Racquet Sports

Racquets on the Rise

Racquets on the Rise

The racquets industry will continue with massive growth in 2024 so clubs will want to ensure their racquet professionals and programs continue to evolve to remain relevant. According to Len Simard, PTR and USPTA Master Professional and search consultant with Kopplin, Kuebler and Wallace, thinking and acting creatively will be essential. He makes the following recommendations and predictions for the year ahead:

  • Clubs will look to enhance pickleball facilities by not just building permanent pickleball courts but by adding partially covered courts as well. With the rise of social and trendy pickleball facilities such as Chicken N’Pickle, members will seek indoor and outdoor courts where food and beverage service is readily available. Clubs will also begin adding or expanding padel courts, as this sport continues to gain momentum across the country.
  • Continuing to offer creative, collaborative and innovative programming will be crucial for private clubs. Simard suggests a focus on entry level events and programs with a variety of programs for upward progression. Collaborating with other departments to create exceptional member experiences will be a necessity.
  • Racquets staff should be challenged with more responsibilities and their titles (and salaries) should be adjusted to reward those who best set the team up for success. To keep up with the pickleball explosion, Simard urges clubs to bring head pickleball professionals or pickleball coordinators on to their teams immediately.
  • Investing in the racquets department goes beyond just the facilities. Structuring compensation packages to incentivize racquets professionals based on gross revenue and the member experience within the department is the current trend. Professionals and assistant professionals should receive a salary and be rewarded based on the member experience and overall growth of the program. Clubs should also be investing in their racquets professionals, encouraging certification in tennis, pickleball, paddle and padel.

The Private Club Advisor – April 2024

Len Simard, PTR & USPTA Master Professional, Search & Consulting Executive, KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE. He can be reached via email: len@kkandw.com.

Racquets on the Rise2024-05-21T03:34:36+00:00

Scoring New Points with Racquets Programs

Scoring New Points with Racquets Programs
In 2024, the racquets industry will continue with massive growth in a changing environment. Now more than ever, it is critical that clubs and their racquets professionals continue to stay relevant by thinking and acting creatively in these areas:

Continued evolution of racquet sports facilities. Clubs will look to enhance their pickleball facilities by not only building permanent pickleball courts, but by adding partially covered courts as well. The Chicken N’Pickle concept, with indoor and outdoor pickleball courts and readily available food and beverage service, will continue to make its way into the mainstream at clubs across the country. The rapid rise of padel will also continue, especially in major metropolitan areas, across the country. The relatively low cost to build an outdoor padel court ($75,000-$85,000), mixed with the low operational cost to maintain it, has made it a great option for clubs looking to expand their racquet sport offerings.

Creative, collaborative and innovative programming. The huge increase in racquet sports participation that was prompted by the pandemic cannot be expected to continue without constant innovative programming. A club will need to continue to focus on entry-level events and programs for all of its racquet-sports offerings to maintain their momentum and upward progression. Collaborating with other club departments to create unforgettable moments for members will be a necessity.

Utilizing talent. Every year, a racquets department’s organizational chart should be cultivated to best utilize the full talents of the team. Staff members should continue to be challenged with more responsibilities, and titles should be adjusted to reward those who best set the team up for success. To keep up properly with pickleball explosion, clubs that don’t already have a head pickleball professional or pickleball coordinator should invest in that position immediately.

Compensation, structure and funding. The current trend is to structure racquet professionals’ compensation packages to incentivize gross revenue and the member experience within the department. Throughout the racquets department, compensation plans should reflect what each employee is responsible for, while also enabling them to share in the growth of the overall program. Assistant professionals’ compensation should include a salary, not only to help them grow as leaders but also to increase the member experience. Finally, this is the time to budget for growth. Support from the Board, management and committees is needed to adequately fund the entire racquets program for a comprehensive experience, including operational and cap ex budgets.

Certification. Because a club’s racquets program can now include four to five sports, it will be increasingly necessary to have professionals who are certified in tennis, pickleball, paddle and padel, as well as squash in some parts of the country.

Leadership, culture and mentorship. More than ever before, creating a kind, creative, positive, and growth mindset within a racquets department is imperative. Regular weekly or bi-weekly individual meetings should be held with staff members, occasionally changing things up to include lunch meetings in a more relaxed setting. Goal setting and checking in on staff members periodically should be a priority, as part of learning about each person and what makes them tick. All staff meetings should be held weekly, along with weekly growth opportunity sessions that share what’s being worked on in other areas. The staff should understand that it is OK to make mistakes, and leaders should take public accountability for things that need to be better. At the same time, staff accomplishments should be praised publicly as much as possible.

