Letters: Younger Talent, Yes, and Education is Key
To the Editor:
I enjoyed very much the article “Generation Next” (November/December 2008). Although I agree that the industry needs young talent, it’s vitally important that this talent be educated in their field of endeavor.
Low salaries and retainers offered to tennis teaching pros is a problem, but another major problem is the fact that club owners, parks and recreation managers and directors of tennis often just hire someone who can feed balls or rally with a student, but that does not constitute “teaching” tennis. There is a huge disconnect between what a consumer perceives as “getting a tennis lesson” and what he/she is really getting.
Many of today’s young pros have not received the right message about how to become a top-flight tennis teaching pro. The tools are out there, yet they’re not being taken advantage of by those who need them the most. In most cases, young pros have no idea how to teach and improve the hitting and playing skills of their clients.
The idea that one can take a four- or six-hour course and become a certified tennis teacher is ludicrous. It takes years of playing experience, teaching experience and attending educational conferences to hone one’s skills. Most of our top teaching pros were good players themselves and attended many USPTA divisional and national conferences, PTR Symposiums and USTA workshops. These individuals realize the educational and networking value of belonging to a certified teaching association.
The USPTA has for years been a part of the Club Managers Association of America conferences and continues to promote the certified teaching pro as the most knowledgeable individual to run programs. As in any industry, continuing education and change with the times is the core to success. We need to do a better job of impressing on club managers, owners, municipalities and directors of tennis that it is in their best interest to hire a person who is certified and has knowledge of teaching the game — not just feeding a tennis ball.
I applaud the TIA for addressing the issue of better compensation for teaching pros. This will help with drawing in good young people. Tennis facilities, whether public or private, need to realize that it takes good salaries to maintain good help, not only to teach, but also to run successful programs.
So the big questions are how do we in the tennis industry convince people who pay salaries and retainers to offer good compensation, and how do we convince those youngsters coming into the tennis industry to become more educated in not only teaching the game, but in the business of tennis as well?
Hopefully, getting the TIA and USTA behind this issue will help get the attention of those who control the purse strings to better compensate teaching pros and therefore bring in younger talent who will see that a career in tennis is a viable path.
USPTA Past President