Contributors

  • Rich Neher

  • Delaine Mast

  • Johan Kriek

  • Michele Krause

  • Pierre Lamarche

  • Armita Omidian

  • Gary Horvath

  • Alice Tym

  • Andy Dowsett

  • Christina Mihaela Carare

  • Bill Patton

  • Scott Mitchell

  • David Fish

  • Ed Shanaphy

  • Bernd Kunkler

  • The Commish

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Improve Nationwide Advocacy for Tennis

 

For 2021 I wish that USTA, PTR, and USPTA create an initiative to involve all pros, section offices, and allies (manufacturers, academies, etc) in tennis advocacy across the country. Put one person each of USTA, PTR, USPTA, HEAD, Wilson, TIA, and an advocacy consultant on a task force to get that done.

Develop an advocacy teaching program and a small handbook. Teach it via virtual meetings. Give out educational points for participating. Make it big. Have all sections commit to fully support the effort.

This will help not only to grow the sport right now but also to fortify the industry in case of more pandemics or other natural disasters. Everyone needs to then know what to do, how to be in the face of city and county authorities to prevent our sport from being shut down again.

My Wishlist for 2021

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Rich Neher, Publisher

TENNIS CLUB BUSINESS
Studio City, California, USA

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to welcome 2021 and chalk 2020 up to a year of “LEARNING”! Learning new skills( Zoom), learning to be flexible, learning to adapt to change faster, learning to be innovative, learning to stress safety and hygiene at a much higher level, learning to speak and interact with others while not being able to see their facial expressions (from behind a mask), learning to be more sensitive, supportive and accepting of other’s situations, learning how important tennis is to our mental and physical health and finally learning how critical it is to truly be connected to our local community.  I am hoping to capitalize on my year of learning and use it to grow our sport and share this magical, lifetime game with many more people in my Lancaster community.

 

So, what is my TENNIS wish list for 2021, you ask?  I wish that the USTA, ITF, and manufacturers would position a lot more resources and emphasis at the local level.  You can be a global sport, but you can only grow at the local level.  No one from a national office can grow tennis participation in a community 1000 miles away.  What they can do is identify the people that are the “pied pipers” in the local communities and support them. As the National Director of the WTT Community leagues for over 35 years, the only way that we have been able to get more than 1 million people playing is by empowering and supporting the local WTT League Director. We know they are the ones that recruit, organize, and service their players. They are the face of tennis for their community and the better job they can do, the more tennis participation grows!

 

Local, tennis “pied pipers” need to be included from the very beginning and throughout the entire process.  When there are discussions on new initiatives, programs, products, database management, fees, requirements, etc. the “pied pipers” need to have a place at the table to make sure that the decision-makers realize what the effects are going to be on these local leaders and how it will enhance or hinder their ability to grow tennis participation in their communities. I am encouraged by the emphasis being placed on customer service and local play opportunities but am anxiously waiting to see what that looks like!  The first customers that should be serviced are the ones that are rolling their sleeves up and growing the game in their own back yard.   Whether you are a certified teaching professional, club owner, director of a CTA, or NJTL, you need the resources and tools to be able to service and grow YOUR customers, who ARE the tennis players! If my wish comes true, TENNIS will be booming again!

My Wishlist for 2021

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Delaine Mast

National Director, WorldTeam Tennis 

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA

MY TWO CENTS

How to grow tennis

I have been in professional tennis for 36 years and for the last 15 years I have been running my own tennis academy in North Carolina and Florida. Having played tennis at all the majors and seen the best clubs around the world gives me a unique perspective on the many different aspects of tennis.

I have seen tennis boom in the seventies into the ’80s and seen professional tennis prize money go from a pittance to where the top players are worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Pro tennis does have an impact on whether kids join the sport but I dare say tennis had a meteoric rise in participation from the late '70s to the ’90s because of the “golden eras” and those superstars that totally transcended the game and became household names for both their antics on and off the courts and they were mostly Americans! We like our superstars homegrown! And American! That has changed dramatically after Andy Roddick.

But IMHO what makes kids join the game of tennis is for them to have “fun”! If the kids don’t have fun with it and with their friends at an early stage you will have only a trickle of participants. Smartphones don't help either as kids are addicted to them..... a real problem.

This “tennis enticement” has to start at a very young age before preschool and should be tried in primary schools. One doesn’t need a regular size tennis court to get kids going in tennis in schools. A gum or whoever could easily be used. It has to start in schools as PE but nowadays things have changed so much that PE in schools is optional. That was and is a mistake. The rates of obesity and all the other health issues going along with sedentary lifestyles is a direct result of dropping PE in schools. Bring it back! It does way more good than not! Lazy kids make lazy unproductive adults.

We have seen the erosion of college tennis over many decades and many people have written volumes about that. It is a terrible shame to see so many good players in college lose their opportunities to play D-1 etc because so many colleges have dropped their tennis programs.

This erosion in college tennis has been going on for decades. I would think the USTA and the NCAA would try to work together to save that part of tennis too!

The fact also is that tennis is like #7 of “importance” in terms of participation etc. Obviously football, basketball, and baseball are way more important for kids and that hasn’t changed. Team sports are very different and are very much at the forefront of junior sports in schools and colleges. They make the schools money! Tennis not so much. But IMHO tennis can be helped by good partnerships with like-minded sponsors that like to see tennis programs saved at colleges across the country.

Covid has had an enormous impact on society as a whole on a global scale. Tennis funnily has become a sport du jour during this pandemic as the “social distancing” aspect is within the CDC guidelines. I have my own opinions on this disease but that is for another discussion.

