Professional Development: Class Acts
The new ‘USTA University’ is leading the way in creating new Professional Tennis Management programs throughout the U.S.
By Cindy Cantrell and Peter Francesconi
Professional development in the tennis industry — and the next generation of tennis providers — just got a huge boost through a new initiative called “USTA University.”
USTA University (USTAU) will benefit providers, including tennis professionals, coaches and administrators, by offering curricula in tennis, management, hospitality and sport science, through both online and in-classroom instruction as well as apprenticeships and experiential learning opportunities. While the new USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., will be utilized for USTAU, the initiative involves partnering with universities and colleges around the country for Professional Tennis Management degree programs.
“We’re dedicated to delivering education, resources and training to providers to help them with their businesses,” says Scott Schultz, a longtime industry and USTA executive who has been named to lead and oversee USTAU. “By providing education for students pursuing a career in the tennis industry, USTAU will ensure the development of the next generation of tennis industry leaders in the sport.”
Schultz has a solid history in this area of the industry. Prior to joining the USTA in 2003, where he has managed several departments and initiatives including Coaching Education and Community Development, Schultz founded the PTM program at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich. The Ferris program was the nation’s first bachelor degree program in tennis that achieved a 100 percent participant placement record upon graduation. Schultz served as the program’s director from 1987 to 1998. He earned tenure and the rank of full professor in 1999 for PTM in Ferris State University’s College of Business.
“Scott’s unique background in college education and tennis will provide invaluable experience to lead our efforts in this new division,” says Gordon Smith, USTA Executive Director and COO. “USTA University will serve as a platform for aspiring students and professionals to pursue careers in the tennis industry, while strengthening how we deliver the sport as a whole.”
PTM Around the U.S.
In addition to partnering with Ferris State, the USTA has also partnered with the existing PTM program at Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C. In 2016, the USTA will expand its efforts to new programs that will include the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Berry College in Mount Berry, Ga., and Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.
“We’ll have five programs in 2016 ready for students, and a couple of years after that, we hope to expand to another five or more,” Schultz says. “We want this to appeal to people who want to pursue their love of tennis as a career.”
The USTA’s core tennis curriculum, designed to provide resources and skills to bring success on and off the tennis court, is being developed with subject matter experts in education and tennis, including working in collaboration with the PTR, USPTA and USTA Player Development. Schultz says that to further enhance professional development for current tennis pros and coaches, USTAU will provide continuing education through a digital resource center that will house the latest educational and coaching resources. Additionally, USTAU will organize workshops and conferences to bring providers together for interactive on-court sessions and presentations.
Through USTAU, the core curriculum will include all types of courses necessary to become a tennis pro and run a facility, including such subjects as tennis teaching techniques, programming, racquet stringing and customizing, marketing, administration, etc. “We’ll make these available to the PTM programs to deliver to their students,” Schultz says, adding that he’s estimating there also will be about 1,200 hours of internships or practical experience to go along with the USTA core curriculum. In addition to internships available at facilities across the country, the USTA National Campus will be utilized for students to gain experience in all aspects of the tennis industry.
University Interest in PTM
Schultz says the USTA’s support of PTM programs has generated a lot of interest from educational institutions of all sizes, from Big 10 and Pac 10 universities to small colleges. “There’s a huge demand for PTM interns and graduates, which makes it pretty attractive for a school to work with the USTA to deliver these PTM programs,” he notes.
Today, the Ferris State program is under the direction of Derek Ameel, who himself graduated from Ferris’s PTM program in 1994 and joined the faculty in 2009. Graduates of the four-year program earn a Bachelor of Science in business with a concentration in marketing or resort management, along with their USPTA and PTR tennis professional certifications. As a result, many transition into roles of teaching pros, tennis directors, club and resort managers, camp directors, pro shop managers, manufacturer sales representatives and tennis industry administrators.
While the hands-on management experience and training in business best practices are advantageous in all industries, a career specifically in tennis “means you go to work in a business that is people-centered, passion-driven, and service-oriented in a sport you love,” says Ameel.
One of the challenges Ameel has, however, is getting the word out about a career in the tennis industry. “If you talk to the majority of high school students, they have no idea you can get a degree in tennis and don’t think they’re good enough anyway,” Ameel says. “That’s a huge problem, especially because it’s usually not the best player who makes the best teacher. It’s the player with the most passion who has struggled with their own game, and has patience and empathy for their students.”
But the attention drawn to PTM programs through USTAU may help to overcome this challenge. “I welcome the idea of more PTM programs because there is such a need for young, energetic pros to come into the industry,” says Kaitlin Flaherty, the PTM assistant director at Methodist University. “That kind of attention will be beneficial for PTM, the industry, and growing tennis in general.”
Among the new PTM venues, Grand Canyon University is now the first NCAA Division 1 school to have a PTM program. The 120-credit program will be incorporated with the school’s growing sports business program, as well as its hospitality program. “If you love business, love tennis and want to be in the industry, this is the program for you,” says Dr. Randy Gibb, dean of the GCU Colangelo College of Business. “You can work on the operations side or on the hospitality side. Either way, graduates will have a solid business foundation.”
Another new program is at the University of Central Florida, located in Orlando about 30 minutes from the USTA National Campus. The PTM program is part of the Rosen College of Hospitality Management.
“We’re very excited with the partnership with the USTA,” says Dr. Jill Fjelstul, UCF’s director of hospitality in sports. “Our focus will be on the hospitality side of the tennis industry, with our key focus areas on leadership and management. I think our curriculum and what the USTA is all about will be tremendous for the students.”
See all articles by Cynthia Cantrell
About the Author
Cynthia Cantrell is a contributing editor of Tennis Industry magazine.
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