Sharing the Passion
TIA President Jim Baugh has left his mark on tennis, and has left the sport in good hands.
By Liza Horan
Tennis Industry Association President Jim Baugh is moving on from tennis. Simply, he’s got work to do elsewhere. He’ll be beating the drums for another worthy cause, just as he did for a fractionated tennis industry that in 1993 faced the infamous cover of Sports Illustrated that asked, “Is Tennis Dying?”
But Baugh helped rally the troops, sit them down at the Round Table, and over the years turn forced smiles into a collaborative effort to stare down and answer that magazine cover. “Play Tennis America” was the firstborn of a series of industry-wide efforts that would bring friends and competitors together around one brand: T-E-N-N-I-S, as he likes to say. Like the HMS Endurance, Baugh’s been an icebreaker, pounding inflexible attitudes and scattered efforts across the sport, clearing the way for a unified message to the masses.
Fast-forward to his more recent babies — Tennis Welcome Centers and Cardio Tennis — which are out of diapers and well integrated in the infrastructure of the sport. Baugh’s legacy in tennis is set. The programs are backed by all constituents of the tennis business, count celebrities as endorsers, and are working and sustainable. Consider the facts: 1 million new players tried the game in 2005 and tennis is the only traditional sport to grow (up 10.3 percent) from 2000 to 2005.
Now, as he leaves the TIA after this year, he takes his tornado-esque passion to another worthwhile cause: childhood obesity. PE4Life, a program he founded in January 2000, aims to keep kids active in a world where budgets have cut athletic programs and recently threatened to delete school recess.
And a bit of advice for school boards everywhere: Prepare yourselves for an unadulterated barrage. Baugh’s a fireball, preaching his passion for the healthful, social, and just plain fun aspects of the game. He’s been relentless, outspoken, and successful in turning the spotlight on tennis.
Yet, let’s remember that tennis is a sport of individuals, no single person is greater than the game. At times there have been cries for one to supercede all others in the form of a Tennis Commissioner. Well, that idea has never flown. This is an international sport, and the USTA as governing body for the growth of the sport in this country is one of only four that govern tennis on the planet. Tennis is that big.
We don’t have a commissioner, but we do have a commission. It’s the Board of Directors of the Tennis Industry Association. The individuals who serve on it represent every part of the sport, from governing bodies (ATP, WTA, USTA) and teaching organizations to manufacturers, retailers, court products, and media. These individuals are tennis people — often “lifers” who play the game and work in the game, but aren’t complacent because the market doesn’t allow it. Money’s a great motivator.
With a lead actor exiting, the stage is now set for the ensemble to take over. This group is made of competitors aligned for the common good of the game. Can it work? Moot question, because it does work and it’s been working for years. Each person on that board has the right — and the responsibility — to act on the momentum that’s been created and take it to higher levels.
They also have full-time jobs, and that’s where the director of this grand play comes in. Managing the operation from behind the scenes is Executive Director Jolyn de Boer, who executes TIA business with her renaissance corps at HQ on Hilton Head Island. This TIA staff is charged with carrying out the direction set by the tennis commission, soon to be led by current chairman Dave Haggerty of HEAD Penn.
The view from here is of a group of individuals representing many who act together for the good of the game, because it is the right thing to do and because it happens to be good business. There are differences of opinion and persistent competitive barbs, but they’re set aside in theory a few times a year when the individuals come together as a team to better this game and the business of tennis. They commit to support programming through advertising, marketing, and, no minor point, financial contributions.
As each member walks out of the board meeting held during the US Open, there’s likely to be extra spring in each step. With an invigorating meeting of the minds, an upcoming passing of the torch, and world-class tennis as the backdrop, there is much energy for good works.
Baugh has ceded the spotlight to tennis itself, and as he moves on to new challenges, he can take care that it’s in good hands.
The Youth Movement
Baugh dedicated his time to getting all ages playing tennis, now he’s focusing on getting kids physically active in any way possible. Tennis is part of the effort. Stay up to date on his work at PE4Life.com.
“Baugh’s been an icebreaker … clearing the way for a unified message to the masses.”
See all articles by Liza Horan
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