The fact is that families with kids are looking at tennis or Racket sports like Pickleball and Padel to stay fit and ha e a “family” sport to play with each other. In a way, Covid may help tennis grow. Because of that, I believe Americans want to “stay close to home” and enjoy activities at their clubs nearby or sport facilities near their homes. This is why I have decided to look at creating “Racket sports” facilities that truly takes care of the entire family. It has to have multiple Racket sports all under one roof both indoor and outdoor with many other services that would want parents and their kids to spend a lot of time at the club. It has to be fun for everyone at a reasonable price and a facility that is second to none.

 

Tennis has been around for over 100 years and I don’t see it going away. It is a great sport to learn life skills for a lifetime. Pickleball and other racket sports are coming in strong but that is also good! I embrace them as part of the change that has been going on for a very long time. Be smart and embrace them all and incorporate them. Some people will shift around and find the sport they like the most.

Stay tuned!

My Wishlist for 2021

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Johan Kriek

Owner/Operator at Johan Kriek Tennis

West Palm Beach, Florida, USA

I wish our coaching community would focus more on positioning tennis as the world’s greatest fitness activity (because it is) for adults. How do we do this?  

1) Reduce the emphasis on competition, many people will not even consider trying our sport because they think they have to compete or play league. (I am not against either, it is just a perception which is not helping to grow the game) By messaging all the fitness benefits and then actually delivering on that message on the court is where we can all improve. There is still way too much “standing around/in a line”, feeding from a basket, too much technique, etc. on a tennis court.

2) Embrace and use the red, orange, and green balls throughout all your adult coaching, especially entry-level players. I have used these balls with all my adult players for over 6 years. I only use the yellow ball about 10% of the time; my clients love these balls, they train/practice with them outside of any sessions with me and they are the piped pipers of educating others on the benefits of these balls. I have a client whose parents wanted to start tennis, but they live in a different state so could not take with me. We told them to ask the pro about the colored balls when they arrived at the lesson. The pro responded, “I only use those balls with kids”. As a coaching community, we must “get over” this way of thinking. The parents of my client are both 70 plus and rookies, the yellow ball is too hard and too bouncy for them to deal with and creates panic which results in poor technique and a poor experience. AND this pro was teaching them topspin in the very first session. The good news is, they have visited me and have been introduced to the colored balls and are now enjoying tennis and improving quickly.

3) Offer more tennis fitness integration programming and groups. As an industry, we can provide what trends in the fitness world: group classes, wearable technology (heart rate monitors), high-intensity interval training (HIIT), or as I like to say HITT (High-Intensity Tennis Training).  The key here is education and learning how to be a great coach in this space because it does take a certain skill set to deliver a safe and effective group workout on the court.  

 

Going into 2021 let's all embrace the concept of  “Hit to be Fit”!

My Wishlist for 2021

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Michele Krause

Founder of inTENNSity Fitness

www.intennsity.com

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A Canadian’s Tennis wish list for 2021

 

Everyone’s wish list in Canada must start with the hope that Canada’s two main Opens are back on the WTA and ATP schedule for the summer of 2021. The loss of $30 million of revenues has affected everyone from grassroots tennis to the stable of young Canadian stars.

 

On a personal basis, I only hope that Bianca Andreescu’s injury woes are behind her. Her play, her game, her ascent simply has been an inspiration for all of Canada. She deserves the chance to pursue her goal of winning many more major Grand Slams. How creative and refreshing is she?

 

Growing the Game will require a concerted approach by the national and provincial tennis bodies to lobby and convince public sector communities that the key principle of providing community services in parks with tennis courts on a year-round rather than seasonal basis is a major benefit to the community and their tax dollars. The municipalities lack of funds for the upkeep of facilities and the capital costs required for a bubble can be overcome through a public/private partnership

 

Specifically, in Canada, my biggest wish is for the national body, which has done exceptional work in supporting the development of our world-class players, to build on this success by translating this popularity into actual family recruiting programs with the more than $500 million dollars of private sector club’s resources. Finally finding a way to create a positive synergy with all of Canada’s tennis family… a true partnership for our sport

 

Canada’s tennis community has come a long way by achieving performances on the world scene which is the envy of many. I am so proud of what has been accomplished by this country and its leading body Tennis Canada. But I am a dreamer, how great would it be if not only we could be proud of the performance of our professional athletes but that we could aspire to achieve what few have been able to do: a partnership, a team approach with the private, public and manufacturing sector which can maximize the efforts and resources of all in a synergic, comprehensive approach.

 

After the hardships of 2020, we are entitled to dream of a better future for the game of a lifetime.

My Wishlist for 2021

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Pierre Lamarche

CEO & CFO at All-Canadian Sports Management, Inc.

Burlington, Ontario, Canada

For me, coaching is a lifestyle. In my opinion, a coach is a teacher and a psychologist and his/her duties are not just limited to the court. Not only like a teacher, they must have the knowledge of what they are teaching but also they should have a great passion to teach in this field. On the other hand, they should teach their students, how to handle wins and losses and ups and downs; there is obviously a great line between smashing the racquet after a lost point or just professionally fix the strings and getting ready for the next point. In addition, a coach’s responsibility is not just teaching the player how the game is played, but also it is important to teach the right manners and how he/she should face complications and problems.

Last but not least is that the coach should always be updated with the required knowledge, which includes the new forms of play, new drills, and new approaches in dealing with mental complications. 

Overall, it is very important to make everyone, especially children and teenagers, interested in the game and the ways and approaches in this regard are not just limited to the game. A great coach is also a great friend for the player and does everything he/she can to make the sport more interesting and help the player achieve as much as possible.

