Tennis Industry magazine

 

Creating Future Leaders

A recent grad, immersed in this industry, says education and messaging to youth will help build a solid future for the sport.

By Ryan Melton

All of us in the tennis industry are enjoying the good news that tennis participation topped 30 million players for the first time in decades and the sport saw a 43 percent increase in participation over the past 10 years. As with all industries, however, there is a significant challenge ahead that may threaten tennis’ ability to remain the fastest growing traditional sport in America.

With more than 77 million baby-boomers set to retire in the next 10 years and the average age of the U.S. population creeping higher, tennis is increasingly seeing a “graying” of the entire industry. While this older generation provides experience, direction and leadership, it is important to remember that without a qualified crop of young talent to succeed the current industry leaders, this industry cannot properly nurture its human capital and plan for sustained growth and profitability across all spectrums of the tennis marketplace.

In my relatively short experience in the tennis industry, I’ve heard several industry “veterans” express their concerns about generating a new pool of well-educated, young and qualified talent to fill industry positions. As a comparison, many of these veterans look at the PGA of America and its ability to continuously generate interest and retain a young, qualified pool of candidates to fill golf industry jobs. Often the question goes a little like this: “How is golf and the PGA putting out so many young people with the background necessary to be viable employees and foster growth in their industry?”

I offer this simple answer: Currently at least 20 different U.S. colleges and universities offer Professional Golf Management programs delivering required programming to students interested in a career in the golf industry. The PGA of America has specific degree requirements that must be met by PGM students.

Contrast the golf industry to the tennis industry, which has really just scratched the surface of the post-secondary education market with only four U.S. colleges and universities offering a Professional Tennis Management curriculum. In my opinion, one way for this industry to develop a well-qualified and educated group of future leaders is to obtain more saturation of tennis education programming at universities and colleges, with a degree requirement for PTM students that is developed with all aspects of the tennis business in mind.

With tennis participation moving in the right direction, the viability of the careers in this industry should be greater than ever. This is a key messaging point the industry, as a whole, has to get across to Generation Y’ers who have a passion for the sport and would like to make a career out of their love for the game.

Recently, the industry has taken strides in developing messaging tools to do just that, for instance with the development of the Careers In Tennis initiative and CareersInTennis.com, an industry-supported career center and job board available for free to both job-seekers and employers. In addition to creating awareness of careers in the industry, we have to build a “network” that includes a younger generation.

Tennis industry organizations need to make an effort to grow their talent by offering more internship opportunities at their companies to foster interest in industry careers, as well as send younger staff to industry conferences to develop a “network” of colleagues that will be around for the next 20 to 30 years, and not just the next 10. Think about how you got your first job or moved to the position you are in now. Odds are you got that job by knowing someone or knowing someone who knew someone who could help you get your “foot in the door.”

Current industry leaders and veterans have begun to pave a bright future for the industry and the sport. The more the industry can promote its viability as a career to a younger generation, the greater the chance tennis will remain one of the fastest growing sports.

All of us in the industry want to promote the growth and economic vitality of tennis. By nurturing a new crop of industry leaders with fresh ideas, creative thinking skills, and the ability to communicate in today’s world, we will ensure the long-term sustainability of this great American tradition and sport.

Ryan Melton is the Project Coordinator for the Tennis Industry Association in Hilton Head Island, S.C., in charge of the coordination, management, and development of the Careers In Tennis (CareersInTennis.com) initiative, among other projects. He graduated top of his class from Francis Marion University in 2009 with a BBA in Management.

We welcome your opinions. Please email comments to RSI@racquetTECH.com or fax them to 760-536-1171.

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About the Author

Ryan Melton  is the Project Coordinator for the Tennis Industry Association in Hilton Head Island, S.C., in charge of the coordination, management, and development of the Careers In Tennis (CareersInTennis.com) initiative, among other projects. He graduated top of his class from Francis Marion University in 2009 with a BBA in Management.

 

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