GSS Symposium Celebrates 6th Year
The GSS Symposium debuted in 2007, aimed at those who work in the racquet service side of the business. The event was created by USRSA member and Master Racquet Technician Tim Strawn, who asked himself a simple question: Why aren’t racquet technicians gathering under one roof once a year to train, network and share ideas?
Strawn contacted fellow racquet technicians and potential sponsors and asked them the same question, and they were interested. “There’s really no other event like this that I know of for stringers,” says Ron Rocchi, global tour equipment manager for Wilson. “There seems to be a gap to connect with other stringers in a group setting. You can get information online, but where can you physically go to interact, share ideas, and meet new people with like interests? To me, this is the only event geared toward that.”
The symposium started in Texas, moved to Orlando in 2008, then to Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa in 2011. “Saddlebrook was a huge success for us. We’re tennis people and the group really needed to get in some serious tennis time,” Strawn says. “Saddlebrook was a perfect fit, with over 40 courts including all four Grand Slam surfaces.”
What happens at a GSS Symposium? For starters, it gets participants involved in physically doing what they’ve just learned. “Everyone who comes away from it is impressed with the amount of information,” Rocchi says. “It’s very hands-on and there’s a lot of interaction between the seminar leaders and participants.”
Strawn believes it’s the hands-on aspect that keeps people coming back. “After I talked to Tim I decided to go to my first GSS Symposium,” says Larry Hackney, a racquet technician from TennezSport in Union City, N.J., “There’s just no comparison when it comes to having the opportunity to work with world-class technicians in a one-on-one environment. I have attended every year since.”
The event is also a networking opportunity. “We’ve had technicians attend from Brazil, South Korea, Canada and Puerto Rico,” says Strawn.
“For stringers who may be a bit isolated and want some help, and even stringers in the mainstream who want to share ideas, you can go to this event and get it all,” Rocchi says. “The symposium provides learning opportunities for beginners all the way up to pro tournament stringers.”
Seminars cover the craft of racquet service and also focus on aspects of the retail side of the business, including marketing, customer service, and even taking a home-based business and converting it to a brick-and-mortar shop. There are also classes on stringing natural gut, the aesthetics of stringing, machine repair and maintenance, and using social media to promote business. USRSA certification testing is offered at the end of the training, complemented by a three-hour review of the test material prior to the exam.
For those interested in becoming a tour-level racquet technician, you can test your skills in the Wilson tour simulation stringing room. Rocchi leads the Wilson stringing team that services players at the US Open and Australian Open. At the 2012 event he’ll present a seminar that will let the participants see if they have what it takes to be a member of a world-class professional stringing team.
Rocchi and Wilson have been on board with the GSS Symposium since the beginning. “For me it’s extremely gratifying when I can be a part of this event and work with stringers of all ability levels and share some things,” he says. “Stringers who participate go back home and they use what they learn at the symposium. Then when you see them the next year they make comments like, ‘I’ve been using that technique ever since you showed it to me last year and it’s really helped.’ It’s a very tangible way to know that you’ve helped someone become a better stringer.” Other corporate sponsors have included Alpha Racquet Sports, Babolat, the USRSA, Gamma, Prince, and Head.
For the 6th Annual GSS Symposium at Saddlebrook, Sept. 22-26, new classes and new seminar leaders have been added. For information, visit grandslamstringers.com or contact Strawn at 540-632-1148 or firstname.lastname@example.org.