My Wishlist for 2021

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Armita Omidian

PTR Tennis Professional

Tehran, Iran

Last spring I listened to a USPTA workshop about how clubs were reopening. I think three of the five panelists had backgrounds in tennis, platform tennis, and pickleball. There were using pickleball as a tool for making people feel comfortable about returning to the courts. 

Many of the clubs in Colorado had exceptional summers. Many of the pros said they were excited to be able to get exercise in a place they felt was safe. For the most part, the recovery occurred because of new ideas, rather than USTA programs. Pros ran WTT leagues, more in-house and informal activities and more families played on their own. For example, there was a group of 10-year-old girls taking lessons. About a month later the mothers were playing with the girls on weekends. About a month later the girls took lessons on one court and the moms took lessons on the other court. This type of growth occurred naturally without a USTA program. There is value to the USTA, but the real growth comes from the pros. Hopefully, that is the lesson the pros learned this summer.​

Addition to my wish list. 

 

  • Continued strong advocacy by ITA and greater support for college tennis from USPTA and PTR.  This includes an exchange of ideas between coaches from ITA, USPTA, PTR.
     

  • The NFHS joins Tennis Industry United in advancing high school tennis. 
     

  • Further adoption of the UTR by USPTA and PTR professionals.
     

  • The timely collection and production of more industry data to help understand trends in the industry. Create a more realistic understanding of the current participation data. There are 9 million players who account for a majority of the activity and spending in the sport, about 350,000 USTA league players and only 700,000 USTA members.
     

  • Greater leadership from USPTA and PTR professionals in the increased participation in the sport. As was demonstrated in the U.S. economy in 2016 to 2019, the best way to address inclusion is to have a strong tennis economy.
     

  • The USTA districts take on a greater role as economic developers of the sport and help cities, schools, colleges, and members of the private sector develop facilities.

My Wishlist for 2021

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Gary Horvath, USPTA Master Professional

Principal at Gary Horvath and Associates

Boulder, Colorado, USA

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WHERE USA PICKLEBALL SHOULD DIRECT RESOURCES FOR THE GROWTH OF THE GAME

 

USA Pickleball (the logo has recently changed from USAPA to USA Pickleball) needs a vision. A CEO has recently been hired so changes may be on the horizon. Pickleball has grown so rapidly without a great deal of direction. It has been growth for growth’s sake without a 5 or a 10-year plan. It has been as if the growth was the validation of effort rather than the consequences of planning. Now pickleball is a business. Whether players like it or not, it is a field of dreams for entrepreneurs. That presents a challenge to USA Pickleball. Certification of teaching professionals has already been taken by the IPTPA and the PPR. Two playing professional organizations, the PPA and the APP grew outside of USA Pickleball and run unsanctioned tournaments. There needs to be leadership with a vision that encompasses more than just “growth.” Here are five doable suggestions.

 

Many of us tennis players remember Eve Kraft’s fantastic USTA Educational Program for tennis in the ‘60s. That was before the internet so it encompassed printed manuals for coaches, court builders, clubs, and players of all ages. And, she organized the wonderful conference at the Roosevelt Hotel during the US Open. USA Pickleball could reach out to the many, many teaching pros to provide good educational material for all branches of pickleball.

 

Secondly, pickleball lends itself to urban play. There should be a targeted effort to bring it to the inner cities. It does not require a great deal of space or money. Chalk lines in a parking lot and a portable net would be a good start. I have spoken to Byron Freso who is on the USA Pickleball board, but I have not seen a plan. Pickleball is very successful on the south side of Chicago at Gwendolyn Brooks Park. There needs to be a strategy to bring the sport to inner cities.

 

Third, there should be a broader plan for middle school play. There are pockets of school play and people on the board working on getting it into the schools, but the effort needs to be broadened geographically. The successful Ambassador program provides lots of teaching volunteers, but the young pros need to see this as community service and exhibit the sport in schools.

 

Fourth, USA Pickleball needs to keep its strong senior players in the game. Building the sport with younger players is important, but losing the seniors is a mistake. Not having age categories in major tournaments is sending the top seniors into retirement. For tennis readers, pickleball tournaments have gone to skill so everyone gets a medal except the good older players who are forced to play 10-20 years down in age. As Secretary of the IFP, I was unable to get pickleball into the large international events such as World Master Games because of the age category issue. Five-year increments is the world standard.

 

And, finally, USA Pickleball must put resources overseas if it expects to compete in international events. There needs to be a concerted effort to get nets, paddles, and balls into the hands of potential players worldwide. USA Pickleball drops the word “Olympics” regularly, but to be eligible the sport must be played by men and women in 70 countries. Currently, it is played in a fraction of that. The WPF is working to facilitate getting equipment to numerous countries, but the WPF is not assisted by USA Pickleball.

 

Getting the various factions to work together is a huge challenge for USA Pickleball. Lots of egos. A lack of sports backgrounds. No overall vision. All are challenges, but pickleball is fun and it is growing. The resources are there to direct that growth.

My Wishlist for 2021

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Alice Tym

Pickleball Champion and Organizer

Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA

United Kingdom, the LTA and the growth of Tennis

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Where should the LTA direct their resources for the growth of the game of tennis?

 

With an annual income of £52 million from the Championships and approximately £14.76 million in revenue from other events, plus a staff of around 300, how good are the LTA are growing the game of tennis?

 

In this article we are not going to talk about how the governing body of tennis can use this money to grow tennis in the UK, nor how this money could be better spent on creating localised indoor tennis centres (Scott Lloyd June 2019), nor will we look at how clubs could better use any money given to them if it were to become available. 

 

Neither will we delve into how the tournament structure could be better countrywide; moving away from a ‘coaching culture’ and more towards a ‘competition culture’ with the emphasis of team and fun from the early stages.

