there is little transition. To find an accurate number to work with, use your local real estate market as a barometer to measure the transition in your area. Some areas naturally have more turnover than others, i.e. military areas, resort areas and metropolitan areas, while others are more stable, i.e. retirement communities, and high-income suburban areas.


Scoring: Give yourself a 10 for 90 percent retention and 1 point less for every 10 percent less.


  1. The second method is to evaluate the percentage of members attending events. As an example, you may know how many 3.5 male players you have who can play on weekends, so when you have an event, what percentage of members attend? Is it 90 percent, 50 percent or only 10 percent? Every club will have a different standard to determine successful attendance; you should know that standard and keep track. Most teaching pros' programs can be measured by this method. Tennis pros need to remember that many members join exclusively for the programs. This may be their only way to meet others and find tennis partners. In many ways, the tennis programs work like a tennis dating service, getting players together in ways that they could not do on their own. This is one of the most influential areas in maintaining membership retention.


Scoring: Give yourself a 10 for optimum attendance and 1 less point for every 10 percent under that number.


  1. Another method of measuring a pro's impact is the demand for lessons, not just for the head pro or tennis director, but for the entire staff. If the entire tennis staff is fully booked, you are obviously having a positive influence on membership retention. Be careful; having a waiting list can sound good, but if the needs of the members are not being met, they may go elsewhere to take lessons and end up changing their choice of clubs. On the flip side, pros who have time on their hands, when they could be on the court teaching, are probably not keeping the membership busy, and more important, interested in the sport.


Scoring: Give yourself a 10 for a completely booked staff and 1 less point for every 10 percent less than optimum.


  1. Also, when the teaching pro becomes the go-to person for many of the issues in the tennis department, and maybe even beyond the tennis department, his or her value increases daily. A member who relies on the tennis pro for answers and solutions to issues is much more inclined to perceive the pro as a club asset who is affecting that person's membership. The pro may have eliminated a potentially negative experience and kept that member from looking for other club options.


Scoring: Give yourself a 10 if members come to you to handle issues at least 10 times per week. Subtract 1 point for every time less than 10.


  1. Lastly, one way to positively impact member retention is to stay current with programs and activities. Don't be afraid to reinvent yourself. Look into new programs that will provide quality instruction at a discounted rate. Experiment with social and competitive events that reach out to all levels of play and help bond more members with their club. 


Scoring: Give yourself a 10 for adding a new idea or program every three months. Subtract 3 for every time less than that in a single year.


If you had a final score of more than 45, you are in great shape and will probably keep your job as long as you desire. In fact, you will probably be sought after by other facilities. If you scored between 35 and 45, you're going in the right direction but could improve your impact on the membership. If you scored between 20 and 35, you better get on the ball and reposition yourself. If you scored under 20, you are really on the hot seat and need to get with the program. The good news is, that it is under your control, so go out and make some changes.


Good luck.

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).