Tennis Industry magazine

 

Wish List for the New Year

We asked last year’s Champions of Tennis winners what they’re looking forward to in the coming year.

Bahram Akradi

Chairman & CEO, Life Time
2014 Person of the Year

My wishes for the future of tennis include putting more of an emphasis and spotlight on high school and college tennis. There seems to be a fairly good level of interest in the sport from children, but then we tend to lose them in high school, so I am completely supportive of USTA President Katrina Adams’ focus on this important area as one of her priorities. The USTA, tennis clubs and facilities, the media and this industry overall needs to collectively work on creating more scholarships and visibility for high school and college tennis. I’d like to see more tournaments for high school players, and publicize, market and televise them. Why not have an annual national high school tennis championship that draws players from every state, then finishes play at the US Open?

From our business point of view as the largest operator of indoor tennis courts in the country, we’re going to continue to build and invest in opportunities to grow this sport. When we buy or build a club with tennis courts, we bring a substantial investment to that location, and we plan on continuing our work in this area — providing venues that we hope will spur the rest of the country to invest in tennis as well.

I love this sport, and of course, while I wish I could play at the professional level, I think realistically, I’ll have to settle for significantly improving my own game in 2016.

Joe Wang

Tennis Director, Army Navy Country Club
2014 Private Facility of the Year

At the top of our wish list are facility additions to accommodate a tennis program that has grown by nearly 50 percent this past year. We experience a pattern of older “empty-nest” members replaced by young families of five that are more likely to be interested in an active sport like tennis. In that regard, we are looking forward to plans to add an additional two indoor courts to our six-court indoor tennis center. We’d also like to continue our efforts to design a facility that maximizes operational and financial efficiency while also keeping focused on “green” initiative opportunities that have led to a LEED certified clubhouse and an LED lighting project at our indoor center. Next year we are hoping to start a project to leverage the large roof surface of the indoor center as a solar energy center for the Club.

Program-wise, we hope to leverage our eight dedicated 36-foot court facility to host more tournaments. And we look forward to ways to grow our charity-based large pro-am events that we host as a vehicle to serve our community while also providing unique tennis opportunities for our membership to experience.

Lastly, as a private club manager, I would love to see continued efforts to aggregate and share data between clubs on a national level. Private clubs often operate in a vacuum. Continued coordination among club managers, organizations like Tennis Industry magazine, the TIA, USTA, USPTA, and PTR provide valuable insight to industry metrics and standards as well as help assure that we are creating a consistent and strong career and training path to attract and keep talented tennis experts to feed the future of this industry.

David Yamane

USRSA Certified Stringer/
Master Racquet Technician
2014 Stringer of the Year

In the past five years I have been stringing professional events, I have seen several changes in touring pros’ stringing habits. As recreational players often follow the lead of touring pros, I am hoping to see two trends that I have observed on tour trickle down to the average player. First, softer string beds. This can be achieved through a combination of lower (especially below-50-pound) reference tensions, softer monofilament strings, and more hybrids (including gut). Second, and related to the first, more dynamic string beds. This can be achieved through more frequent restringing. Although these increase the player’s stringing expenses, both of these changes will reduce injury and improve performance, which should be worth the cost for most.

Steve Wright

Trans Texas Tennis
2014 Builder of the Year

My wish is that player participation will grow on all fronts, that the USTA will continue and hopefully increase its work in helping fund facility improvements in all markets, and that the public institutions (municipalities, school districts, colleges and universities) will continue their efforts to build high-quality, multi-court, tournament-level facilities as they realize that tennis is not only a great sport for life, but is also a money-making sport for their communities and institutions. I also wish for some of the younger U.S. professional players to have “break-out” years to stimulate interest in professional tennis.

Allan Iverson

Babolat
2014 Sales Rep of the Year

I’d like to see innovative tennis products that will make tennis even more fun and socially interactive to play. Products that make tennis easier on the body and help to connect tennis players are essential. It would be great to have footwear that not only are the lightest and most maneuverable shoes, but also have excellent support; new standards for racquets that create more spin with better feel and control; string that is more durable yet easy on the arm. Imagine a device you could wear no matter what racquet you use that could give you immediate feedback on your game and allow you to challenge other players with the results. My hope is that technology can make tennis easier and connect more people through the sport.

Shima & Joe Grover

Richmond, Va.
2014 Tennis Advocates of the Year

For the New Year, we’d like to see the Tennis Channel be as welcome and available to basic cable channel packages for tennis players everywhere as is the Golf Channel for golfers. We also would like to see innovative tennis formats that are easier to learn and less physically demanding promoted everywhere for new and returning senior players, comparable to the ROGY approach for kids.