 

Neither will we discuss the funding of players and who should receive funding or how it should be more widely spread to help ‘tennis open up’. After all, gone are the days of “if you do not train with us, you cannot be a county player and progress through the system”. Or at least you would hope so.

 

But we will divide this article into three sections covering three simple areas: -

The good – Coach Education

The bad - Communication

And the ugly – The Club Committee

 

The Good – Coach Education

The education of coaches is the obvious way of growing the game. Without a shadow of a doubt, the coach education programmes coming from the LTA outside of the main certification of level 1-3 is, quite frankly, top-notch. Recently with the help of the ever-willing Belgium contingent, the LTA have managed to put together some great products to help coaches grow the game, and it would seem, for the better.

 

In 2016 the introduction of Tennis For Kids, changed in 2020 to ‘Tennis Youth’ has brought many new children running to the courts. This is a 6-week programme of teaching every main shot in the game to a 5 or 11-year-old alike, run by the hard-working club coach to ensure the programme runs successfully.

 

Many clubs manage to convert these juniors to members and long may this continue. In its first two years, the programme boasted 60,000 budding new juniors to the game and for this, the organisation should be applauded. Of course, the club programme (as well as the coach) does need to be good enough to keep them for the years to come.

 

Since the resignation of Anne Pankhurst in 2004 after a 10-year tenure, the LTA coaching department has seen no less than five candidates take on the role of Head of Coach Development, currently held by Merlin Van De Braam, who is doing a stellar job. Each new appointee brings their own ideas on what should be taught in the certification levels. To the cries of many coaches on the ground , we know that with certainty the level 1 and 2, (and if we were to listen to one of the leading world education doctors who in previous years was employed by David Lloyd clubs to help educate coaches) level 3 were not quite producing the level of coach for the job.

 

With the new-and improved structure being launched in 2021 under the current coach ed team, it seems that after employing the knowledge of those from outside the UK, we can give a big tick to the coaching department and the 12 hand picked centres around the country who will be delivering the new and improved certifications and CPD to enhance the growth of the sport.

 

I would add, that in my opinion, the level 4 and 5 certification levels are among the best in the world and on par with the three PTR Master of Tennis programmes.

 

Coach Education - tick

 

The Bad – Communication

 

Over the years big names have come and gone, programmes have changed, blueprints have differed, varying visions have been incorporated and it seems clubs, and representatives around the UK have forgotten what the plan is. Admittedly my own 1999 LTA qualification has changed its name from the original so many times I would need to Google what my qualification currently means!

 

If we are to grow the game then we need to all be singing from the same song sheet, reading from the same page.

 

I have certainly seen from first-hand experience the problems that employing such large staff around the UK brings. News of coaching pathways does not always filter to the LTA county offices which have dwindled in size over the years.

 

In the UK the LTA have implemented an accreditation framework for all coaches to join. Accreditation is the ‘safe to practice’ badge enabling a coach to work in a tennis coaching environment around the UK. At the end of the day, coach education has become a big business and with around 3000 accredited coaches in the UK (and many more without), the country is more than flooded with coaches of all standards and abilities.

 

However, different counties have different views of what qualifications or accreditations a coach requires to work in a club environment, this means there is a very fragmented landscape around the tennis qualifications scene.

 

The ‘HQ’ states as a coach from 1 October 2019 it was mandatory for venues applying to register with the LTA to ensure all Level 3-5 coaches operating at their venue are LTA Accredited. A region in the south west of the country, states you need to be LTA qualified and accredited in order to work in a club. Others like in the county of Sussex will state you can only be LTA qualified and accredited plus to work in a club. Others will state only those with an LTA qualification can become accredited and with that you can work with groups only. Many have no idea; others have no clue and here the communication model has broken from HQ to regional to club to the detriment of helping to grow the game in the UK.

 

Many coaches of 20-35 + years of experience and qualified through various other organisations have been required to restart from level 1 via the LTA pathway to work at clubs they have been building up and working for years. Course tutors turn around in dismay ringing out the words: “what the hell are you doing here? You should be tutoring the course!”. But applied prior learning is not applicable here.

 

Other coaches of the same experience have left clubs after years of continued work being told the club needs an accredited head coach to continue to grow, thrive and access funding from the LTA. To keep with the guidelines a newly qualified level 2 accredited coach would be installed as head coach over an ex ranked number 1 junior with 30 years coaching experience (non-LTA). This is beyond belief and beyond comprehension. This is a true story and happened in Kent: the coach left the club shortly after, followed by the members and any funding that the club was after by installing the accredited coach in the first place. The new coach was unable to continue or build on the excellent work of the previous coach. The club lays in a lesser state of what it once was.

 

I could write a book of horror stories, however the fact is communication from up high as to who can coach and who can coach what is broken, and if we are to push forward and grow tennis, we need to stop the roundabout of coaches leaving clubs from bad representational advice; this pulls clubs apart. With that in turn communication receives a big fail.

 

Communication – x

 

 

The Ugly – The Club Committee

 

This is the crux of the problem; this is where it all breaks down. You can have the best educated, professional and accredited coaches working at your club but they are being told how to do their job by Peter, the painter by trade who likes to mix in with his set 4 every Sunday morning.

 

It could be the club is thriving, business is good, junior and adult membership is at an all time high and in comes Steve the retired stock exchange chairman in his Porsche, fresh from his second home in the Cotswolds, requesting the club gets a bigger cut of the profits from coaches ‘earning too much’ money. There seems to be a culture in the UK that if a tennis coach is doing too well, then the club needs to stamp down on this and change it somewhat.

