Delivering a Quality Experience
For pro Jorge Andrew in South Carolina, it’s all about getting people involved — and coming back for more.
Most head tennis professionals will confront tough challenges at some point in their careers. At times they’ll face sagging membership, over-budget court repairs, staff shortages, cranky bosses. But one of the most demanding tasks a head pro can undertake is one that few actually ever will: launching a new tennis facility.
In 2000, Lexington County, S.C., had no tennis program. And the area still didn’t even have a home for public tennis, as their prized 21-court Lexington County Tennis Complex (LCTC) wasn’t due to open until the following summer. Then came Jorge Andrew, hired to be the facility’s first tennis director.
“Opening a new facility is difficult — you’re really starting from scratch,” says Dan Santorum, CEO and executive director of the PTR. “Getting the people to come is obviously a challenge, but once they get there you have to make sure they have a quality experience. That’s one of the things Jorge excels at — making sure that everybody that comes to his facility has a quality experience and is eager to come back.”
Andrew, designated a master pro by both the PTR and the USPTA, was raised in Caracas, Venezuela. He played for and captained the Venezuelan Davis Cup team, and reached No. 76 in the world rankings in the late 1970s. He later worked as a tennis director at clubs in Venezuela and Florida before being tapped for his post in Lexington County.
From six months before the LCTC opened, Andrew was already planning the details for what would quickly become one of the most successful tennis programs in the southern U.S. One of his primary goals was to relentlessly find new players and make them stay.
“We have beginner clinics that start every four weeks,” Andrew says. “Then we try to put those beginners right into the leagues. Officers of the Lexington Area Tennis Association are right at the facility, so in just a few minutes we can get you all the information you need, sign you up over the internet, put you in a league and you’re ready to play.”
The strategy has worked. In just four years, the number of league tennis teams at the LCTC has increased from 20 to 45. Impressive numbers? That’s just for the adults.
“Our most successful program is the After School Tennis Club,” Andrew says. “It has three levels. At level one, we give them a racquet and a can of balls. Level two, it’s a little more advanced lessons. Level three, they play matches every Friday. After that, we start to encourage them to play tournaments.” The after-school club has a consistent attendance of 50 to 80 kids per four-week session.
Other junior play at the LCTC includes the Junior Challengers, which exclude all players ranked in Top 25 in 10-and-under, and the Top 50 in other divisions. “We host tournaments like that so that our people who started here can develop here,” Andrew says. As for those top-ranked players? They can still compete in the ITF World Junior Championships, which the LCTC hosts in November.
“People ask me all the time, ‘How can we get a program going — do we need more junior programs, do we need to have more courts, do we need to spend more money?” says Jeff Hawes, first vice president of the USPTA Southern Division. “The answer is that first and foremost you need to have a leader. You need to have somebody who is dynamic in their personality, dynamic when it comes to promoting, dynamic when it comes to their teaching skills. And Jorge definitely has all those traits. That’s what makes him stand out in this industry.
“Jorge is one of the best professionals in our association. Lexington County wasn’t even on the map until he got there, and he made an impact just by getting people involved.”
This is the second of six installments on the teaching pros who hold Master Pro certifications from both the PTR and the USPTA.
Creating a Quality Experience for Players
- Develop programs to cater to every age group and every player level. Leave no one behind.
- At the end of beginners’ classes, don’t let those new players go — try to get them signed up in leagues, where they’ll have fun with their new skills and keep playing tennis.
- Make the facility attractive in every way possible: Keep it clean and well-decorated, and make sure everything is in working order.
See all articles by Chris Nicholson
About the Author
Chris Nicholson is a contributing editor of RSI magazine.