Beyond the Bottom Line
A tennis programmer and frequent player says this business is about more than just selling a product to customers.
When I was a kid in the early 1970s, I attended a summer camp about a mile from home. My sisters, brother and I loved going. Lots of our friends attended and the camp offered many opportunities we might not otherwise have experienced on our own in a single-parent household.
On Fridays, the camp scheduled visitors to come in to “teach” us stuff like arts and crafts, along with various sports and other activities. Once, “tennis” marked our summer camp calendar. Since the main site didn’t have a suitable tennis area, camp counselors led us on a 20-minute walk to my elementary school playground to set up a makeshift tennis court.
Back then tennis was boring to me. After all, who wanted to chase down a little ball when the Jersey Shore was right there? The instructors were teenagers who did nothing to entice me into the game. Most of us sat down on hot asphalt with our backs up against the chain-link fence to watch two lucky campers attempt to stroke the ball.
Years flew by before I gave tennis another glance. Then one afternoon my daughter came home from fourth grade excited because tennis instructors had visited her gym class. Suddenly, I looked at the little yellow ball with new eyes. Today, I’m a frequent player at the 3.0 level, a Parks and Rec tennis center facility manager, tournament director, junior team captain, schools program coordinator and sometimes schools instructor.
With tennis on the upswing, those of us in the industry are in a wonderful position. Even better, we’ve reached this position with enormous help from others: the TIA, USTA, PTR, USPTA and manufacturers, to name a few. These organizations are a mouse click or phone call away, offering a wide array of assistance, in their continued efforts to grow the game.
Through these organizations, tennis programs and formats exist to bring young kids into the game, keep them in the game in school and through high school, on into college, then into adult and senior programming. There are leagues and tournaments for juniors and adults, and don’t forget World TeamTennis and the new Flex leagues. Add in your own programming and clinics, along with local grassroots advocates for tennis, and you have the tools to provide tennis in your community to anyone-at any level.
But what does all this good news mean to you as a tennis coach? Programs coordinator? Facility manager? Teaching pro? It means now is the time, while you have community and industry support, to go after the things you want and need to make this sport grow even more.
“Everyone is doing such a great job to get tennis out there that it makes my job easier,” says Donna Bailey, president of USTA Georgia. Bailey, who’s been involved in promoting the game at the grassroots level for the past 24 years, says her community support comes from everywhere. “Program participation, increases in new programs offered, even things like bankrolling major court renovations-you name it, our community endorses it.”
Marian Wharton knows first-hand of this “good news.” She first picked up a racquet about two years ago. Then she decided to start making her own tennis skirts. At the urging of friends, and opponents, she started making skirts for others. Now, she runs her own business, Sassy Girl Tennis Skirts, complete with an online store. “I have the luxury of playing a sport that I love and offering a service to others,” she says. “What a great life!”
The good news is, players want more than a pastime. They want a social outlet, physical exercise, mental challenges and an opportunity to compete. They want to lose weight, or network for their businesses. Tennis answers all these wants, and then some. And as an industry employee, you satisfy these wants.
“What means the most to me,” says Carl Hodge, the tennis director for the city of Macon, Ga., “is that I have the ability to impact somebody’s life in such a positive way-relieve stress, gain or maintain physical fitness, feel good about themselves. That’s huge to me.”
Hodge teaches beginners on courts near the parking lot. He gets a great rush when he sees his students graduate from the beginner Play Tennis Macon to “real” tennis player status. Walking past the courts, they yell, “Hey, Coach Hodge,” while carrying bona fide tennis bags. Not many things make his day better.
In the end, it’s about more than the bottom line. The good news about tennis is that the lines are drawn deep in the hearts of its players, the joy of the game wraps around their souls, and it is firmly grounded by those of us who offer them the opportunities for play.
See all articles by Robin Bateman
About the Author
Robin Bateman is the site coordinator for the Tattnall Tennis Center in Macon, Ga., where she coordinates tennis program and leagues, is a tournament director, serves as a team captain, and assists junior teams competing at district, regional, and section events.