The end of the year is here and finding your next job may be on the top of your 2023 to do list. In today’s job seekers’ market, how can you best prepare? On this episode, we are talking about what you should be looking for in your next job, team, and club with the experts at KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE.
KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, a leading club industry recruiting and consulting firm, has renewed its partnership with CMAA through December 2023.
Alexandria, VA—November 30, 2022—KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, a leading club industry recruiting and consulting firm, has renewed its partnership with the Club Management Association of America (CMAA) through December 2023. KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE (KKW) has been a long-time corporate sponsor and educational partner.
CMAA’s Partnership Network provides opportunities to companies looking for deeper engagement with CMAA and its members. Through the sharing of knowledge, resources, expertise, and common goals for the future of the industry, these partnerships play a key role in fulfilling CMAA’s mission.
CMAA’s President & CEO Jeff Morgan, FASAE, CAE, explains “We are excited to continue to work with KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE and extend the depth of their expertise to the CMAA membership and their club boards.”
As a Business Partner, KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE will continue to be the official sponsor of the Club Leadership Summits which they helped to develop. To date, Principals Richard Kopplin, Kurt D. Kuebler, CCM, and Thomas B. Wallace III, CCM, CCE, ECM, have shared their expertise with more than 360 club management professionals and club board members through these in-person and virtual Summits, helping to create a better-educated club industry.
“Dick Kopplin, Kurt Kuebler, and I are honored to have again renewed our partnership with CMAA to continue building on a foundation laid almost 30 years ago. The pillars of CMAA that support professionalism, education, and leadership align seamlessly with KK&W. We look forward to our continued partnership and opportunities to educate on leadership, governance, and best practices. 2023 is sure to be another banner year for CMAA,” shared KK&W Partner Tom Wallace.
Further, KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE supported the virtual 2022 Mid-Management Conference, held October 24-25, and will collaborate on the Let’s Talk Club Management podcast and Club Management magazine, featuring career development advice and perspective. Past contributions include:
Founded in 1927, the Club Management Association of America (CMAA) is the largest professional association for managers of membership clubs with more than 7,000 members throughout the US and internationally. Our members contribute to the success of more than 2,500 country, golf, athletic, city, faculty, military, town, and yacht clubs. The objectives of the Association are to promote relationships between club management professionals and other similar professions; to encourage the education and advancement of members; and to provide the resources needed for efficient and successful club operations. Under the covenants of professionalism, education, leadership, and community, CMAA continues to extend its reach as the leader in the club management practice. CMAA is headquartered in Alexandria, VA, with 42 professional chapters and more than 40 student chapters and colonies. Learn more at cmaa.org.
About KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE
People Focused & Quality Driven. When you work with KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE, you can expect an experience that will be centered around the well-being of their clients, the candidates they place, and the industry as a whole. Their process has been fine-tuned for 26 years and involves merging more than 500 years of combined expertise with a comprehensive understanding of stakeholders’ needs. They are an award-winning executive search and consulting firm and a trusted partner dedicated to the success of the organizations they work with. Executive search expertise includes: GM/COO, CEO, Assistant General Manager/Clubhouse Manager, Director of Food and Beverage, Executive Chef, Director of Golf/Head Golf Professional, Golf Course Superintendent/Director of Agronomy, Director of Tennis/Director of Racquets, Fitness & Wellness Director, Chief Financial Officer, Director of Finance, Controller, Human Resources Director, Membership and Marketing Director Searches, and Consulting Services for Private, Resort and Developer Owned Properties, Clubs and Communities as well as Senior Living Communities and Property Owners Associations. For more information, visit kkandw.com.
All racquet sports have seen a surge in popularity within the club industry in recent years. Tennis and pickleball are booming in participation and programming throughout the country, and other racquet sports such as platform tennis, POP tennis and padel, while more regional in popularity, are also generating strong levels of new interest.
