Making Their Moves
For young professionals entering the industry, laying a good foundation and making connections are key.
They’re in their 20s and making their mark in tennis. You won’t find them on the pro tour, but they’re just about everywhere else in the sport. Some are working full time, and some are working more than one job. They’re teaching tennis, promoting tennis and selling tennis, in offices and on the court, behind the scenes or on the front lines.
As part of its continuing coverage of careers in tennis, RSI is following various paths open to those who are interested in the sport, and who want to parlay that interest into a paying job. This month, we’re focusing on some fairly recent college grads. Many participated in the Tennis On Campus (TOC) or club programs at their schools. Another is a grad with a degree from a Professional Tennis Management program. They’re all working, but in vastly different capacities, and they took different routes to get there.
While networking remains a vital part of the job-finding process, career websites are coming on strong everywhere, including in the sport. The Tennis Industry Association launched its Careers in Tennis website (careersintennis.com) in 2009, and according to Project Manager Ryan Melton, has had more than 10,500 views since that time. The free site lists jobs in different capacities (retail, teaching positions, facility construction, media and more) as well as offering information on teaching certifications and college programs.
The purpose of the site, says Melton, "is to create a greater awareness regarding the viable career paths and opportunities in the tennis industry, especially among a younger generation of future leaders, since we want to help combat the ‘graying’ of our industry overall.” As of late March, careersintennis.com, which is free to both employers and job-seekers, had nearly 1,000 tennis specific jobs listed.
Have ideas for careers we should be covering? Send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Works at: USTA Virginia, as Northern Virginia Community Tennis Representative (also currently in grad school)
College: University of Maryland, Baltimore County
College playing experience: President of UMBC’s Tennis on Campus club.
About school: "I actually founded the TOC at UMBC when I was a freshman. I came to the school, and I thought they had a tennis club, but all they really had was an intramural tournament, and that was played maybe once a season. That wasn’t enough, so I started going around looking for people who were interested in playing. I felt like we were more social and close-knit than the varsity program."
About the current job: "My main focus areas are NJTL, military bases in Northern Virginia, and initiatives involving multi-cultural participation. I’m mostly in the northern Virginia area."
How he got there: "I really thought it would be good to work for the USTA. I started doing events and getting to know the USTA staff in that area.”
What else helped: "Tennis on Campus helped me a lot, for sure. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t have had the credentials to get the job. I ran the club, I was its president; it definitely played a big part of my college career."
"I would say get to know as many people in the industry as possible — everyone knows everyone. Networking is how I got this job."
Works at: "In the winter season, I work for College Park Athletic Club (Chicago) as the assistant manager of their new West location. In the summer, I am the Director of Junior Tennis at Royal Melbourne Country Club in Long Grove, Ill. I was fortunate enough to find two great places to start my career in the tennis industry only a few miles apart."
College: Graduate of the Professional Tennis Management program at Ferris State University
Tennis background: "I am a lifelong tennis player. My dad got me into the sport at an early age. I played all four years in high school, and this was at the time when I really got serious about the sport. I realized I wanted a career in tennis late into my senior year and managed to get into the PTM program by lucky timing and by having a passion."
About the current job: "As assistant manager at College Park, my job entails everything from teaching private and group lessons to running events, racquet repair, front desk and administrative duties, as well as running USTA tournaments. At Royal Melbourne, I run the junior program, teach private and group lessons, run events, racquet repair, and normal pro shop duties."
Long-term goal: "To own and operate my own club."
"I would recommend getting a degree in Professional Tennis Management. The leadership opportunities are endless, and the hands-on approach to learning, combined with a great internship program, give you the tools to make it in this industry. Not to mention you graduate with a bachelor’s in marketing."
Works at: USTA Texas Section
College: Texas A&M
Playing experience: Member of TOC team that won the national championship in 2006.
College playing experience: "I really enjoyed playing. It was a great opportunity to have the program because it meant people could play tennis in college even if they couldn’t or didn’t want to play Division I. This gave us all opportunities for playing and for camaraderie and being part of a team sport."
About the current job: "With the USTA Texas Section, I work as community tennis support staff, as well as with wheelchair tennis, adult recreation and grants. They call me the Swiss Army Knife of the office."
Long-term goal: To stay in the tennis industry. "Playing in college definitely instilled in me the passion for the sport, and it also gave me an opportunity to network. I didn’t realize it six years ago, but looking at things now, I can definitely see that it impacted my decisions. I love this area, I love this job, and I love being able to work with these people."
"Follow your passion. If you love the sport and want a job in it, you have to hang in there. It’s not an easy industry to get into, but people are definitely willing to help you. Meet everyone you can and learn from everyone you meet."
