Your Serve: The U30s Are Coming!
A young professional urges her peers to get involved in initiatives to bring younger people into the industry.
By Kalindi Dinoffer
“We’re having a luncheon for some younger people in the tennis industry,” Charlotte Wylie, the executive director at USPTA Texas, casually mentioned to me as we chatted at the Southwest Tennis Buying Show last fall. “Care to join us?”
“Sure,” I replied. Having recently graduated from college, lunch seemed like a good opportunity to meet other young professionals in the tennis industry. I had no idea I was about to become a founding member of USPTA Texas “U30” team.
An hour later, I found myself volunteering to head up the marketing and events committee of the newly launched USPTA Texas U30 team. As I learned, U30s are a team of tennis professionals under 30 years old working to create a network of learning and sharing educational and leadership opportunities for other young professionals. The U30 initiative was started to combat the aging demographic of teaching professionals and help spur innovation and engagement from younger generations.
Now, at any convention, I am part of a group — a connectivity that we millennials crave. Plus, it’s a much-needed opportunity to help attract talented younger people to this industry.
In college, I played on the SMU Tennis on Campus team, and most of my teammates, like me, were in the business school. All of us were passionate about tennis, yet not one of my college classmates expressed any interest in working in the tennis industry after graduation. It wasn’t because they didn’t love tennis, but because the tennis industry, in their eyes, seemed to lack the resources, networking and job opportunities of a career in finance or accounting, particularly if they were drawn to the business side rather than the teaching professional side.
The result of this is that, as we all know, our industry is aging. Today, the average age of a USPTA teaching professional is 48 and trending in the wrong direction; in 2003 the average age was 44 and in 2008 it was 45. So what to do?
Well, that’s where the U30 initiative comes into play. Started in 2012 in Florida by Jason Gilbert, there are now 11 USPTA divisions with U30 teams. The short-term goal is for all 17 USPTA divisions to have U30 teams by 2019. The long-term objective, as I learned through my chat with Jason, is to have U30 not be “USPTA” U30 but simply something without labels that encompasses all of the tennis industry.
I have already had the privilege to catch glimpses of that objective. For instance, this past April I attended the Cardio Tennis Global Trainer Summit, a perfect example of the informal networking and mentoring that can take place in a millennial group. The moment I arrived, I was greeted by a young, energetic group of individuals who immediately made me feel welcome — it was almost like Tennis on Campus all over again! And even though there were formal mentorships established, informal ones came up as well. On the first day some of us newbies were nervous about one of the demonstrations we were to give, when a more experienced millennial trainer offered to show us the ropes.
Did I gain awesome connections and networking from the Cardio Tennis Summit? You bet. Did I gain friends and feel part of a group that happened to be contributing to a common goal? Absolutely. And the latter — at its core — is what U30 is all about.
As a young adult, it can be tough to find that sense of belonging and community, especially when you may have moved for a job or a lot of your friends have moved away. It is only natural that one of the first places you explore is related to your job in your industry. Tennis has finally stepped up to the plate with the U30 Initiative.
At many conventions and events, I am still more often than not the youngest person in the room. But now I’m part of a team of peers, mentors and friends — all working to bring younger professionals into this industry. If you’re a young professional in tennis, get involved in these initiatives — it’s important for the future of this sport.
And, in the words of a 22-year-old, it’s awesome!
Kalindi Dinoffer graduated with honors from Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business and currently is the marketing coordinator for Oncourt Offcourt in Dallas. She is a member of the USPTA and PTR and is also a Cardio Tennis Trainer.
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