This overall growth has put a premium on ensuring that racquets departments are properly structured, staffed and managed. It is no longer enough to just have courts for the various racquet sports available, with minimal attention to their operation and programming. Having sophisticated department structures, designed to be run and staffed by top talent that is properly compensated, motivated and evaluated, is essential to establishing racquets programs that will attract and retain the growing segment of members who are interested in these activities and see them as key to making a decision to join and/or stay at a particular club.
Here are some of the questions and answers for key issues that club boards and management should now be addressing:
Q: How pervasive have the other racquets alternatives to tennis become within the club industry?
Because of the nature of the sport (played on a heated court, and the unique pressure of the ball), the growth of platform tennis is still relegated more to states that experience colder weather. The sport is particularly popular—and growing—in the Midwest (Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota), Northeast (Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut), and Mid-Atlantic (Maryland, D.C., and Virginia).
While there are POP tennis courts in every state, the most participation occurs in California and Florida. With that said, POP tennis is older than platform tennis and pickleball, and isstill gaining in popularity across the country. Like pickleball, the ease of playing POP tennis is appealing, along with the simplicity of setting up a court, relative to other racquet sports.
Because of its origins in Latin America, padel was first played in the U.S. in Florida. It has quickly increased in popularity throughout the country—and is in fact now only behind pickleball in growth percentage—because of its fast-paced and exciting nature and long points.
Q: What new trends are being seen in how clubs are staffing their racquets departments, because of how those departments are expanding in overall participation and embracing the other games that are growing in popularity along with tennis?
We have seen many different staffing models and changes take shape. In addition to their tennis staffs, some top clubs in the U.S. now have a Head Platform Tennis Professional and a Head Pickleball Professional. Sometimes this is the same person, but it’s a position where the professional(s) now teach very little tennis because their focus is on growing the other two racquet sports. In many cases, a newly created director of platform tennis & pickleball position has been established as a 12-month role that doesn’t teach any tennis at all and pays between $160,000 and $225,000 annually.
Many seasonal operating clubs now wish to move to a full-time, 12-month racquet sport operation. These clubs do not have indoor tennis, but see the value in having an overarching, director of racquets position, filled by someone who is there all year and can take advantage of the growth they have seen and can add increased and consistent member value over 12 months. This trend would not have happened without the growth of pickleball and platform tennis, along with the revitalization of tennis.
Q: Given these changes, how should clubs now structure the organizational chart and reporting structures within their racquets department?
Depending on the club’s size, their offerings, and the specific membership, the organizational structure will be different. There are more and more directors of sports or athletics popping up in larger clubs. With or without that position, here are how some high-functioning clubs are now structuring their racquets-related staff:
Q: How should roles and responsibilities within this kind of structure be organized and assigned?
This needs to be unique to the club, the needs of the membership, and most importantly, the talent of the staff. Each staff member should have a specific role such as junior coordinator, etc. and be empowered to own their specific area without being micromanaged. They should be set up for success, because that is what they are good at, or the role should be filled by someone with potential to learn a new facet of the operation and grow in their career.
Each year—and not just during performance-review time — the director of racquets (DOR) or head professional should discuss with each team member what their goals are and how their growth can be supported. This is something the best DORs do consistently—and why they have the best team members, because it’s clear they are supported, cared for as human beings and not just as employees, and there is genuine interest in their success. When a team member feels that, the potential for the department is boundless, because their output and work will be extremely high. Most people want to outperform when they know their leaders truly care about them as people.
Q: Are clubs now attracting talent from other industries to meet the demand as their racquets departments expand?
Yes—every available avenue is being explored to find candidates for open positions. To staff professionals for any of the racquet/paddle sports, we are now looking to public facilities, resorts and commercial facilities, in addition to within the club industry.
Q: How has the compensation picture changed?