Club Trends – Winter 2024

Len Simard, PTR & USPTA Master Professional, Search & Consulting Executive, KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE. He can be reached via email: len@kkandw.com.

Scoring New Points with Racquets Programs2024-04-19T15:01:54+00:00

Norms And Expectations: How Your Racquets Committee Can Build Success In Their Monthly Meeting!

Norms And Expectations: How Your Racquets Committee Can Build Success In Their Monthly Meeting!

You are the Director of Racquets but are you working in unison with your racquets committee? Here are a few great ideas to bring to your committee chair that may make your life a little easier, and at the same time create a great committee culture for the club.

The concepts shared are inspired by the work we do with committees during and following our nationwide executive searches, combined with the industry best practices we have recognized throughout our tenure.

Number one: The committee will focus on policy/strategy versus operations. The club should honor the concept that an executive search had resulted in the hiring of a very accomplished director of racquets for the club. It is understood that the Norms And Expectations: How Your Racquets Committee Can Build Success In Their Monthly Meeting! by Len Simard www.ptrtennis.org August/September 2023 TennisPro MAGAZINE 17 committee chairperson and the committee members’ roles are purely advisory, and the director of racquets would make all operational decisions related to the racquet program.

“This allows committee members to focus on the policies and long-term strategies for ensuring an enduring racquets program, says search and consulting executive, Len Simard.”

Number two: One person speaks at a time. We have observed that more than one person would vie for the attention of the chair and this behavior was counterproductive. So therefore, only one committee member would be recognized at a time, and they would be allowed to finish their comments before a fellow committee member would be recognized to speak. It cannot be allowed for any “talking over” a fellow committee member.

Number three: No one will speak for more than three minutes at a time (appoint a timekeeper if necessary). It should be expected that every committee member thinks about the comments they would like to make and limit their remarks unless they are asked to elaborate.

Number four: No side conversations. One of the most disrespectful behaviors in a committee board room is to have participants sitting next to each other chattering while another committee member is speaking. Every person in the room should focus on the committee member who has the floor and eliminate the sidebar conversations.

Number five: Absolute confidentiality – zero tolerance. Each person on the committee will respect the confidential nature of any sensitive discussions and refrain from any disclosure that is not appropriate. If it is discovered that the confidence of this committee has been compromised, the responsible person could be asked to resign from the committee.

Number six: Reach a decision and commit to it after the committee meeting to minimize second-guessing. There should be adequate opportunities at every committee meeting to thoroughly discuss all sides of an issue. After a decision is reached, committee members should be supportive in their narratives and actions within the full membership.

Number seven: United front outside of the committee room. Everyone must understand the need to support each other after the committee meetings and to support the decisions of the committee no matter how divided a particular vote might have been. In essence, this is a strategy called “circle the wagons,” where committee members are prepared to defend not only the action of the entire committee but the committee chair and fellow committee members against attack or verbal abuse from some of the “squeaky wheel” members.

Number eight: Read the committee reports in advance to save time at the meetings – arrive prepared. Each committee member is generally called upon to give a monthly report for your area of responsibility. There should be a written copy of your report submitted to the chair or the DOR in advance of the committee meeting. These reports should all be distributed and read in advance, paying particular attention if the committee chair is requesting an action item to be approved by this committee.

Number nine: We will stick to the agenda. All extemporaneous issues will be put in the parking lot. The Racquet Chair should not allow for spontaneous discussion on non-agenda issues. If a committee member feels there is an issue that needs discussion that was not on the agenda, it should be put it in the parking lot until the agenda is finished. If there is enough time at the end of the meeting, the issue can be disucssed.

Number ten: No single-person agendas. We believe that all committee members have an obligation to serve the best interests of the club. While someone may not agree with everything the committee does, they should support the wishes of the majority.

Number eleven: Operational report. The Director of Racquets should be not only invited to each committee meeting but also play an active role. The DOR should give his/her report on how the operation is functioning, any issues that may have come up, the success of events, staff performance, and any other related operational topics

Each committee member may have certain issues they feel strongly about but at the end of day, the committee needs to look at what is best for the club and not for any one person’s partisan agenda.

TennisPro MAGAZINE – August/September 2023

Len Simard, PTR & USPTA Master Professional, Search & Consulting Executive, KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE. He can be reached via email: len@kkandw.com.

