A recent college graduate says a Professional Tennis Management program was just what he needed to help him pursue his dreams.
By Mark O'Bryan
When I graduated last May from the Professional Tennis Management (PTM) program at Ferris State University, I left Big Rapids, Mich., convinced that I had received the best education I possibly could to prepare me for a career in the sport that I love. And so far, that has certainly proven to be the case.
I’ve played tennis since I was a kid and have always loved the sport. But as I was going through high school and considering colleges, I didn’t realize that I could make a serious career out of tennis. My parents and I have seen tennis pros try unsuccessfully to start or maintain a career, and it’s safe to say that we were somewhat skeptical about tennis as a career choice.
As I was considering what my choices were, a Ferris alum (who now works at an elite club in the Atlanta area) told me about the PTM program, and how going through such a course of study really prepared him for the tennis business. I was impressed with what he told me about the business courses he took, along with the workshops, clinics, and internships that gave him the foundation for what would later become his career.
When my father and I visited the campus during the annual alumni weekend, we both were impressed with the professionalism and enthusiasm of the students, faculty, and alumni, along with the business degree program specializing in tennis. I knew I had found a program that would lead me successfully into the tennis business.
Now, I’m the head tennis pro at the Cartersville Country Club, in Cartersville, Ga., and I love it. Everything I’m doing — giving lessons, running clinics and camps, programming, organizing tournaments and events, doing the administrative and budgeting work, and more — I was completely prepared for. The practical experience I gained by going through a PTM program, plus the excellent internships I had (first at the Grand Slam Tennis Club in Bedford, N.Y., then at the Chevy Chase Club in Maryland, then at Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa, Fla.), really prepared me well.
And what’s great about a PTM program is that you develop a bond with your classmates, with your teachers, and with alumni — all of which form a network that has helped me in the past and I’m sure will help me down the road. I keep in touch with a lot of my classmates, too, and they’re doing well for themselves in their post-graduation jobs.
Going through the Ferris program has allowed me to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that other pros have had to learn the hard way. Things like returning phone calls, being punctual, dealing with customers, and much more — all of this I was able to learn through off-campus internships and through the real-world experience we gained by organizing and running events and programs through the PTM program. I feel that with the experience I have, I’ve been able to separate myself from a lot of pros out there.
I realize that I am a newcomer to this full-time tennis business. But I do think I have some valuable advice for teaching pros and high school coaches: If you have a student who really loves the sport, encourage them to enter the tennis business. And beyond that, encourage them to seek out a college program that will provide them with both the business experience and practical experience to help ensure their success.
Had I not talked to that PTM alum years ago and realized that you can get a complete and well-rounded education in the tennis business, I probably never would have entered this field. I’ve already recommended the PTM program to a number of friends, and I hope they will seriously consider tennis as a career, because this business needs more young people to get involved, at every level. Most high school or college students don’t realize the opportunities that exist in tennis: teaching pro, club or shop owner and manager, the sales and marketing of the sport, tournaments, manufacturers, tennis organizations, and much more.
I personally look forward to the opportunity to grow the programming at the country club where I now work, as well as to develop the junior and adult players I work with. There’s no question that a degree from a PTM program was absolutely the right choice for me, and I know that wherever my career leads me in tennis, I’ll have the skills, experience, and network of friends and colleagues to help me achieve my goals.
These PTM programs, whether at Ferris State or at other colleges, will be the breeding grounds for the next generation of tennis leaders. I’m glad that I entered this business through that door.
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About the Author
Mark O'Bryan is a 2007 Ferris State University PTM graduate, and the head tennis pro at the Cartersville Country Club in Cartersville, Ga.