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, DORs, head professionalsand assistant professionals were paid well. With the boom in participation for all racquet sports both during COVID-19 and continuing today, the compensation for DORs has now soared, growing sometimes more than 50%. The components of this compensation have also become more sophisticated. In our experience, and especially recently, DORs at the top operating clubs in America now have a four-pronged compensation structure consisting of:
Base salary (higher than in the past).
Percentage of their own teaching revenue.
Percentage of the head pros’ and assistants’ teaching revenue.
Annual bonus plan using SMART (specific, measurable, chievable, realistic and timely) goals.
As with any compensation plan, structures like these should be reviewed on an annual basis, and then adjusted as needed to make sure everyone is succeeding; the club (so it makes financial sense for the overall club operation); the membership; the assistants (who now have full lesson books as the DOR shares in the growth of the program) and the DOR.
Q: How have committee structures for racquets operations changed, and what are the best ways to now engage committee leadership?
In the old days, there was a tennis committee and a platform tennis committee (if the club even had platform tennis). Both committees had a member who was a board member and served as the liaison to the club board of directors.
Increasingly, clubs have a racquets committee that encompasses members who play all of the related activities that are offered. This is the simplest structure and one that doesn’t bog down the DOR and other club members in too many committee meetings.
Like the recipe for success for all committees, the clubs that operate at the highest level have clearly defined roles for their racquets committee members and use them as an advisory committee for feedback, strategic thinking and planning, but not to make decisions on operations. For example, while members of the racquets committee may be involved in parts of the interviewing process (depending on the position), they should not be the final decision-maker on candidates who will report to the DOR.
Q: What are current trends for educating racquets department staff members?
The top program is the University of Florida’s (UF’s) Certification, Director of Racquets. This is similar to the CCM designation for club managers. It is a collaboration between the university and the United States Tennis Association, with both the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) and United States Professional Tennis Association certifying the successful candidates.
It is now becoming increasingly common—and almost necessary—to have a staff member who is certified in three racquets sports: tennis, pickleball and platform tennis. The PTR calls this its “triple threat” and offers all certifications.
Most clubs are now making education an attraction to help draw new talent to their racquets departments and are creating budgets for all professionals to participate in education, conferences and seminars.
About The Authors
Len Simard, PTR & USPTA Master Professional, conducts all racquet sports, fitness, wellness and GM/COO professional searches for the clients of KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE. Len is a leader in providing tennis facility consulting, performance evaluations, compensation reviews and solutions to all types of racquets facilities and organizations throughout the country.
Jon Sarosiek, PTR, PPR, PPTR, USPTA Elite, currently serves as the Head Racquet Sports Professional at Farmington Country Club in Charlottesville, Va., and is one of only 200 professionals certified in three racquet sports. He was previously Director of Sports & Wellness at Boar’s Head Resort and Director of Tennis at Wintergreen Resort. KK&W has partnered with the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) to provide PTR members, clubs and employers with tools, resources and the opportunity to be the most educated and connected in the business. In addition to Simard and Sarosiek, PTR Career Services also offers the expertise of
Harry Gilbert, PTR, USPTA. Gilbert currently serves as Director of Tennis at Waccubuc Country Club in Waccabuc (Westchester County), N.Y. He also served as Executive Director of Tennis at Albany, a luxury resort community in the Bahamas, for six winter seasons. He served for 14 years on the USPTA National Board of Directors, including a two-year term as National President, and on the USPTA’s Florida Board of Directors for 12 years, including a three-year term as President of the Division. He was twice named the Florida Division “Pro of the Year.”
“This Much I Know for Sure” is a regular feature in BoardRoom magazine beginning Fall 2022. Dick will share some of his reflections based on his 50-plus years of working in the private club business. He managed clubs for the first 25 years of his career, including Castle Pines, PGA West and Desert Mountain. In addition, for the past 26 years, he has led the executive search and consulting company KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE. Enjoy!
It was my very first board meeting. I’d been hired six weeks earlier in January as the new 24-year-old club manager. And I got caught in a lie!
