Executive Points: Dave Haggerty, USTA
When did you first start playing tennis? I started playing at age 6 and became a nationally ranked junior. I received a tennis scholarship to George Washington University [earning a bachelor’s in business administration] and played No. 1 singles on varsity, and was captain for three of my four years. I’m still a frequent player.
You come to the volunteer job of USTA president with extensive experience in both the business side and volunteer side of tennis. I started at Prince in 1980, eventually becoming general manager before leaving after 14 years to join Dunlop as president of Racquet Sports. I joined Head in 1998, serving as president of Head/Penn Racquet Sports and Penn Worldwide, then became chairman and CEO of Head’s U.S. businesses. As a volunteer, in addition to many local activities, I was on the board of the USTA Middle States Section for six years and served as president of the TIA from 2007 to 2009. Nationally, I was a USTA committee chairman (2005-6), USTA director at large (2007-’08), vice president (2009-’10) and first vice president (2011-12).
What is your approach to your role as USTA president? I’m approaching the job in a similar style to how I’ve run businesses. I would call myself a “structure and process guy.” Much of my time in the tennis business was spent building, introducing, or reorganizing structure, and I’ve found that having processes and a well-defined structure helps to create a foundation for vision and strategy.
Do you feel the USTA’s vision is clear? Certainly, our mission is clear — to promote and develop the growth of tennis. My role is to lead the association in pursuit of that mission and to help focus our vision.
How will the industry realize that vision? I believe by focusing on three overall imperatives: leadership, management and partnership. There are, of course, priorities under those imperatives. The two priorities under leadership are to listen and communicate effectively, and to embrace and lead change. Under management, we have three priorities: to grow tennis participation, improve financial performance, and focus on fewer things but do them well.
How does listening and communicating translate into building and enhancing the USTA’s relationships? I think oftentimes, the USTA is thought of as the 800-pound gorilla, and unfortunately, people tend to think the worst of our intentions rather than give us the benefit of the doubt. I realize we’ve earned some of that, but I don’t see it as something we can’t overcome. If we clearly state our intentions and demonstrate consistency, that will go a long way toward enhancing our relationships. We’re not always going to agree, but people need to know if they have a passion for tennis, they’ve got a partner in the USTA.
From my days in tennis manufacturing, I’ve learned that when you have customers, you don’t just visit the ones who tell you how great you are. You also visit the customer who says you’re an idiot. We need to get out there and hear those opposing views. It will only make us stronger.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the USTA? One of the most important things is our strategic vision for the US Open, especially given that the Open is our primary source of revenue. But at the same time, we have to be smart in our decision-making. Another challenge is player development. The U.S. is fortunate to have a lot of great entrepreneurial coaches and great academies. We have to be open and inviting to them and not feel that the USTA is solely responsible for the development of American players. I think if we had more dialogue, we’d solve a lot of misunderstandings.
What are some of the USTA’s strengths? There’s an awful lot we do well. We’ve shown good leadership at every level. Many of our ideas, innovations and programs help get people in the game. Without a doubt, the USTA’s greatest strength is its people. No other association in sports is as community-based as we are. We could never accomplish all that we have if it weren’t for our volunteers.
Will 10 and Under Tennis continue to be a point of emphasis? Absolutely. A few years ago, when we looked at how we introduced tennis to young players, we realized it was a wonder that we had any at all. It’s not about producing the next American champion as much as it is about getting more kids playing tennis, and allowing them to have fun and be active.
When your two-year term ends in 2015, what will spell success? In a lot of ways I’d say making the 800-pound gorilla into a 400-pound gorilla. I want the USTA to be approachable, respected, and looked at by all as a partner in progress. When we accomplish that and have our culture become more open, transparent and inviting, that will lead to greater growth in the sport. That will spell success to me.
David A. Haggerty
Chairman of the Board, CEO, President
U.S. Tennis Association
Resides: Pennington, N.J.
Honors: Inducted into Athletic Halls of Fame at Pennsbury H.S., George
Washington Univ., USTA Middle States, Mercer County (N.J.) Tennis. RSI’s 2008 Person of the Year.