Norms And Expectations: How Your Racquets Committee Can Build Success In Their Monthly Meeting!2024-05-25T15:48:03+00:00

How To Properly Staff A Country Club Racquets Department

How-to-Properly-Staff-A-Country-Club-Racquets-Department

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 is still 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:

2022-Fall-Club-Trends-Racquets-Organization-Chart

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 professionals and 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, achievable, 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.”

Club Trends – Fall 2022

How To Properly Staff A Country Club Racquets Department2024-04-19T14:55:59+00:00

How Do Clubs Provide Resources For Rapidly Expanding Racquet Programs?

Expanding-Racquet-Programs

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Many of today’s professionals feel that certification is not relevant. This is misguided, and
  6. 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:

  1. Lack of programming
  2. Visibility of the director of racquets (DOR) has diminished
  3. Less quality of a pro shop if DOR owned
  4. Less experienced staff leading classes, running events and performing member-centric tasks
  5. Higher payrolls to the board, and
  6. 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.

FINAL THOUGHTS

“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.

Featured Contributor:

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 len@kkandw.com or by phone at 407-463-8923. [Racquets Consulting]

THE BOARDROOM MAGAZINE September/October 2022

How Do Clubs Provide Resources For Rapidly Expanding Racquet Programs?2023-01-20T20:58:53+00:00

The Value of Self-Branding – Differentiating Yourself in the World of Racquet Sports

Tennis_Professional_Careers

When you think of the most powerful and popular brands in the world, what comes to mind? Some think of Apple and Starbucks, others Nike and Target. While their recognizable logos and catchy taglines are engaging, they embody key attributes that continually position them over their competition: innovation, focus, passion, consistency, flexibility, and distinction, among many others.

In the highly competitive industry of racquet sports, how do you mirror these iconic brands and stand out against the crowd? Simply put, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery — leverage the same framework and thought process of the brands you know and love to define your personal brand. Whether you are looking to become a Head Racquets Professional, Director of Racquets, or seeking a more entry level position in the industry, take time to reflect on what makes you…you! Consider the following tactics to help you better define your unique value proposition:

  • Conduct a personal SWOT analysis. To articulate your strengths, potential weaknesses (and how to better position them as focus areas for growth), opportunities and threats in the landscape (plus how you’ll address them), write them down and create an action plan to get you from today’s status quo to tomorrow’s future state. Don’t know where to start? Ask yourself the following questions:
    • What do I stand for as a person? What are my passions?How would I describe my leadership style?
    • What makes me stand out? What are my assets and technical skills?
    • What makes me hirable? What would my current co-workers and leader say about me? How do I conduct myself in public, with members? What side projects have I worked on that addvalue to what I bring to an organization?
    • What do I value in a company, the culture, and the environment?
  • Sharpen your racquet sports skills. Every one of us can continue to learn and grow. Look into becoming a certified Director of Racquets and take advantage of the new program offered by the University of Florida.
  • Strengthen credibility within your own club and across the entire industry. Look to build relationships with your CFO, GM, Director of Membership, and other department experts at your club to learn more about the work they do. Afterall, the success of all departments – not just racquet sports – is contingent upon the collaboration across the entire organization. You can also connect and set up one-on-one sessions with industry leaders you see and meet at national conventions and workshops. Lastly, follow and connect with leaders on LinkedIn — most professionals are willing to spread their knowledge and even serve as a mentor.
  • Diversify your personal portfolio. Broaden your racquets scope and become certified as a pickleball, platform tennis or padel teaching professional. While tennis is the pillar, it’s not just about that single sport any longer!

In today’s racquet sports world, the job market for top-tier positions is becoming more and more competitive. To stand out, heed the above points and, daily, ask yourself and aspire to better answer:

  • Am I passionate about what I do?
  • Am I focused daily?
  • Am I a consistent performer?
  • Am I flexible and adaptable?
  • Do I have strong leadership skills?
  • Am I competitive in always wanting to be the best version of myself?

If you are consistently looking for ways to grow as a professional to better yourself and differentiate your personal brand, opportunities will arise. After all, modeling your best self after the best brands will come with time, consistency, and a relentless pursuit of excellence.

About the authors…

Len Simard, PTR, USPTA
Search and Consulting Executive at KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE
len@kkandw.com

Jonathan Sarosiek, PTR, USPTA
Search and Consulting Executive at Simard Enterprises, Inc.
jonsarosiek@gmail.com

TennisPro MagazineNovember 2021

The Value of Self-Branding – Differentiating Yourself in the World of Racquet Sports2021-12-03T15:03:45+00:00
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