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. 

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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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BUNGLE OR BUNDLE

Should the USTA leave the bundling to the insurance industry?

By Rod Heckelman

The latest idea by the USTA is to have a discount if you bundle your league fees and your membership dues.  It is an obvious move to regenerate membership that has gone south for several reasons.   Yes, there is the pandemic, but there is also the fact that if you don’t want to play competitive tennis, why join the USTA, which is all the USTA seems to provide for most tennis players?  They often add to their sales pitch, “Support your sport and join the USTA.”  Most tennis players have enough sense that if you want to support tennis, join a club or a facility…go to your public courts and mix it up…donate to local tennis causes, or maybe most important, play the game. 

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This bundle idea pretends to provide more of what the customer doesn’t need, smacks of what many of the insurance companies are trying to pull off, and too often the salesperson and customer end up in this type of conversation over the phone…

Salesperson- If you bundle your home insurance with your car insurance, you can save a ton of money.

Customer- That sounds good, but in my case, I do not own a home.

Salesperson- That’s not important, what is important is you will still lower your car insurance by bundling.

Customer- But again, I don’t have a home, so I would be paying for something I don’t need, plus I live with my parents.

Salesperson- That may be today’s situation, but it’s bound to change as you get older, take advantage of the bundle now and get ahead of the game.

Customer- I’m 61 years old.

Salesperson- Hey, no big deal, after all, with the economy like it is, it’s very common these days for folks to find a financial safe haven.

Customer- I actually never moved out.

Salesperson- Now the bundle idea is looking really good, maybe not for you, but for your parents, who seem they we be the perfect fit to bundle their car and house, and then also to include a Life Insurance policy as well…what’s their phone number?

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The USTA also provides many updates and emails that provide additional information about programs and events. 

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They promote the idea that this is another great benefit of being a member, but if you should drop out of being a member it doesn’t matter.  Forever afterwards you are on their mailing/email list and continue to be contacted at least once a week.  Like many businesses, they want to stay connected and hope that at some point they hit a responsive chord with these random notifications.  So, to boast that this service is an additional benefit seems contrary to the facts.

It has been proposed by many for many years, that the membership fees be dropped.  Free memberships would be welcome and would most likely “Grow the Game.” 

In fact, if the non-tennis player were to get free information regularly about the tennis schedule on T.V. or other events that are local, it would seem to be a perfect way to engage and eventually be a great recruiting and marketing tool.

This whole endeavor circles back to the main issue that has never been properly addressed…if you want league play to grow again, or for that matter tennis play in general, the USTA must work with all the tennis facilities… public, private, or corporate.  For that to happen, those businesses need an organization much like IHRSA, which is what empowers the fitness clubs.  Any organization of these tennis facilities that are basically controlled by the USTA will not work.  In addition, because leagues require court time, organization, and supervision by these facilities, they need to be directly compensated via the entry fee, much like how tennis tournaments were run.  If you held a USTA tennis tournament, part of the entry fee went to the hosting facility. 

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This approach is so logical and practical, the only question that remains is why it hasn’t been put in place.  Is it because they want control, or is it because they want all the income from leagues?  Do they believe that they should be completely compensated for their organization and overseeing of league play?  We’ve never gotten a straight or complete answer about this.  Most of the time it has been” We’ll look into it,” or “Those suggestions are being reviewed.”  Time for that to change if the USTA wants to fully bring back league play.  Here’s an idea…if you’re going to “Bundle,” try bundling the organized programs like league play with the USTA and tennis facilities.

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