A couple of weeks before the Tuesday night board meeting, after all members had left the club, one of our club bartenders was indulging in a late evening cocktail with a female club member. As the evening progressed, the two retired to the lady’s locker room lounge. I was working in my office and being the club management “newbie”, decided not to interrupt their activities.
I thought that since no one had mentioned the incident to me for over two weeks, I was probably the only person, other than the two participants, who was aware of what had happened. I didn’t know that another female club member had returned to retrieve her golf shoes from her locker that evening and soon realized what activities were occurring in the lady’s lounge area.
She reported her observations to Mrs. Kildahl, one of the female members of our board.
As the club president was closing the agenda for the board meeting, he turned to me and asked if I had been aware of some activity at the club with one of our female members and a club bartender. I told him that I was unaware of any unusual happenings and while he pressed me to disclose if I knew anything because of the rumors he had heard, I continued to deny the facts.
As I stumbled through my nervous denials, board member Mrs. Kildahl interrupted me and said, “Dick, you can quit your lying; I know exactly what happened.” She then described to the board what her friend had observed while retrieving her golf shoes. Her account was quite detailed and obviously above reproach.
I was embarrassed and humiliated and thought my nascent career as a club manager was probably over. The meeting adjourned and as I walked out of the board room, Mrs. Kildahl took me by the arm and said she wanted to talk to me.
“Dick, I’ve observed how hard you have been working at the club during your first six weeks and I really believe that you have a future in this business, but I am going to give you some advice and I hope you take it to heart. From now on, when you walk into the board meeting, you tell the truth, no matter what the issue or question is because if you tell the truth, you will never have to remember what you said,” Mrs. Kildahl expressed.
She had been watching me weave a complicated web of denial and she had to put a stop to it. I was shaken but somewhat reassured by her advice and while I had made a mistake in judgment, the club president and other board members were willing to give me a second chance.
Now, I must admit that during my 50-plus years of working in the private club business, I haven’t been a “Mother Theresa clone”, but I certainly did take Mrs. Kildahl’s admonition seriously. Even when it was hard to admit an error in judgment in front of the club board, I genuinely believe I took the right approach by fully disclosing how I messed up.
It was sometimes not easy to take the verbal lashing by experienced businesspeople on the board when I did something ill-advised, but it was minor pain compared to the consequences that could have resulted from my prevarication.
Time and again, I’ve observed, especially in our political environment today, that the cover-up is typically worse than the crime. And I have also experienced that club board members and, for that matter, club members and employees are typically understanding and appreciative if a mistake is admitted and honestly explained.
Mrs. Kildahl had it right. You don’t need to have a long memory if you tell the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it might be.
Racquet sports have long been a staple for many private clubs, but today maintaining a top-quality member experience remains a difficult task because of significant issues clubs face. Clubs are expanding their racquet sports offerings such as tennis, pickleball, paddle, padel, squash and beach tennis. However, many clubs struggle to provide the proper resources for their members because they cannot hire quality staff. Spreading staff members too thin creates difficulty in managing member expectations. Then, of course, there are questions of adequate compensation and a work-life balance. And indeed, COVID-19 has influenced these issues. So, how do clubs cope with this dilemma?
“Work culture, in general, has changed so much since COVID-19, with many employees being able to work remotely from home or their destination of choice, along with very flexible work hours and very competitive compensation packages,” said Boris Fetbroyt, director of racquets at the Philadelphia Cricket Club, Philadelphia, PA. However, it’s impossible for racquet professionals to work from home and most of the time they are at work during major holidays or around their members’ hours when it comes to lessons and clinics. Racquet professionals continue to fight an uphill battle against the general job market. By adding racquet sport after racquet sport, we are and will have trouble managing members’ expectations if proper resources aren’t provided to hire quality staff to grow each racquet program. I truly believe clubs need to get ahead of the general job market and go over the top to get quality staff these days as well as providing a great work culture; this means investing heavily in payroll along with work-life balance,” he espoused.
