Person of the Year: Mike Woody
If you were to pick a pied-piper for tennis, it’s a good bet Mike Woody would be at the top of the list.
For decades, Woody brought the sport in all its forms to Midland, Mich., where he directed tennis at the renowned Greater Midland Tennis Center (GMTC). But his influence — and his infectious enthusiasm — has helped grow the sport well beyond the Midland community.
This past July, after 22 years in Midland, Woody left for Wichita, Kan., where he is now the national tennis director for Genesis Health Clubs. But one thing he clearly didn’t leave behind is his passion for the sport, and for getting more people playing it.
“Tennis changes peoples lives in a lot of different ways,” he says. “You hear people talk about the sport from many angles — its health and fitness, how social it is, how competitive it can be, how much fun it is. Whatever the angle they find appealing, that’s what gets me pumped and going.”
Woody, who is certified by both the USPTA and PTR, has been on the front lines of growing this sport for a long time. He’s been a USTA National Trainer for 10 and Under Tennis, a Cardio Tennis National Trainer, a High School Development Trainer for the PTR, attended over 1,000 hours of industry workshops and trainings, led tennis workshops around the U.S. and internationally, been named the USPTA National Facility Manager of the Year and USPTA Midwest Pro of the Year, and much more.
It’s fair to say that over the last two decades, Woody has been an important force in many of the key initiatives that have helped to move this sport forward from the grassroots to the highest levels. For his dedication, passion and effectiveness in growing this sport at many levels, Tennis Industry magazine is thrilled to name Mike Woody our 2015 Person of the Year.
Woody’s passion in helping this game grow seems to come naturally to him. One of the high points in his career was when, in 2008, Midland was named the inaugural winner of the USTA’s “Best Tennis Town in the U.S.” contest. “We achieved excellence on so many different levels,” Woody says, “from 10-and-Under Tennis right through to the pros.” The Greater Midland Tennis Center is the longtime home to the Dow Corning Tennis Classic USTA Pro Circuit event.
“Mike’s infectious passion for tennis was the catalyst,” says Chris Tointon, president and CEO of GMTC. “Even if you never played tennis before, Mike makes you believe that it is the best thing in the world. You want to be a part of it.”
“What makes Mike so special is that he has a pure joy for the sport itself,” notes TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer. “He has always been a true supporter of this industry — strongly involved in the TIA and all industry initiatives, and is amazingly service-minded and collaborative.”
“Mike was an early member of the Cardio Tennis Speakers Team and played a big role in educating teaching professionals and growing the program,” says Michele Krause, the Cardio Tennis Global Education Director. “Not only that, but he was a personal testament to the benefits of Cardio Tennis in reaching health and fitness goals.”
“I think being involved in the tennis industry has helped me be successful,” Woody says. “I use all the tools that were presented to me through the industry — off the shelf, modified, or tweaked, I never stopped using them.”
Now, Woody will have a chance to use the industry’s tools at Genesis, which has 22 health and fitness clubs, seven of which currently have tennis, with approximately 30 pros and 50 tennis courts. “I want to make tennis at Genesis a model in the industry,” he says. “When I look at the landscape of tennis, and the amount of opportunity we have in this industry, that gets me excited. All it takes is a good vision and a bunch of hard-working people.” — Peter Francesconi
Tips for Success
- Keep the “laser focus” in check. “Our tipping point will be because we hit it from four or five different positions, not just one,” says Woody.
- People are looking to go on a health-fitness-wellness adventure, and tennis can do that. They need to see the game for its healthy benefits.
- To grow the sport, we need to increase support for Cardio Tennis, Youth Tennis and the senior market.
- People don’t care if they play with Red, Orange or Green balls. What they care about is getting a good workout.
- Tennis is a great way to keep people connected, and it’s a great way to keep people engaged in a healthy life choice.
See all articles by Peter Francesconi
About the Author
Peter Francesconi is editorial director of Tennis Industry magazine.
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