Your Serve: Passion Play
One of this industry’s most influential leaders continues to push this sport forward.
By Jim Baugh
Editor’s note: On Aug. 24, industry pioneer Jim Baugh became the ninth inductee into the Tennis Industry Hall of Fame. Never short on opinions and passion, the industry consultant and founder of PHIT America brought his message to a standing-room-only audience in New York, who hung on his every word. Here’s what Baugh had to say during his acceptance speech.
This has been the ultimate homecoming for me — seeing friends, family, colleagues, competitors. But I want to tell you that my years are not done!
I’ve been blessed by being in the right place at the right time, and with some great people. With so much focus on “big corporate decisions” and short-term thinking, I really believe the old phrase “people make the world go ‘round” still is strong today — especially in our industry. None of my accomplishments would be possible without the great help I received from many others.
Where do I start? Marty Devlin, well-know senior player, got me my first job working as a PE teacher. Then when I got to Prince, I eventually hired Marty. When I was at Converse, I started as a rep together with J. Wayne Richmond, working the US Open together.
I need to thank all the people at Prince, too — Jack Murray, Bob McClintoch, Tori Baxter, Bill Shelton, and Howard Head. I was hired as Manager of Dealer Relations, and it was a great job — it was where I first started to appreciate the great and valuable role of pro and specialty retailers. And I can’t forget Dave Haggerty — I hired him at Prince when he was just a “green” teaching pro. Look at him now!
Jack Murray went to Wilson and asked me to come out to Chicago, and wow, what a change, from a small entrepreneurial company to big Wilson. But Wilson had issues — only 14 percent market share. But working with people, we turned it around — up to 54 percent market share, something that may never be repeated.
How did we do it? We had great reps and territory managers. It was more than just “sales.” We rebuilt relationships with people. We had great managers — John Embree, Wally Craig, Russ Shafer, Charlie Osborn, Bob Shafer, Michael Wallace, Rick Kerpsack, Jeff Harmet, Jeff Karp, and Mike Dowse (who is running Wilson today) — these people did it!
And we had great R&D guys at Wilson: PoJen Cheng, Frank Garrett, Bill Severa. Just the best — they brought us the weapons we needed to win, such as the Profile, from Siegfried Kuebler, and the Hammer and Sledgehammer, with Jack Frolow.
Plus, we had excellent relationships with teaching professionals in the trenches. Peter Burwash and Vic Braden of course were the big names, but it was all the individual USPTA and PTR pros who put Wilson racquets in people’s hands. Without them, I would not be here.
And the retailers too, especially the smaller guys: Bill Hodges, Cliff Price, David Schwartz. Sure, there were some retailers who complained often, but I learned so much from them. I would spend hours with Bill Hodges — long days just picking his brain about tennis retailing and how to help make it better for both of us. But these retailers were the absolute best at putting racquets in people’s hands and educating consumers. I can’t thank them enough.
We had great friends in the media, too, who helped to not only put Wilson in the news, but promoted tennis. People like Jeff Williams, Jim Martz, Bill Simons, and let’s not forget Gene Scott — it’s not just their jobs, they love this sport, too.
One of the most rewarding times for me was when we started the Grow the Game initiatives. Think of it — competitors like Doug Fonte, Matt Dingman, Dave Haggerty and many more — all coming together to grow the game for the good of all of us. And we were bold about it — we all contributed a percentage of our sales to the TIA to grow this sport. …People worked together! The TIA board members were such a key to making all this happen.
And then there were Alan Schwartz and Kurt Kamperman. Twelve years ago we sat at dinner together and decided we needed to change things. Kurt and I got on the USTA Board of Directors. Under Alan’s leadership as USTA President, the USTA created its current mission statement: “To promote and develop the growth of tennis.” We all worked together. And we grew this sport by 36 percent over six years. People did that; not brands.
I’ve been lucky to have surrounded myself with great women, too. Michele Krause, who we hired 10 years ago for Cardio Tennis, continues to push this important program with such passion, commitment and professionalism. Jolyn de Boer, the TIA executive director, who is pure tennis all the way — always creating and developing more opportunities for this sport and for players and using TIA resources in incredibly effective ways. And of course, Cristy, the No. 1 lady in my life for the last 13 years. She puts up with a lot, but her support, counsel and guidance for me and what I’ve done never wavers. I couldn’t have done half these things without her by my side.
It’s one thing to be in the right place at the right time, but how do you take advantage of these opportunities?
Surround yourself with great people.
Find what brings out your passion. If not, then get out. In my career, I left two jobs when I lost my passion.
Work like crazy. It’s not easy — a lot of times I’m up at 4 a.m. to answer emails and jump into the day.
Return every email and every phone call. We’ve gotten into some bad habits over the last 10 years in this industry. We need to respect each other. Answer every call…every email.
When you see an opportunity arise, jump at it. And don’t be afraid of taking a risk.
Learn from overcoming adversity.
Look at the bigger picture and get involved outside of your core responsibilities.
In tennis, let’s face it, the USTA is bound by its bylaws and won’t change — or at least can’t change quickly. But you can affect what the USTA is doing. We need to maintain at least two industry people on the USTA board of directors at all times. And we in this industry need to make sure we’re represented at the section and district levels, too.
Another piece of advice: Don’t be fooled by all the great attention the sport gets during the US Open. The Open is about fandom. We need to grow tennis participation in communities. When we do that, we’ll also be growing tennis fandom, too.
I have a request: Give back to this industry. It was great to me, and it probably has been great to you, too. It would be great to get back to the days where companies were contributing a percentage of profits to grow tennis. Also, we can’t wait for the USTA — the Tennis Industry Association needs to lead this growth.
Today, I do a lot of consulting with other sports, and I can tell you that tennis is truly a “model” in the sports industry. America is changing, and we need to keep making changes to tennis too — Youth Tennis, adult beginner programs, alternative forms of tennis, Cardio Tennis — we all need to embrace change that will help to grow this sport.
My final point. Remember who we really work for. It’s all about T-E-N-N-I-S. No matter where I’ve worked in my career, tennis has always been the greatest brand! Lets respect it and give back to it. Thank you.
See all articles by Jim Baugh
About the Author
Jim Baugh is the president of the Tennis Industry Association and a member of the USTA board of directors.
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