by Ed Shanaphy, USPTA
Not more than a few years ago, the department head at a country club was the Head Tennis Professional. Terminology gives us a hint as to what has happened in the country club industry over the past two to three decades.
The Head Tennis Professional is a position, as guessed by its title, usually focused on teaching and on-court instruction. In the past, this position was the Department Head at the club management level. In today’s modern country club employment tree, Head Tennis Professionals exist usually in a role just under the Department Head.
These days, most clubs now have an extra layer of management within the tennis department. A Director of Tennis now serves as the Department Head. With the cost of club membership rising and the actual number of country club memberships having declined slightly over the past two decades except for the past year and a half during COVID, the need to service memberships with a concierge level of service is more and more expected in line with higher membership costs Many clubs, which offer the growing sports of paddle tennis and pickleball along with the traditional racquet sport of squash, may indeed have a Director of Racquets above the Directors of Tennis, Squash and Paddle.
The Director of Tennis is a largely undefined role as we move into the next quarter of a century. What we are seeing as the industry changes is that the Director picks up the pieces across the department and enhances member service and departmental responsiveness. Whereas the Head Tennis Pro was in reality just a glorified head instructor, the Director wears several different hats, all of which require training and competence in not only tennis, but tennis and social programming, marketing via email, email, texting and website, along with knowledge in insurance liability and payroll processing, budgeting and employment law.
Perhaps the most notable statistic in any Director’s job description is that almost 100 percent of the job descriptions for Directors limit the amount of time the Director should spend on court teaching. This limitation in effect leaves time for the Director to be the “in-house” concierge, administrator and cross-marketer that is necessitated at more and more clubs, no matter their size or location. The focus in hiring a good Director of Tennis should not only be on his or her tennis playing and teaching skills, but also those skills the candidate possesses in relation to running a business. As we look to have club departments run at a revenue neutral position, the racquets department in any club is now seen more and more as a separate business within the club as a whole, with cross marketing between the various businesses (food and beverage, golf, and spa) as an integral ingredient to a successful club operation.
Ed Shanaphy is President Of BeyondTheBaselines.com and is Director of Tennis at Sippican Tennis Club in Marion, MA, one of the leading tennis clubs and programs in New England.