John Embree, chief executive officer of the United States Professional Tennis Association, says the shortage of quality staff is “not necessarily” the result of the increased demand for racquet programs. The Lake-Nona, the FL-based association founded in 1927, boasts 14,000 members worldwide with 17 divisions in the U.S.
“There is a shortage of tennis teaching professionals because we do not have a pipeline of younger professionals entering our profession. As a result, young college or high school players do not know there is a pathway to a successful career in tennis teaching or coaching. Nor do they view tennis teaching or coaching as an aspirational career,” Embree opined.
“As the older generation of professionals age out, who will take their places in our industry? There will be a mass exodus of professionals in the next 5-10 years but backfilling those positions will not be easy. The other challenge is that compensation packages have not been adjusted for tennis teaching professionals. Tennis teaching is hard work because it requires work at night and on weekends. Most teaching professionals are paid hourly, so they only get paid when on court. Work-life balance is something that the younger generations are trying to navigate, and they don’t necessarily see tennis teaching as an option, especially if they want to start a family,” he expressed.
“Because of the proliferation of alternative racquet sports, tennis teaching professionals must diversify and become certified in these other activities. If the customer wants pickleball, platform tennis, padel or squash, professionals must be trained and certified in those disciplines to deliver programs that their respective membership desires. No longer can a club hire just a tennis professional. They must hire RACQUET SPORTS professionals,” Embree emphasized.
For Jarrett Chirico, director of racquets at Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas, TX, the issue is leadership. “I don’t believe there is a shortage of quality staff. There’s a shortage of true leadership. The industry has exploded from clubs offering one racquet sport (tennis) to multiple racquet sports per club,” Chirico said.
“Most directors and often general managers have become complacent. Directors must be experts in all racquet sports. They must teach, program and staff at the highest level. If they’re not prepared for the rise of racquets and they’re not experts in all offerings, their staff suffers. If GMs invest in the best directors, then the directors can invest in their people. There has never been more opportunity, but it starts with leadership!” Chirico stressed.
“There is a reason why clubs flourish and clubs fail. If the director is not invested, is not pushing programs and staff forward and is not mentoring, the staff will fail. Likewise, if professionals are not prepared, passionate, and not excited, members will look elsewhere. On the flip side, the clubs that have invested general managers and directors have true leaders. They’re seeing success like never before. So, it’s necessary (always) to invest (whatever it may be) in your people because it’s your people that will take care of your membership,” he articulated.
“Although there’s a multi-pronged answer, the short answer is ‘supply and demand,’” said Len Simard, search and consulting executive with Kopplin Kuebler and Wallace, a major industry consulting firm. “When you see the explosion of participation in the racquet world, it makes sense that the demand for qualified staffing will go hand in hand along with these reasons.
Less talent is coming into the hospitality field. This includes racquet sports. From Millennials to Gen Zs, fewer racquets’ professionals are entering the business because of quality-of-life issues. It is not as common to see these age groups embrace working longer hours, tougher hours on weekends, evenings and holidays.
In most clubs, we are seeing a lack of mentorship with existing staff. This is arguably because of overworked DORs (director of racquets) or old thinking models. As a result, racquets employees are not getting the opportunities to participate in new and exciting educational programs, which are
needed to keep them engaged and developing. We also see a high percentage of DORs unwilling to encourage their assistant professionals to get the education they need and ‘head off on their own.’ It’s almost like a trickle-down effect… if they lose their assistant, they can’t find a replacement.
Often the club’s general manager is not current on the latest trends in the industry, including compensation. Certainly, with this recent boom, committees and boards are strategizing from behind.
Grassroots efforts to attract new professionals to the business have been waning. This is also evidenced by fewer students participating in the PTM programs across the country.