Works at: Jim Reffkin Tennis Center in Tucson, Ariz., as Associate Director of Tennis
College: University of Arizona
College playing experience: Started the Tennis on Campus program at her college and played for two years, and is now advisor for the club. "I wanted to go to the University of Arizona because of their business and Spanish programs, but was not good enough to play on the varsity team and frankly wouldn’t have had the time to do that while maintaining my academic scholarship. I played intramurals at school, but participation decreased each year and it was poorly organized. That was why I started the TOC program at U of A. It’s a three-part program with a beginner QuickStart format, intramural team program, and competitive traveling club team."
About the current job: "At the tennis center I run 100-plus tournaments a year including the Level 1 Junior Winter Nationals and the Tennis on Campus Spring Invitational. I also teach tennis to players ages 4-84. My main focus is in our NJTL Summer Program and our Junior After-School QuickStart format program." (Note: She also currently serves on the USTA Southwest Collegiate Committee, and is vice-chair of the USTA’s National Tennis on Campus Committee.)
"If people want to get a job in the industry, they should hold a leadership position in their TOC program and they should start working part time at a local tennis facility or working as a volunteer or intern for the USTA."
Works at: USTA New England Section, as Community Tennis Development Assistant
College: University of New Hampshire
College playing experience: "Our men’s and women’s varsity tennis program was cut after my freshman year so we applied to become a club sport at UNH. During my sophomore year, we learned that there were other club teams in New England that we could play. We worked to formalize the New England league and get more tournaments and matches going. We had great competition but there was also a feeling of camaraderie with all of the teams because we were all enjoying Tennis on Campus. It’s also so rewarding to know we helped start the club team at UNH that so many players will get to enjoy in the future."
About the current job: "I support our department with Jr. Team Tennis, schools, Recreational Coach Workshops, and growing 10 and Under Tennis. I am also the contact for the New England Tennis on Campus League. Now I get to help expand the league and the teams in New England and I also run the Campus Championship–New England."
Getting the job: "I found the job opening online and realized I knew the Director of Community Tennis (my future boss) from working with her when I was a Tennis on Campus captain. I already had hands-on experience with a program that I would be running as part of the job. Organizing a club team and all of the practices, matches, team events, and fundraisers is a lot of responsibility, so I think that’s impressive on a resume as well."
"Use your connections! I think that was a huge part of why I got an interview for my job. I set up a lot of informational interviews with anyone I knew in my field. Even if they don’t have a job opening, they’ll keep you in mind for the future and might have other connections for you to use."
Works at: Southern California Tennis Association, as Manager of Junior Competition and Player Development
College: University of California–San Diego
College playing experience: "I had just transferred to UCSD after playing at the varsity level at two different schools and thought I was done competing. I heard about TOC when I was playing intramural tennis my junior year at UCSD. My friend was in charge of the intramural tennis program and when our team won the intramural championships, we got an invitation to play at the TOC Sectionals. She was graduating, but encouraged me to start a club team at UCSD. The following year, another friend and I started the club team there. Competing in the nationals was definitely the highlight of TOC."
About the current job: "I run and administer various tournaments and programs throughout the year for junior players. I spend most days in an office, but also get to spend a lot of time outdoors at tournament sites."
Landing the job: "The Tennis on Campus coordinator at the SCTA, Linda Milan, actually e-mailed all the TOC captains about the job opening. I had been searching six months for a job after I graduated college, so it was perfect timing! I majored in economics, so I always thought I’d end up working at a typical 9 to 5 job at a big corporation, but I couldn’t be happier doing what I do."
"Stay involved in the sport and you never know what opportunity might come along! I never thought I’d be doing this, but I’m loving every minute of it."
Works at: USTA Texas Section
College: Texas A&M Club Team (won National Campus Championship title in 2006)
College playing experience: "I had some friends who were on the club team who were very competitive and who really liked playing there, as opposed to a more time-consuming varsity program. I’m still in touch with the people I played there."
About the current job: "I work as the NJTL Schools and Diversity Coordinator. I bring tennis to the P.E. curriculum for the schools, and I also work with trying to get all kinds of diverse people involved in the sport. With both those programs, I have a chance to bring tennis to people who might not normally ever play it. I started this in December and I love tennis and I love kids, and this allows me to do the things I love the most."
Getting the job: "It goes back to a connection I made through Tennis on Campus. Someone I knew in the program was working in this office, and he put in a good word. People who played on the varsity don’t have those contacts like that."
"Tennis on Campus absolutely helped me, but there are also a lot of good websites out there. Do everything you can to make those connections."
See all articles by Mary Helen Sprecher
About the Author
Mary Helen Sprecher is the managing editor of Sports Destinations Management Magazine, a niche business-to-business publication for planners of sports travel events, in addition to being an RSI Contributing Editor. She is the technical writer for the American Sports Builders Association and works as a newspaper reporter in Baltimore City.