 

Committees are ever changing and along with it the ideas of the new amateur committee can force changes on the professional coach. A change of the guard in one club meant the head coach had to step down for the boyfriend of the new chairperson.  

 

Again, the link is broken, Suzie the secretary who attended a beginner’s course three summers ago, has a say in how the club is run and how the coach will go about their business. This is far from the best model to grow British tennis and this is the nuts and bolts of where it falls apart.

 

There are many clubs and committees who have great partnerships with coaches and are flourishing. The coach works hard for the club, the club work with the coach, and all is well.

 

I am not sure the LTA have the resources or power to sort this chink in the armour out, much to the demise of tennis in the UK, and for that again we submit an x for failure.

 

The Club Committee – x

 

 

School Report

Coach Education – An ever-changing model but hopefully with the new structure in place something that will stay for years to come…. or until we have a new face in job. With every change comes an upgrade for those that have qualified in previous years and possibly a new title for existing qualifications.

 

Current Grade – B

 

Communication – With the inability to answer a simple email within 2 weeks at times if at all, or to ring the LTA hotline 3 times in the same hour and receive 3 different answers to your query, there is a long way to go. However, I am sure nothing that cannot be sorted if looked at appropriately.

 

Current Grade – E

 

Club Committee – Where do we start? A contract protecting the future of any coach at a club and livelihood would be beneficial. Educational courses for those in committee roles to understand the role of the current tennis vision and the understanding of their own role in the club would also be advisable.

 

Current Grade – F

 

Final Note

 

If leading organisations look after the coach and vice versa, the club looks after the coach and vice versa and the coach continually improves themselves within their role, then we have a bright and growing future for the sport. In all essence the LTA do a great job, but a few areas need looking into at the bottom of the system in order to maintain growth in the sport at ground and grassroots level.

My Wishlist for 2021

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Andy Dowsett

Founder and Owner - SYSTEM-9™

Billericay, England, United Kingdom

The future of social strategy in tennis: your high-level how-to guide for 2021

 

When asked 56,8% of customers said that social media is an impactful technology on sports 1. In 2021, it’s time for clubs to finally activate their power!


If there's anything 2020 has shown us, it is that life is unpredictable. A global pandemic, economic instability, unignorable calls of racial injustice and an ongoing climate crisis all made for one of our toughest years yet.
 

As the year draws to an end, I am in awe of the clubs, coaches, and tennispreneurs whom I've connected with on social media and seen their resilience and support towards one another to stay in business and to grow the sport - even in dark times.


But where there is darkness there is light. There is creativity and innovation - and there´s always a path to growth.


Where there's a will, there's a way, they say.


That's why for 2021, I hope tennis clubs, tennis coaches, and tennis federations to be more open than ever to the importance of having a consistent social media presence.


I hope for them to be more open than ever to the importance of equipping volunteers and club council members who handle social media with the tools and resources they need to leverage the power of a social strategy.


Finally, I hope for increased support from federations for clubs, coaches, volunteers, and club council members to leverage social media.
 

Because whilst you are an expert in all things tennis on court, social media is a whole different ball game. Heck, let me put it this way: If content marketing was easy, everyone would do it!

So ultimately, together with the tennis directors, managers, club coaches, and others working in the club - those handling the club´s social media channels are playing just as an important role in promoting the club and growing the sport, by making social media work for you 24/7.


Yes, as the Founder of Nordic Tennis Social Club, a new membership helping tennis clubs and coaches save time on social media and grow, I am biased here.


However, there is no denying it: The influence of social media in sports marketing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon - in fact, one could argue that utilizing social media strategies in your marketing efforts will only continue to grow, beyond 2021. With social media platforms constantly evolving and adding more features (hello Instagram Reels, Guides, Shops ++), the opportunities for clubs and coaches to promote themselves and the benefits of tennis are many.


In this article, I´ve broken your 2021 high-level social strategy into 4 parts:
1. Key industry insights and what these mean for tennis clubs and coaches.
2. Why a social media presence should matter to you.
3. Your 2021 social strategy: The biggest mistakes you might be making and how to fix them.
4. How to create content that gets noticed and save time.


Consider this your broad guidelines and quick tips for 2021. Your new marketing solutions to your messaging. All backed up by personal experience from 5+ years of marketing and industry insights. I hope it helps you find your way forward.


Part 1: 4 key industry insights and what these mean for tennis clubs and coaches
1. More than half of the world’s total population now uses social media.


2. People are using a wider variety of social media platforms than ever before, data showing that the typical social media user is now a member of almost 9 different platforms, the biggest ones being Facebook, Whatsapp, Messenger, Instagram - while TikTok is growing.


3. People’s social media behaviors are expanding.

  • Staying in touch with friends and family is still a primary motivator for social media use (socializing).

  • Entertainment is also a top driver of social media use. “Filling up spare time” and “finding funny and entertaining content” are the second and third most frequently cited reasons for using social media.

  • People are increasingly turning to social platforms when they want to learn more about products and services that they want to buy and to access news.


4. Globally, social networks are now the second most popular destination for internet users looking for information about brands, with only search engines used by a greater number of people.

  • However, social networks have already overtaken search engines amongst younger audiences, with more than half of female internet users aged between 16 and 24 saying that they use social networks when researching products and services.

 

So, how do these insights translate to you as a club or tennis coach?
1. The ability to reach a targeted audience in your local community is now more accessible than ever before.


2. As social media increasingly becomes an integral part of our lives, and it fills a need for socializing, entertainment, conducting research, and keeping up with news, it’s important that we think more broadly about our social media strategy and create diverse content that caters to these behaviors.

