Options for Hiring On-Court Summer Help
By Joe Dinoffer
Worried about finding the right people to help you on court with your summer programs or holiday camps? There are three often-overlooked categories that you should look into to ease your hiring anxieties. Consider any one of these resources, or use all three, to create new levels of success in your junior programs.
Remember that if you make your programs fun and build the self-esteem of each participant in the process, you are almost guaranteed to succeed.
Elementary School Physical Education Teachers
If your summer program includes younger beginning children, consider hiring elementary school physical education teachers. Many in your area are looking for summer employment, and the month of May is a good time to start asking around. They don’t even need any tennis experience.
First, go to a local elementary school and ask if you can just observe a phys ed class. You’ll probably see a very dedicated and competent teacher organizing dozens of kids in numerous fun and engaging activities. Most certified tennis teachers would be totally stressed and uncomfortable in that type of environment. Maybe that’s why tennis teachers resort to line drills most of the time. If they have more kids, the lines just get longer. It’s just a question of training.
Elementary school PE teachers, on the other hand, are well-schooled and comfortable engaging large groups of kids and can make the activities fun and effective for each age group and skill level. It is usually much easier to show a PE teacher the basic tennis progressions for beginning juniors, as compared to training tennis pros to become competent group activity coordinators. Definitely have a trained teaching pro head up the groups of beginning juniors, but give him or her a staff of enthusiastic professionals to work with and let the fun begin!
For your more advanced juniors, you will need coaches with solid tennis games. College players are always looking for summer employment. No doubt that you need a veteran teaching pro to direct the overall program for your competitive juniors, but try placing a strong college player to execute your drills on each court.
Hiring college players for your summer programs makes sense. It could be a cost-effective alternative (generally you can expect to pay them less than full-time teaching pros), and the college players themselves are probably looking for a way to be on the court as much as possible during their summer break.
If you want to check competitive pay scales, just call some of the larger academies across the country and ask what they pay college players who help them out in their summer programs. You’ll probably find that you can offer the college players a decent hourly rate that will be more than the academies, yet still fit your budget.
Engage Your Own Juniors
A few programs in the U.S. have figured out how to design and schedule their junior programs to capitalize on the powerful motivational force of kids helping other kids.
Well, here’s how it works: Most summer programs group juniors by playing levels and ages. Schedule the oldest and strongest children to play in the first time slot. The next oldest should be scheduled next, and so on, until the very youngest children are scheduled to play last.
Now, have the best kids in each program stay for 30 minutes and help with the next younger program. Set it up so that kids who are asked to stay are looked up to for their qualities of reliability, maturity, helpfulness, and overall ability. They become the “assistant pros” for the next younger group. This benefits them in that they get more court time and contact with your professional staff. Plus, they will enjoy being looked up to by their slightly younger peers.
The next younger group benefits because they look up to the next older group and will be inspired to perform well just by being around them. This natural mentor program is one of the most powerful yet underused tools available.
See all articles by Joe Dinoffer
About the Author
Joe Dinoffer is a Master Professional for both the PTR and USPTA. He speaks frequently at national and international tennis teacher workshops as a member of both the HEAD Penn and Reebok National Speaker's Bureaus. He is president of Oncourt Offcourt Inc. and has written 16 books and produced more than 30 instructional videos.