We need to form more neighborhood tennis support groups to help underfunded public schools and city Park & Rec Departments clean and maintain neighborhood courts while also supervising regularly scheduled play for kids and adults. We’d like to see USTA Adult/Senior League teams adopt elementary, middle and high schools to assist coaches with supplies, training, practices and supervision to build a strong play continuum for kids of all ages. In addition, it would be great if every public tennis facility had a “godparent” that would advocate for it and, if possible, financially support it. And, here in Richmond, we’d like to see the city and Virginia Commonwealth University build a major indoor/outdoor tennis complex to broadly serve public and local university needs while promoting the legacy of Arthur Ashe.

Adam Queen

Your Serve Tennis
2014 Pro/Specialty Retailer of the Year

In 2016 I would love to see brick-and-mortar specialty retailers focus on improving customer service and the shopping experience. As specialty retailers, we are expected to be the experts. Manufacturers make strides in improving the quality and functionality of racquets, shoes and strings and it is our job to educate tennis players on how these new products can help them on the court. Creating a better shopping experience will attract customers to a specialty retailer instead of internet or big-box retailers where service is not individually tailored. By focusing on each customer, we as specialty retailers can help customers find the right equipment for their needs so that they play their best tennis and enjoy this great game even more.

Robert Oberrender

Chairman of the Board,
InnerCity Tennis Foundation
2014 Community Tennis Association of the Year

At InnerCity Tennis, as a not for profit organization, we are hoping to see the continued evolution of our youth development programming, and an expansion and deepening in our relationship in the children and youth we serve. Using tennis as our vehicle to engage with children and youth, we look forward to more youth tennis activity each and every day , more volunteers engaging in helping these youngsters, and engaging in their own tennis activity, and continuing to grow our supportive tennis community, all accelerated by our physical transformation of our tennis facility.

Ellen Miller

Teaching Professional
2014 Grassroots Champion of the Year

My wish for 2016 is plain and simple: Red, Orange, Green for novice players. Read: No more yellow balls for beginner youth players under the age of 10. So for all the ROG hold-outs, please try the low compression balls! Go do a Coach Youth Tennis Workshop, learn some new skills and update your teaching delivery. We have such wonderful training tools in the Red-Orange-Green trilogy and we can get young players rallying so much quicker because of it. While you are at it, use these balls with your adults for fantastic results. We need to grow the game, right? When players are successful and having fun, they stick with it and, voila, the game has grown. Be a part of it!

Simon Gale

Owner/GM, Taconic Sports & Racquet
2014 Youth Tennis Provider of the Year

I would love to see kids playing the game and developing a passion for playing tennis more than taking lessons. So I guess my “wish” is that teaching programs encourage more play opportunities, and get kids playing the game right away. Other youth sports get them playing immediately after just one or two practices. We are still teaching technique for a long time before kids actually “play the game.” When you expose what they have trouble with, they are more inclined to work on it. I believe we can all grow our tennis business by doing so and at the same time get them hooked on staying in tennis!

Steve Simon

COO & Tournament Director,
Indian Wells Tennis Garden
2014 Municipal Facility of the Year

On-court in 2016 I am looking forward to watching Roger and Serena continue their respective journeys to the discussion of the greatest to have ever played the game, continuing to marvel at the athleticism and consistency of Novak, pulling to see Rafa again challenge to be the best and seeing if younger players in the game such as Keys, Muguruza and Sock can take that next step and cement themselves in the Top 10.

From a BNP Paribas Open and Indian Wells Tennis Garden perspective, we are looking to continue our commitment of growth, evolution, and improvement for everything we do. We want our tournament to cater to fans in new and enhanced ways to make sure their experience is unparalleled — no matter whether this is the first time or 10th time attending the event. Our facility showcases the best in the world each March, but we also want to continue our focus on grassroots efforts, and recognize the game grows when seeds are planted with players of all ages. We have big and lofty goals for our tournament and facility, and 2016 will present another year to keep pressing on to reach those aspirations.

Jack Newman

CEO, Austin Tennis Academy
2014 Junior Tennis Champion of the Year

My wish for 2016 is to introduce tennis to the six local elementary schools here through their P.E. classes, touching 3,000 students, and bringing 5 percent of them into our development program. I’d also like to increase the number of students in our program attending Level 1 National tournaments from 15 to 25, and to help our local high school win a state championship in team tennis. I also wish that college tennis would pick a format and stick with it. In the pro game, I’d like to see young U.S. professional tour players make a big breakthrough at the Grand Slams in 2016. As the big four pro players move toward the end of their careers, I’d like to see younger champions step forward to take their places and new rivalries develop at the top of the game.