3. Gone are the days when a website is all you need. Your social media is quickly becoming your new home page.


4. Insights stress the importance of a multi-channel presence, like having both a Facebook page and an Instagram account for your club or coaching business.


Part 2: Why a social media presence should matter to you
In the words of Boris Becker: Social media is a great tool of communication! Used with intention and a strategy, social media can be a powerful, free tool to:
1. Raise awareness of your club, team, members, value, benefits, offers, and the sport.


2. Amplify your messaging to your community.


3. Create an off-court following of raving fans and ambassadors.


4. Attract sponsors.


5. Used strategically, it is a powerful tool to convert your followers and have a steady stream of new interest from potential new members and coaching students - creating a passive stream of income to your club or coaching business


To mention a few benefits.


So - how can you leverage social media to help grow your club or coaching business?


Part 3: The future of social strategy in tennis
From experience, I´ve learned what will not get you results from social media. If your current social media strategy looks like this:
1. You don´t communicate your core message in a diversified, entertaining, educational way.


2. You are not creating connections and conversations with your target audience/customers.


3. You are not consistent, then you most likely are not getting traction from social media.


The biggest wins I have personally gotten from social media is when I´ve nailed these 3 steps.
 

So - here are 3 ways to fix them!


It boils down to your power play: your content.


Your content should:
1. Grab attention with unexpected / incredible / remarkable / surprising facts, stories, or contexts. One way to do this is with educational content about your club/coaching/you/tennis, in a surprising way. For example by busting myths. An example is “You have to be a pro to play tennis.” Many people who haven't tried tennis believe this to be true, but you as the expert, know for a fact that it is not. Your content is your chance to prove them wrong - and in this way, pleasantly surprise them! - and back it up with facts like
studies, examples or testimonials.


2. Make them feel something. As tennis fans, we KNOW tennis is feelings. It makes us feel excited, nervous, angry. We need to create content that moves our audience. One way to do this is by sharing personal stories. An example can be the story of a club member who went from never having picked up a racket, to now tennis being a lifestyle. Or the story of that one kid, who during a speech at school said the most influential person was his tennis coach. “Even if you miss a shot completely, my coach still has something positive to say.” (true story!). So, don't focus only on features and facts, make your followers feel something.


3. Be visually pleasing. They say a photo is worth 1000 words. Imagine what pairing it with graphics can do! Moral of the story: include more graphics in your content. Graphics make people stop the scroll faster than a photo because they instantly know what the post is about. This trend is growing at a rapid speed especially on Instagram and Tik Tok.


Part 4: What if I don’t have enough time for social media?
Planning, creating, and posting content to social media can be a full-time job and it’s likely that you don't have a dedicated volunteer with spare time to execute on a social strategy consistently, or the budget to hire someone to do it. That’s where signing up your club to be a member of Nordic Tennis Social Club comes into play.


For only $38 a month, you get strategic social media content designed for tennis clubs and coaches to stand out, delivered each month inside the membership. All you need to do is implement the content.


Included Bonus Masterclass this month: How to schedule 30 days of social media to both your Facebook and Instagram in only 30 minutes! (more Masterclasses to come!) Each month, I deliver my proven social media system that helped me get sponsorships for over $40,000 and speaking engagements at international tennis summits, in the form of customizable caption templates - at a fraction of the cost I charge my 1:1 clients.
 

Note: Enrollment into Nordic Tennis Social Club closes 31st of December! We are making major changes in 2021 to our platform and prices will be increasing - so join now to be guaranteed this discounted price and secure your social media presence in 2021! If you have any questions, email me at christina@nordictennis.no or send me a DM on Facebook or Instagram @nordictennis.

My Wishlist for 2021

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Christina Mihaela Carare

Founder of Nordic Tennis Social Club

Longum, Aust-Agder, Norway

I have some wishes for 2021:  I want us to run all tennis events as normal, except that we should always create the cleanest possible environment, and continue to let people know that if they are sick, they should stay home.  It would be nice if events committed to refunding tickets if participants share a doctor's note.  

Tennis can seize on the incredible health benefits of the game, as it already has done in my area. I can’t believe I had a full slate of lessons on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  That’s a first for me.  

Recent research shows that tennis players are 50% less likely to die of any cause.  That’s a great message to include in all your marketing.  The social distancing of tennis is also an amazing benefit. 

I wish that people bring almost the same stringent approach to the flu and pneumonia that they do to Covid.  I actually did not know that I had walking pneumonia in 2019 and that it’s contagious.  Pardon my ignorance, and I will be sure to stay home from lessons if I am ill. 

My Wishlist for 2021

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Bill Patton

Coach, Author, Speaker

Castro Valley, California, USA

Tennis and Pickleball

 

As you know I wrote an article, my first for TCB about the marriage of tennis and pickleball.  I believe that tennis and pickleball are important for a variety of different reasons for facilities of all kinds.  I have designed, built, and implemented Pickleball courts and programs at several locations.  Sometimes it was for additional amenities to the racquets program, other times it was to strategically put in place an amenity to keep an aging membership engaged, active, and a member of our club.

 

I believe both tennis and pickleball can thrive at all facilities and I encourage clubs, and pros to assess if it would benefit you.  I encourage the USTA to get involved with additional racquet sports BUT, and a BIG BUT, I want to get tennis corrected first.  I feel we have too many in our industry willing to abandon tennis because it’s not generating the revenue or participation that it once did and they are looking at pickleball as the shiny object that will fix the issue.  It will not.  It might temporarily but it will not permanently.  Pickleball is, at least as of now but it’s changing quickly a very social sport.  Many flock to pickleball as it is bringing like-minded people that are looking for an active, social outlet.  With pickleball groups and programs, you show up and play as long as you like, play a little, and then sit and visit with others, and then jump back on court and play some more.  In many locations, you even bring food and drinks, and it becomes the very social activity that many of us long to have at our clubs.  At one time, we did this very well at our clubs with only tennis.