Many of today’s professionals feel that certification is not relevant. This is misguided, and
There’s a feeling of complacency amongst some head professionals and DORs. They have reevaluated their life because of the pandemic and are satisfied staying in an existing role even though they could make more money elsewhere and accept new challenges.
How do these issues affect private club racquet programs? “For larger clubs not as much but for smaller clubs considerably,” Simard added. “We have found that clubs always offer vast lesson programs since there is monetary gain. Often, the social, competitive and team events are pushed to the side because of overcrowded courts, lack of staff and time needed to produce a quality event.”
Simard said a private club member’s experience is affected because of:
Lack of programming
Visibility of the director of racquets (DOR) has diminished
Less quality of a pro shop if DOR owned
Less experienced staff leading classes, running events and performing member-centric tasks
Higher payrolls to the board, and
Lack of technology.
“Finding well-rounded racquet sports professionals trained and certified in these alternative racquet sports is not easy. Most have expertise in one, maybe two disciplines but not all. Pros need to understand that they need the tools and expertise to deliver programs for various racquet sports. That is what the members and clubs expect,” Embree reasoned.
“If a club is struggling with proper resources for staffing, they must start using data to see which racquet sports should be offered to their membership. There are many ways to look at data, but two major areas to consider are: which racquet sport generates more traffic and which racquet sport generates more lesson revenue,” said Fetbroyt.
“For example, pickleball generates more traffic based on how many players you can fit on one tennis court, but tennis could potentially generate more lesson revenue as it has a longer learning curve. Another aspect for a private club to consider is if they want their pros to be club employees or independent contractors. Data must be used to make these tough decisions,” he added.
“Paying private club members have high expectations when it comes to racquet sports offerings. They expect the best facilities and pros and trust their management team to provide that. Unfortunately, most clubs struggle financially and have a hard time keeping up with their members’ expectations
and retaining quality staff. In general, clubs always want to provide the best quality service possible, but they must have the proper resources to do so. Over time, as clubs provide more and more racquet sports, the club’s capital needs will also change, with members expecting new facilities to accommodate those new offerings. Again, managing member expectations is crucial in these situations,” Fetbroyt advised.
“The clubs investing in racquets, like mine (Royal Oaks Country Club), are seeing participation double and even triple across the board. The average
crossover rate between racquet sports is 30 percent,” Chirico explained. “The best directors have above a 60 percent crossover rate. That means if you have 100 people playing tennis, 30 – 60 will try pickleball or another offering. The crossover rate means more club usage and, in the end, more value to the membership. Additionally, multiple racquet sports mean more opportunities for the whole family to use their club. And in most cases, at the same time, there’s been a rise in food and beverage services. But, most importantly, there is no longer just golf and tennis because there’s a connection between all amenities and membership tiers. Racquets provide the bridge to a total club experience,” he added.
“There’s been a shift toward racquets over single amenity offerings for the past five-plus years. COVID-19 accelerated that with members wanting outdoor offerings such as paddle, pickleball, tennis etc. This acceleration really highlighted the clubs and staff that were prepared and invested and the clubs that were not. We’ve seen programs explode with success and others fail. But, overall, true leaders adapt, and the industry is constantly changing. The key to success is investing in our leaders so that they invest in their staff. We must never be complacent and always be looking toward the future. That is what we owe our membership, our staff and always our industry,” Chirico stressed.
“As with other outdoor pursuits like golf and pickleball, tennis benefitted from COVID,” Embree said. The sport has grown by five million players over the past two years, as consumers recognize that tennis is a safe and healthy activity. Lapsed players who didn’t play tennis for years chose to come back to the game and new players entered the game as well. In addition, families and kids looked to tennis when other indoor and team sports were shut down in 2020.
“Because there is a shortage of tennis teaching professionals across the country, clubs are scrambling to satisfy the consumer demand. COVID didn’t contribute to the staffing shortage that exists. Instead, COVID has just accentuated the need for more pros,” Embree emphasized.
