Tennis Industry magazine


Your Serve: Mentoring for Tennis Professionals — Where Is It?

A longtime industry pro says everyone wins with a structured mentoring program.

By Denny Schackter

I became a USPTA Professional in 1973. At the time I took my test, I was introduced to several pros who preceded me as certified professionals, and I had the opportunity to confide with them time and again to help me make sound decisions and achieve a good work ethic. But somewhere along the way, this mentoring program ended.

I went on to become a Big 10 tennis coach at Wisconsin at age 24, but I sure could have used their guidance. I was fortunate, however, that fellow college coaches were there for discussion on common problems. But when I needed to know about technical teaching points, I did not have that mentor from earlier days.

In the last 20 years, one of my mentors was Dave Saxe of Mukwonago, Wis. Dave sadly passed away in November 2011. Through informal calls a few times a week, we counseled each other, listened to each other’s problems, talked about the industry and formed a bond I miss very much. I know Dave was an unassigned mentor to many.

Currently, neither the USPTA nor PTR has a structured mentoring program. One group in tennis that does, though, is the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. The ITA’s executive director, David Benjamin, says experienced college coaches participate in a monthly call-in panel that covers a variety of subjects for younger head coaches and assistants.

What exactly is a “mentor”? Simply, it means “a trusted advisor.” There is no question that most experienced pros will help a younger pro if asked. However, there is no disciplined setup that says, “We have to have a scheduled call and/or meeting on a specific day.” I feel that is needed, and I would guess many tennis organizations would like to do this, too, but have issues with time, money, and lack of focus.

However, if a mentoring program has legitimacy and metrics, the time and money will be earned back many times over. Here are a few reasons why this country’s teaching pro organizations need to develop a structured mentoring program:

In the tennis-teaching world, I can see a younger pro’s confidence, abilities and maturity rapidly improving with the right guidance. I hope both teaching pro organizations come to the realization that both the mentor and associate would benefit a great deal.

Denny Schackter resides in Palatine, IL, where he is the owner of Tennis Priorities, a firm whose focus is recruiting young people into tennis teaching. Check out his or email him at



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