Marc J. Vecchiolla

Director of Tennis Operations
Mercer County Park Tennis Center
2014 Public Park of the Year

We will continue to grow and introduce a younger generation to a lifetime sport by expanding our 10-and-Under leagues — especially since all of our 28 courts have lines for shorter courts. We will expand the diverse programming we currently offer to all ages and ability levels. 2016 will be a big year for us as a new Hall of Fame class will be inducted. This happens every four years and the five inductees this year established themselves as leaders in the tennis industry and outstanding educators who have advanced the interest in tennis. Their important contributions to tennis are measured through their involvement in the sport.

Laurie Martin

Head Tennis Coach
Xavier College Prep, Phoenix, Ariz.
2014 High School Coach of the Year

As I considered what I’d like to see in the coming year, I found myself reflecting on how many girls we are exposing to tennis in our program at Xavier College Prep. This fall we have 93 girls on the freshman team out of a class of 310 — a 50 percent increase over last year’s freshman team. The reason we are getting so many girls involved is we have blended lines on our courts and use Red, Orange, Green and Yellow balls. Girls are having success playing the game on shorter courts with lower pressure balls — and it keeps them interested in the game.

For 2016, I’d like to see every court across America have blended lines on them. This would allow any player the flexibility to play the game on a court size where they can enjoy it. In addition, I would love to see high schools have the funding to purchase a supply of the ROG balls. Funding in the high schools is always very limited, so most schools only purchase the regular yellow ball, which makes the game challenging for beginners. Lastly, I wish for programing for all ages and levels on 36- and 60-foot courts.

Jeri Ingram

Tennis Director, Washington D.C. Parks & Recreation
2014 Park & Rec Agency of the Year

For next year, I’d like to see a larger number of Park and Recreation organizations carry a full pathway for development and competition for tennis players. I’d also want a larger allocation of Player Development resources to go to NJTL and CTA programs that develop players who are at a place in their development where Player Development becomes necessary for their next level of success. We need a more efficient process for capturing Play Day participants and their demographic details, in addition to a more diverse offering of Play Days as they pertain to participant demographics regarding where they are in the tennis pathway. I’d also like to see an extended portfolio of competitive and non-competitive activities for participants at Play Days.

Paul Walker

Player and Coach
2014 Wheelchair Tennis Champion of the Year

In 2016 I’d love to see the continued growth of our Junior Wheelchair tennis program. 2015 saw them win a world championship at the BNP Paribas World Team Cup. All three members of that team — Chris Herman, Casey Ratzlaff and Connor Stroud — have massive potential in the sport. 2016 is also a Paralympic year, and the best players in the USA will be competing for gold in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I wish all our players luck, and just as much I wish the player who has yet to discover this great sport a speedy path to something that can change his or her life forever!

P.J. Simmons

Founder, The Tennis Congress
2014 Innovative Tennis Event of the Year

This year I was thrilled to see the launch of Play Tennis Fast, an intro-to-tennis teaching framework designed to make tennis more welcoming to adult players using the very techniques that we know work for kids: slower balls and shorter courts. As someone who knows what it feels
like to start tennis later in life, I can attest to the huge need for this program and its enormous potential to attract and create more passionate adult “lifers.”

Play Tennis Fast will make it easier for those without strong athletic backgrounds to take the first step and gain confidence. It will help athletes who played other sports to experience sooner why tennis is so awesome. And for people like me who come into tennis deadly serious about being good players from day one, it will help fast-track progress by introducing sound fundamentals on which sustained progress depends. So one of my big wishes for 2016 is that hundreds of facilities will embrace Play Tennis Fast and creatively experiment with its marketing and implementation. To that end, The Tennis Congress will launch a nationwide competition in January that honors the most innovative Play Tennis Fast program at the 2016 U.S. Tennis Congress.

Nigel Pugh

Director of Tennis, City of Fremont, Calif.
2014 PTR Member of the Year

My wish for 2016 is for continued development in the certification process, enhancing the quality of certified tennis teaching professionals throughout the country. PTR has done an amazing job providing certifications that are tailored to a specific player group, which has provided potential coaches with a solid knowledge that can be immediately utilized.

Rob Scott

Executive Director, USTA Intermountain
2014 USTA Section of the Year

I wish for the tennis manufacturers to become more involved in supporting grassroots programming (10 and Under Tennis, Play Days, locally branded Junior Team Tennis, High School tennis, Millennial programming, such as 2.5 Initiative and Sets in the City, etc.). This is where brand loyalty is formed! Manufacturers are missing out by being so focused on direct ROI. I also hope that the USTA National Leadership will continue to strive for collaboration with the Sections and not dictate policy. We are 17 unique business models. I also wish for the Intermountain Section to continue our efforts to grow the bottom and middle of the junior pyramid (entry- and mid-level players) and not focus so much on the top 1 percent to 5 percent.

 

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