 

So, should the USTA fund pickleball and spend marketing dollars trying to bring in another racquet sport?  In my opinion, not until we figure out why there is a decline in tennis participation and what our solutions are to turning tennis around.  One of the reasons players say they took up pickleball was because it was easier to learn and play.  Why? Smaller court, a bigger ball, smaller racquet to name a few.  This is where I think the USTA can do a much better job with the marketing of tennis.  We have this equipment for 10U but why not use it for adults?  Many of us already do but the USTA has not tried marketing how adults can learn and play this game quickly.  We also need to market the health benefits of tennis that are out there but very rarely ever shared.  Maybe even have tennis and pickleball programs where you spend 3 weeks on tennis and then 3 weeks on pickleball.  If done right, you would have a thriving program.  Instead, clubs and pros continue to teach tennis as we have done for 150 years but pickleball is taught in a way that is easy to learn and play.  This is where my frustration sits but it is also why facilities are dropping tennis for pickleball.  If we adapt in our programming, teaching, and introduction to our sport, tennis, AND pickleball can thrive. Just my two cents 😊

My Wishlist for 2021

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Scott Mitchell, CEO

Premier Tennis Consulting

Gainesville, Florida, USA

A Christmas Wish for Tennis

It’s time to bring the joy back into tennis.

 

While fault lines in the traditional tennis pathway have been apparent for many years, COVID-19 was the earthquake that caused it to nearly collapse.  900 ITF tournaments canceled. The USTA national tournament system ground to a halt. Most pro players below the tour-level out of work.  Wimbledon canceled.  WTA season-ending events in China canceled. Only nine ATP Tour level events actually make money.  Players and families not allowed to travel, or unable or unwilling to risk travel. Clubs out of business.  64 college programs dropped…the list goes on and on.

 

Let’s face it.  Competitive tennis as we know it has failed the COVID-19 stress test.

 

Ironically, local tennis is booming.  Aside from Grand Slam tour events and a small number of one-off pro events that have big-money backing, only the local and regional events have survived.

 

The past offers us some important lessons.

 

Highly productive regional circuits like the PNW (Pacific Northwest Circuit) and local pro circuits like the NETS (New England Tennis Stars) used to be the training grounds for aspiring players.  Players could move from event to event and juniors could reach a national level without having to board an airplane.  Housing was often provided to keep player costs down.  Precocious kids could play more experienced players and once-strong players could “stay in the game” long after their prime.  Great tennis could be seen in clubs and parks, where it brought communities together and inspired the next generation of players.  Rankings didn’t cause players to lose sleep.  Kids, if they were lucky, took one lesson a week, and worked on their games the rest of the time. They embraced the experience of competition and didn’t “duck” matches. They had fun, win, or lose.

 

Player development was a local process, and not nationally driven.

 

These once-productive local and regional circuits around the world began to dry up when top players had to start “chasing points” in “satellite circuits” (later known as Futures and Challengers) to earn a berth at the tour level.  It was simple math then: without the top players, events could no longer attract the rest.  Over the last 25 years, this model of “point chasing” was replicated by federations throughout the world in the junior development space with the intended result of simplifying administration of the game, but with the unintended consequence of taking the fun and process-oriented spirit out of it.

 

Only in a few countries (mostly European, like France and Belgium) have prolific local circuits survived thanks to the enduring legacy of early visionaries such as Philippe Chatrier.  These circuits continue to produce world-class players decade after decade. The French system, for instance, produces 12 times more players per capita than the U.S. system (pre-COVID).  These systems continue to thrive because they are affordable, local, and most importantly, “level-based”: matches between opponents of similar level and not restricted to gender or age groups create a broad, varied, and inclusive developmental and competitive experience.  Players can earn money and compete frequently, at a lower cost, while sleeping in their own beds at night or staying with friends.  And the juniors are the real beneficiaries when they step on the court with more experienced players week after week.

 

COVID-19 has exposed the fragility of our flawed system worldwide.  We are poised at an inflection point where we can and must reimagine and re-create a more robust, sustainable, equitable, and locally accountable model to better serve tennis players of all abilities and socioeconomic levels.

 

Let’s put the joy back into tennis… again.

My Wishlist for 2021

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David Fish

Tennis Thought Leader

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

There is no doubt that 2020 serves as the prime example of “annus horribilis”. Queen Elizabeth coined the phrase in 1992 describing the year all three of her children’s marriages failed and Windsor Castle was partially destroyed by fire. 2020 has affected us all, across the globe, across genders and divides. Simply put, let’s get to 2021 as fast as possible as things, we hope, can only get better.

If I were to have a wish list for the upcoming year, it would have to focus on how to grow our sport following a difficult year, albeit a year we saw growth in our sport. In the Spirit of David Letterman’s Top 10, I offer a Top 5 for brevity’s sake. Here is my “Wish List” for 2021.

5. Create and Enforce a USPTA and PTR Play Test – This year I suggested one of my Head Professionals get certified. She was horrified that several of the candidates were not able to even hit a forehand. I have seen this far too often. Before we start the discussion over making our industry certification valid, we need to ensure that our instructors can play our sport. They need not be world-ranked or Division 1 players, but they need to understand and perform the basics of each stroke and have played at some competitive level.

