There has never been a better time to be in the tennis industry. The work is tough and the hours are long, but guess what, we are involved in a very exciting sport. Tennis has seen a record number in increased sales and participation. The game has been exposed to new neighborhoods, age groups and pop-culture. Health care professionals are jumping on board touting tennis’ health benefits from a social and physical perspective and the professional level has never been higher than it is right now. What’s not to love about this job?
If you’ve been a tennis teaching professional for many years, it’s easy to fall into a passive aggressive loathing spiral towards our sport. Some of the most talented teaching professionals I know can’t stand to even discuss tennis off the clock. Finding that tennis/life balance is crucial. The hours, the stress of physical exertion coupled with what your mind labels as “busy work” is actually just a pile of simple tasks that you don’t have the patience of handling. Ever. The constant demand and perfection of providing the best for your clients is what the service industry is all about. Hey, you picked this career right? Certainly, all jobs have pros and cons, and being a teaching professional is no different. I hear many in my industry that struggle with that question. I thought it would be nice to bring up a few of the glorious things a tennis teaching professional’s job entails and share some perspective with coaches and teachers who are in a rut. And trust me, any veteran professional, in any industry has been there. If you haven’t, then you haven’t been in the workforce long enough or simply are not human.
1. ) Today’s Top Players Provide Inspiration
Never have tennis fans and players been more passionate. Djokovic, Nadal and Federer all have enormous fan bases that remain loyal through thick and thin. The last few seasons we have been blessed to have witnessed the highest quality of tennis performance our sport has ever seen. The epic matches and history making grand slam finals have been nothing short of amazing. Sharing these moments with our students, giving them tips, tricks and commentary along the way that translates to their own games and allowing them to not only learn from the best players, but to participate and grow in an era of tennis where amazing athletes keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible in athletic performance. Who doesn’t want to be associated with a sport like that? It’s the perfect time to get adults and juniors hooked. It’s also the perfect time for a teaching professional to ask themselves if their willing to ignore this surge of energy happening under their nose. You have the student’s attention. That’s half the battle. I got my start in this sport because professional players inspired me. Just imagine the aspiring players and future champions waiting for a lesson at your courts.
2.) Retirement and Health Benefits
All USPTA Certified professionals now have the ability to receive health insurance as well as a retirement plan. A small minority of lucky professionals, through their employers may already have these but the vast majority of teaching pros working in the trenches still do not. Until now. Even the most cynical tennis teaching professionals cannot argue about these perks. This is the first time in our industry’s history that these benefits have been offered. It is a long time overdue and now that we have them, it would be a crime to not take advantage of the opportunity. It’s great to see that as much as we physically and financially give to our jobs, it’s willing to give back.
3.) We Are Idols
Tennis teaching professionals are movers and shakers. We are amazing. We have tremendous influence. Reason #3 makes it sound like I have a God complex. Not the case. It just happens that to our students, both juniors and adults take what we say and do what we say very seriously. They look up to us and trust our advice. Being around tennis long enough and making connections, chances are we’ve been fortunate enough to teach attorneys, doctors, CEO’s, artists, musicians, educators and celebrities. But as talented and powerful as these people are, they would love to do what we can do, hit a fuzzy yellow ball with maximum proficiency and have the breadth and depth of knowledge for the x’s and o’s of tennis tactics. Much like every rock star wants to be an athlete and every athlete wants to be a rock star. Everyone one of our students wants to be us. Even if just for a day. They carve time out of their business and personal schedules to spend time with us, learn from us and try to compete against us on the court. When people of great influence and power come to us for help, we should feel special. Because we are.
4.) The Game is Growing
For tennis players and fans, an infamous moment in our lives happened when the May 9th, 1994 Sports Illustrated Cover Story “Is Tennis Dying”. At that time, it was tough to argue. Times have changed. Much like the 1970’s and 1980’s, when the sport of tennis was driven by major names like Jimmy Conners, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, and Martina Navratilova, history is repeating itself. One of the reasons why view for why tennis industry is cashing in over the past few years is the fact that Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova and Williams sisters bring a style, swagger and diverse and attractive demographic reach to the game while growing the brand. Having consistent stars at the top of the sport is a key driver to the growth of the sport from an overall market perspective. The Tennis Industry Association has a stated goal of 7.5 million frequent players, defined as those who play at least 21 times per year, by 2015 and 10 million by 2020 to an overall tennis playing market to approximately $9.5 billion by that time. This achievable goal should open up the market for equipment manufacturers as well as other periphery service providers like those providing content through social media.
The industry is also providing teaching professionals with the resources and job security of future generations of players. Great news for the future of our sport, The USTA has announced the greatest increase in participation was among youngsters age 6-12, up 13 percent from 2011. The USTA also announced its plans to install at least 5,000 new kid-sized tennis courts throughout the country. Train at least 15,000 new coaches, teachers and volunteers to deliver youth tennis training and programming. Engage at least 300,000 youth in after-school and summer programs through the National Junior Tennis League network, a group that provides free or low-cost tennis, education, and life skills programming to youth. And finally, Donate new tennis equipment to schools and youth facilities committed to providing USTA youth tennis programs. The industry is behind us and growing. Let’s be thankful our student base and our revenue will grow as well.
5.) You Love Tennis
Tennis teaching professionals, no matter how exteriorly hardened they may look after thousands of hours on court and stresses of running a personal service and hospitality oriented business, they got into tennis for one underlying reason. They love it. Not every day is going to be perfect, but it can come pretty close.
Tennis teaching professionals have a passion for the sport and the game we are privileged to share and teach. American writer and lecturer Joseph Campbell’s recommendation to “Follow your bliss” is universally echoed by career counselors. If you are happy at work, in your pro shop, on the court or hosting a club event, you’ll be more motivated, energetic, successful and confident—and the other people in your life, including your students, will benefit from your outlook. if you seem to have lost your passion along the way, please re-read reasons #1 through #4. You fell into a job that inspires, rewards, influences and grows. We should all be grateful for that. Please enjoy your next lesson.
Thanks for reading.
Kyle LaCroix USPTA