Tennis Industry magazine

 

Build Your Junior Tennis Business

By Robert Wynne

Tennis teaching pros face a competitive environment — not just from other pros, but also from soccer, swimming, martial arts, video games, movies and other activities. Two innovative Los Angeles-area tennis pros have discovered a series of drills, thrills and unique skills that keep youngsters active, interested and engaged.

Erik Kortland of the Riviera Country Club in Brentwood teaches mostly in the private sector, while Fabrizio Coviello of Coto de Caza Golf & Racquet Club in Orange County instructs on private and public courts. Both developed winning game plans that could serve as blueprints for other pros wishing to grow their teaching business with long-term clients. These pros stress discipline, structure and focus.

Coviello and Kortland know that lessons begin on the court, but outside communications are key for building clientele. Both augment their lessons with emails, phone calls and text messages filled with diet plans, workout routines, lesson plans, hitting instructions and sometimes, just plain encouragement.

With their success and willingness to innovate, Kortland and Coviello prove that structure and innovation, along with listening to clients and making classes fun, ensure that tennis keeps growing and keeps kids off the couch and on the courts.

More Kids On Court

At the Riviera, Kortland works with students from toddlers up to the college level. The Pee Wee program for kids ages 3 to 6 features the QuickStart Tennis play format (10andundertennis.com) with shorter courts, lower nets, shorter racquets and low compression or foam balls.

“I’ve been successful with building the junior tennis program by first starting with building our Pee Wees program,” Kortland says. “Because the courts are smaller, we are able to fit four smaller courts on one big court. This allows us to get 12 kids on one court. We have a total of 60 Pee Wees in our afterschool program on only five courts, so it opens up other courts for our other programs.”

By starting young, Kortland hopes to build a base of longer term clients. “If these 60 kids are happy, they will continue with us until they grow up and go off to college. That’s around 10 to 12 years of steady clients.”

As the children age, the Riviera Juniors Program graduates them from QuickStart to clinics to private lessons and eventually, tournaments inside the club and around the city, state and for some, the nation. Those with extremely high ability graduate to the “High Performance” program. Many of these youngsters receive scholarships from the Riviera or tennis industry.

Serious students play national or international tournaments or play on tour and train with Kortland every day. Some are home-schooled or done with school and work out two to three times a day, including a morning session, a conditioning session and then match play in the afternoon.

“The High Performance kids serve as leaders and mentors to drive our younger kids to work hard to someday be in that program,” Kortland says. “It also sets the standards for our kids to work up to each level of our programs, and this elite program also drives kids from other clinics to come to ours.” There are a total of 120 youngsters in Kortland’s program at the Riviera.

Kortland, who played major college tennis at Loyola Marymount and competed on the Satellite circuit, serves as a role model for students wishing to perform at the next level.

Creating Fun Classes on Court

Fabrizio Coviello, director of the junior program at Coto de Caza Golf & Racquet Club, also teaches at public courts in West Los Angeles. His best sales method is the class itself. In some ways, his model echoes Chuck Norris, who revolutionized karate classes in the 1970s by teaching in crowded malls with large windows so onlookers could watch. Their curiosity turned into clients, and a revolution was born.

“The focus is to create fun classes with a teaching structure,” Coviello says. “By fun I mean drills, running to the ball, challenging feeds, friendly competitive environment. With structure, a pro has to be obsessed by teaching the best possible form depending on the student athleticism.”

A stickler for appearance and style, Coviello ensures all players and equipment are where they need to be. “Keeping the court clean and organized is another big factor to promote tennis classes,” he says. “Especially in public facilities, people are attracted to watch a tennis class when the court is organized, when the energy is high and positive and when the workout looks fun. That is all up to the pro and his tennis director in order to establish that kind of environment.”

While Chuck Norris sported a bushy moustache, Coviello keeps a lean, clean look for himself and for the courts. The result is a fast-paced class with energy, enthusiasm and (seemingly) effortless learning.

“Most of my clients come from watching my classes and word of mouth,” Coviello says. “These factors made a bigger impact on my clientele than advertising over the internet or sending fliers through the mail. Keeping the energy high, teaching the right form to juniors and adults, and making it fun are the challenges to create a successful tennis class. It’ll create such a good impression that even good players will join the workouts.” Several players from the UCLA men’s team and a few professionals touring in Southern California have dropped by Coviello’s classes in Westwood and other facilities in Los Angeles.

Robert Wynne is a writer, publicist and avid player who lives in Redondo Beach, Calif. He can be reached at rob@wynnepr.com or wynnepr.com.

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