“People are an investment,” and in Chirico’s opinion, the lack of investment in people remains a major issue in finding competent, high-quality staff. “Our people are our greatest investment. We’re now asking them to do more, be experts in more, and staff for more, but in many cases, not willing to pay them more. That itself is the problem. If we invest in our people, they will invest in their people who invest in our membership,” he added.
Chirico also suggested that the private club compensation structure contributes “100 percent to the issue of finding top-notch racquet staff. “In many cases, GMs turn to search and consulting agencies to understand compensation structure. But it’s never the job of a search firm to dictate compensation. It’s the job of a search firm to understand what the club can pay and then let them know the type of candidate they can find for that amount. There are two issues; one is finding a true leader, the second is keeping them. Leaders are an investment,” Chirico emphasized.
“Absolutely, the compensation structure contributes to the difficulty of finding top-notch staff,” said USPTA’s Embree. “Annual compensation for tennis professionals hasn’t changed substantially over the last 20-30 years. Directors should not have to spend 40 hours or more per week on court to make the standard of living they seek.”
“Unfortunately, too many clubs have structured the financial package for their professional staff, forcing them to teach all the time. With that 40-hour time commitment on court, how much time does that leave for training staff, conducting programming, being customer service oriented for the rest of the membership, or serving as a department head? It is highly recommended that directors be paid a much higher salary, so they only have to spend 10-15 hours per week on the court. That would also allow them more time to focus on the membership and doing what is in their best interest,” he proposed.
“Right now, clubs have been willing to seek out and find professionals at any cost. This has contributed to about a 20-25 percent increase in overall payroll in the racquets departments. However, if clubs have not planned for this expense, they are behind the eight-ball,” search consultant Simard explained. With few to choose from, they need to have a very meticulous developmental pathway for the individual. This includes but is not limited to comprehensive onboarding, continuing education, robust evaluations and recognition and reward.”
Simard agrees compensation is probably the number one issue. “Many of the older compensation agreements reward and incentivize a director of racquets to be on court teaching. This is short-sighted as it stagnates the growth of the program and the member experience,” he lamented. “If a club can offer a larger salary and make some of it back in lesson commissions, then the membership is happy, the DOR is happy and the club flourishes.”
The question remains: Do certification pro-grams offered by different racquet groups help find top-quality professionals?
“Without question. At the USPTA, our certifications include tennis, pickleball, platform tennis and padel. In addition, it is our responsibility to train and educate our membership on all aspects of a racquet sports department, so they are pre-pared to tackle a much broader array of programming that club members expect,” opined Embree.
“Yes and no,” injected Chirico. “A certification can mean so much and yet nothing at all. It is about the person and what they are doing with it. The greatest thing that comes from organizations like PTR, USPTA, CMAA etc., is not the many educational offerings they have (and there are many and they are great) but the network they provide. I’ve always believed in people. The leaders I have met at conferences across the country continue to shape my career today. That platform, those opportunities are because of the many certification programs available. A person can never learn enough. They should always be pushing for more,” Chirico commented.
“Absolutely, if not just to keep them stimulated with new learning ideas and concepts,” offered KK&W’s Simard. “The best clubs offer a pathway to the new ‘mac daddy’ of them all; the University of Florida’s program – Certification; Director of Racquets –endorsed by all three major associations USTA, USPTA and PTR. It deals with all things’ off the courts’ but ensures teaching professionals to see their pathway through the industry helps them to make a career out of their passion. This is similar to the CCM designation in CMAA for club managers,” Simard explained.
“After that, it’s necessary to be certified in all three racquet sports. Tennis, pickleball and platform tennis. The PTR calls this their ‘triple threat’ and offers all certifications through their association. Most clubs are now making education an attraction to draw new employees to the clubs and creating budgets for all professionals to participate in education, conferences, and seminars,” he advised.
Also, clubs can more easily locate certified professionals because of the USPTA and PTR’s resources.
