Your Serve: Influence Peddlers
This industry needs to embrace an organized, national group of high school tennis coaches.
By Denny Schackter
In my long career in this industry, I had the privilege of coaching high school tennis when I was at the University of Wisconsin. Later, I became the college coach at Wisconsin and in the mid-1970s was part of a team of coaches that helped organize the Wisconsin High School Tennis Coaches Association, which is still going strong.
Then, as the area rep for Wilson, I tried to embrace high school coaches by supporting their activities. I felt then, and still feel, high school tennis coaches are vitally important when it comes to starting students on a solid tennis pathway.
Currently, as a volunteer member of the USTA’s national Tennis on Campus Committee, I see firsthand how our commitment to promoting tennis on college campuses is helping to bring more young professionals into this industry. While TOC students are a great breeding ground for industry leaders, we have an even larger base out there that can help move this industry forward—high school tennis players—and the key to this group is the large number of high school tennis coaches in the U.S.
As an industry, we need to embrace high school coaches better. The USTA realizes the influence high school and middle school coaches have on creating more players, which is why the association has long been pushing school coaches to run no-cut teams.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, in the 2011-2012 school year, there were 11,253 high schools providing tennis as an interscholastic sport, with about 340,600 students participating. I would guess there were probably 11,000 men and women coaching these teams. These coaches can be a great influence in the lives of these young players. But not only that, these coaches can influence this industry in a big way, too, since their players need court time, balls, racquets, strings, shoes, apparel and accessories.
High school tennis coaches are organized in some states, but not all, with annual meetings and clinics for coaches that promote, monitor and improve the high school tennis experience for student-athletes. What we need in this industry is a viable national organization of high school tennis coaches that can be embraced by the Tennis Industry Association—and therefore by this industry as a whole.
Why should high school tennis coaches organize into their own nationwide trade group? Collectively, their influence would be vast—it would permeate virtually every aspect of this business and influence future generations of players. For instance:
Many high school coaches are lifelong mentors to their students and can steer them to give back to the game. They can, and should, be a huge factor in helping bring young people into the tennis industry and building for this sport’s future.
High school coaches are tennis advocates with a common goal, and they span the whole nation.
Their influence covers tennis players in season, in the classroom and out of season. Often, they can influence high school athletes in other sports to play tennis.
High school tennis coaches often are the pulse of tennis in a community. Many are part- or full-time tennis teachers at local facilities. Many are USTA volunteers or league officials. Many simply are the driving force for tennis in a community.
Their experience and leadership with all aspects of tennis, including building and maintaining courts and facilities, influences and drives the tennis infrastructure.
They can influence their players’ equipment purchases, including how often players need to “tune up” or restring their racquets.
Yes, both the PTR and USPTA have certification programs for high school coaches, as does the USTA. But coaches themselves need to take the bull by the horns and realize the positive influence they can have collectively. And the TIA needs to get involved—realizing how important this group is to the future of the sport.
We’re all concerned about the aging of tennis teachers in this country—but think about the fresh, young teaching talent we could have if we had a mechanism, through a high school coaches association, to influence passionate high school players to join the ranks of our professional tennis teaching groups.
If tennis is going to grow—and grow with a solid “tennis teacher” foundation—all facets of the “influencers” should be involved in the overall trade group that governs the business of tennis.
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 website www.tennispriorities.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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