4. Get My Wilson Sales Rep Back – I understand it’s been a tough year for manufacturers and suppliers. Supply chains interrupted, warehouses in quarantined states. But, I was shocked to find my sales rep, who covered most of New England and was one of Wilson’s most productive representatives, furloughed by Wilson. Sometimes quick decisions are poor decisions. This was one. It does make a difference Wilson – I turned to Babolat and that company’s sales grew at my outlets.

3. Educated City Councils, Club Boards, and Committees – The reason I started my business was I consistently found search committees, club boards, and city councils uneducated when it came to hiring a Director of Tennis. They worried about the candidate’s national ranking rather than his or her business acumen or which elite club they could steal the candidate from. Let 2021 be the year that governing bodies realize that a Director of Tennis is an administrative role, not an on-court teaching position. Let 2021 be the year clubs and facilities look at the well-rounded candidate.

2. All Team Play Limited To No-Ad and a Third Set Super Breaker – C’mon now. The ATP Tour does it for doubles. So should we. In our present-day society, where time is so valued and seemingly short, we need to shorten our league play. Too much peak court time is spent playing deuces and a third set. Stop putting off the winner. This isn’t a cricket match over 5 days. It’s a tennis match and should be done in an hour and a half.

1. Head Professionals and Directors of Tennis would start to better understand the larger picture and the more encompassing role they should play in growing our sport. As an industry insider points out, growing the game really comes down to the individual professional making the game attractive to his or her students, clients, and members.

 

And finally…
After a year of picking up millions of tennis balls and watching my clients frustrated as they were not allowed to help, I would like to sarcastically announce that all teaching courts will be required to slope to gutters for ball collection and balls will be collected at the net as well by a secondary net around the posts. Balls in both areas will be fed into a vacuum system that is attached to the ball cart, replenishing the cart. “Touchless Tennis” will be safe, allow for non-stop teaching, and, wonderfully, will not require any ball-pickup!

My Wishlist for 2021

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Ed Shanaphy

Management Consultant to the Tennis and Fitness Club Industries

Barnstable County, Massachusetts, USA

Tennis? Grow the game!

 

In Germany, tennis is a hidden champion. Most people are surprised that if you look at the German numbers of members organized in clubs, tennis is the third strongest sport, after football and gymnastics. However, tennis is no longer a crowd puller. One after the other, tennis clubs are losing their members and honorary posts. How to stop this trend? There are many different concepts being tested. Cooperation between school and club is considered best. But are we really getting to the root of the problem? The numbers speak against it.  

 

Is Tennis anywhere the number one? No? Yes, for sure! The “Copenhagen City Heart Study” from 2018 has conducted a survey on which sports gives the most additional lifetime. This survey was based on health factors and life expectancy and was conducted over a time span of 25 (!) years. In this survey tennis is the clear number one prolonging life for 9,7 years (soccer prolongs life for about 4,7 years, jogging/running “only” 3,2 years).  

 

But who is influencing the children in their choice of sports? Who wouldn’t wholeheartedly wish them roughly ten years of an additional lifetime? Surely, their parents!

 

But are parents in schools? No, except for a few boring parent-teacher-conferences, which means we’re not going for the best “influencers”. I often hear from parents that their children are supposed to learn a team sport.  Most people are surprised to hear that tennis can be a team sport too. Many tennis players are only playing tournaments in a team.

 

Tennis can teach you a lot of important qualities. Work hard, learning how to push through rough times, dealing with stress, try and find your own solution, accepting and enduring defeat but also savoring success. Everything for your own but also integrated into a team.

 

Influence the influencer (parents) about these findings with targeted marketing, would be the key duty of associations like the “German Tennis Association” and of course, the duty of each and everyone engaged in this great sport. We want the kids to choose tennis as their primary sport because they are the lasting members of our clubs.

 

Who else is happy to see the improved health aspect? Employers!  You could also use this as a means to win over new members with the support of the employers.

 

If you then include this in a smart marketing approach from clubs, authorities, organizations, the change within reach. Throw out the 80s vibes, change up the old terms.

 

And to all the tennis schools out there: you are of great importance! Apart from the kids, don’t forget about the significant number of elderly people. Learning to compensate for physical deficiencies. Most elderly people don’t like to relearn already established techniques, but you can help them improve small details. You have to communicate how you train and your special unique selling points. Define and communicate them for every of your target group!

 

At the moment, there is no article without Covid in. This crisis can also be seen as a chance. Where else do you get the chance to relax and do sports with distance in a nice surrounding? The tennis courts often are hidden gems – here too lies great potential. Try and incorporate your club into your specific local area, whether it be as an “exclusive town & country club” or as a “clean multicultural city club”. Tennis? Go for it! I love this game.

My Wishlist for 2021

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Bernd Kunkler

President, Tennisclub Mössingen e.V.

Mössingen, Germany

The commish has wishes, and they are informed by their multiple personalities, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable.  

  1. Everyone check to see if you have a stick up your… and remove it. Commish knows a guy who asked, ‘How come all these tennis pros are so stuck up?' The commish wants everyone to read Kipling’s ‘IF’ since it’s history is so deeply connected to the sport. 

  2. Everyone try being a team player, for the tennis team. Whatever your pathetic personal agenda, give it a jaundiced eye and distrust yourself. The commish does. 

  3. Everyone make a commitment to building community and make amends for past stupidity.  If have you haven’t made mistakes, then you haven’t really tried anything. Think right now about someone you burned.

  4. Everyone apologize to one person and forgive one person without them apologizing to you. Unilaterally, do it. It’s an attitude to live by.

  5. Everyone find someone who is successful at growing the game and imitate their model. You might find that 1-4 above does it. 

My Wishlist for 2021

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The Commish

Tennis Thought Leader

Somewhere + Nowhere, USA