“I cannot stress this point more: private clubs (and all facilities for that matter) need to hire certified professionals and members in good standing with their trade association,” said Embree. “Being a member in good standing means they have paid their annual dues on time, completed the continuing education requirements and are Safe Play compliant by being Safe Play trained and background screened. Professionals who have met these minimal requirements are invested in their careers,” he added.
“The solution is to create a favorable compensation package that benefits the racquets team and make sure clubs are investing in their racquets staff along with great benefits and work-life balance. The question is: How do we compete against the outside world?” Fetbroyt queried.
“I’m a strong believer that challenges are open doors. The obstacle is walking through. Of course, there have always been challenges in our industry, in all industries. But, the ones that face us today are all positive and growth-related. The true obstacle is understanding the need to invest more in our people today than we did yesterday. The more prepared our people, the greater success our clubs will have,” Chirico declared.
Len Simard, PTR, USPTA Master Professional is a search executive and consultant specializing in Racquet Sports and Fitness & Wellness placements, compensation, programming assessments and committee retreats for KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE. Len can be contacted via email at email@example.com or by phone at 407-463-8923. [Racquets Consulting]
Gregory P. Wolf, CCM, CCE, General Manager & Chief Operating Officer at Scioto Country Club, has been recognized as the 2022 KK&W Summit Executive Leader of the Year, honoring his storied career of Executive Leadership At A Higher Level. Wolf was joined by industry peers in early October during the 2022 KK&W Summit, hosted by The Country Club at Mirasol and The Club at Admirals Cove, to accept his award.
“We the Partners at KK&W were unanimous in our selection of Greg as our Executive Leader at a Higher Level. Greg has been incredibly additive to our great industry and has a remarkable track record of developing and lifting up the junior managers at his clubs and industry wide. This is a great recognition for a humble and highly deserving leader,” agreed Dick Kopplin, Kurt Kuebler, and Tom Wallace.
(From left to right: Kurt Kuebler, Tom Wallace, Greg Wolf, Terra Waldron, and Dick Kopplin)
Wolf is in his 19th year as the General Manager & COO of Scioto Country Club and has participated in six KK&W Summit events, collaborating with and learning from the brightest minds inside and outside of the private club industry. When asked about leadership, Wolf responded he believes integrity, followed closely by empathy, are two characteristics every leader should possess.
Prior to his 30-year career in Club Management, Wolf was a high school mathematics instructor and coach for 15 years. When reflecting on his leadership and mentoring style he shared…
“My past experience as a teacher always lends to helping those reach milestones in their life and career. I try to assist people when they need help but give them enough space to formulate their own path. I spend more time acknowledging positive attributes and use that growth as inspiration for overcoming challenges. I offer support in evaluating their processes to understand strengths and weaknesses, allowing for growth both personally and professionally.”
Wolf is a lifelong resident of Central Ohio and a graduate of The Ohio State University with a MA in Sports Administration. He is married, for over 40 years, to Kay, who is the Senior Vice-Provost at The Ohio State University. Together they have two adult married children. He enjoys watching college and professional sports and is an avid golfer.
Under Wolf’s leadership, Scioto Country Club hosted the 2016 U.S. Senior Open during its Centennial Year. In 2021, the club completed a restoration of its historic Donald Ross championship course. During his tenure at Scioto, the club has renovated or rebuilt all facilities with an outlay of $35 million in expenditures on these projects. Scioto is one of five Clubs in the United States to have hosted the five different major championships: U.S. Open, Ryder Cup, PGA Championship, U.S. Amateur, and U.S. Senior Open and is where Jack Nicklaus learned the game of golf. While having a great golf heritage, Scioto is also a large family country club with nearly 1100 members.
Prior to Scioto Country Club, Wolf was the General Manager at Wedgewood Golf & Country Club for seven years and was the Assistant General Manager and later Club Manager at Muirfield Village Golf Club from 1992 – 1997.