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 pro/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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Now It’s Our Time

Your opportunity to grow our sport and your business is there 


By Rod Heckelman


We’ve been given a green light to get back into tennis.  The door is open, but with a few caveats that we need to address.  First, the distancing is a natural for tennis, the open space is perfect, we just need to be vigilant and make sure we always conduct safe social distancing. This natural distancing gives us an upper hand in the competition with most other team sports. Because of that, many other team sports are at standstill for an unknown period of time, making our sport the smart and safe choice for both players, and especially for concerned parents. 

The opportunity of our sport to grow is there.  The only issue is contact, and that is being addressed aggressively by many companies that are focused on technology as a solution to this factor.  More and more products are coming out that effectively address the common contact issue.  One of the best examples is the product Q-Shield, made by Axenic Health Solutions.  It is FDA registered, a key qualifier.  This product goes beyond disinfecting, it literally kills any bacteria by contact for up to three days after applied.  This means the concern over the common touching of balls, equipment, and the like, are all negated by a daily application.

For the teaching industry, this is a huge breakthrough.  Coaches and teachers have been hampered by this issue.  Common contact is both a health concern and has remained a barrier to the confidence for both the teacher and the student.  Everyone is concerned about working under safe conditions.  In fact, the word “Contagious is defined… “a disease spread from one person or organism to another by direct or indirect contact.”


There is also a particularly important new paradigm to this entire issue.  One of the main assets tennis clubs, tennis pros and tennis programs provided, was a social venue.  It may not be altogether gone, but with these new guidelines, it will be a challenge to bring back that unique and valuable feature that clubs provided.  The tennis industry spent decades training the tennis enthusiast to feel a need to join a club or an organization, in order to get involved with the sport.  It became common practice to join a club and instantly find tennis partners, events, leagues, and social events to enjoy.  Clubs became the gateway to the tennis world, and although that door may be partially blocked, this hindrance will require most clubs to pivot and find new opportunities to grow the game. It’s likely those opportunities will include instruction and player development as a focus.  Recreation instead of tournament play.  A focus on the healthy aspect of the game and not the competitive part of tennis.

Programs that seek out spontaneous drop-ins will need strong organization and planning.  Software that helps with reservations, not just a typical reservation system, but one that helps track and oversee usage of both members and their guests will come into great demand.  Because instruction and the development of a full game to come to the forefront, coaches will have an opportunity to capitalize on controlled and organized private lessons and group lessons.  The key will be finding a program that is trusted.  Which brings us right back to the importance of finding a healthy and safe way to enhance, grow, and develop coaching programs.  Again, the answer is being addressed through technology, we just need to apply and use that technology. 

The teaching organizations have already provided seminars and training to help with this game plan.  These seminars provide a helpful guide for anyone looking to understand all the dynamics of coaching under these current conditions.  Putting up a banner, or a flyer notifying any participant that your teachers and coaches have been trained and taken these seminars is a smart move.  In addition, add temperature testing, daily communication, and ongoing education as part of the program. If possible, have your facility, or yourself, spray down the common surfaces using an electro-magnetic sprayer that will address areas with 360-degree coverage. 

Add to that the information on how you are using technology and science to help in creating this safe environment, and you have the recipe for calming the waters caused by the fear of this pandemic. 

At the end of the day, never assume anything and be prepared for everything.  This new world can flip on a dime, and you need to know how to handle any rapid changes that could cause a health and safety issue or even a negative image.  Remember, the entire staff needs to set the example, from wearing a mask at all the right times to washing or disinfecting their hands as much as possible.  If the staff leads, the members will follow…and in turn the growth of your club.

More information about the Q-Shield here.