It happens every year. The summer comes to an end, and so does the job of the Director of Tennis. Data seems to suggest that there is a higher turnover among tennis Directors than Fitness directors. And by turnover, we mean termination – not moving on to a better job. What are the reasons behind such a large number of terminations? Our experience at Beyond The Baselines can help decipher the reasoning. Below, we list in order, the reasons we have found in our work with clubs and facilities for termination in our work across the nation.
5. Change of Board Members
It’s a regular occurrence. Most country clubs have a revolving door when it comes to appointing board or committee members that oversee the Director of Tennis. Terms on the board or committee usually range from 2 to 4 years. A board or committee that hired one professional disappears and the make-up of the committee changes significantly in the first two to three years of the new hire taking place.
Boards tend to have factions. An outspoken or opinionated board member lures other members to his or her viewpoint over a couple of meetings or a year. And there you go. The one board member that didn’t like the new hire from the outset (in many cases the applicant they had supported for the hire was not chosen) has two or three members now in support.
It’s crucial that boards or committees have a remit that helps continuity. Numerous yearly nominations often hurt continuity and create an unstable work environment for all employees. Boards or committees that have terms too long can stalemate a club or facility. In our experience, a governing body that sees no more than 20% of its members drop off each year is about right. That would mean, a committee of 12 would see 2 positions rotate each year. We will write more about board and committee representation in our next issue, but it is a top reason why Directors of Tennis are terminated.
4. Financial – Can our Director really make that much?
How many times have you heard these two questions: “How much does the tennis pro make?” or “Since we can’t see how much the pro makes and she doesn’t share that info, she must be taking us to the cleaners.” These questions often come from a club treasurer or non-active member who sees the yearly budget and wolf whistles when he or she sees the cost of the tennis operation. The thought process is: “How can someone who just hits fuzzy yellow balls make so much money?”
There are so many sides to this issue. If the professional is an employee, then it’s clear to the board how much “take-home” pay the professional is in fact taking home. However, if the professional is an independent contractor there are two different avenues which bring angst to members and boards. If the independent contractor is doing all the billing directly, the membership really has no idea how much the professional is making. If the facility is billing the members and acting as an agent for the professional, often the facility just sees the revenues and not the costs associated with such revenues, such as assistant pros stipends and percentage of lessos, balls, supplies, travel and abode, insurances and liabilities.
As a Director stays at a position and does a good job and participation grows, so do revenues. As the years progress, the professional has to add to the program to ensure that the revenues match the additional programming and members can see improvements. But sometimes, adding programming can be injurious to a career. Transparency across revenues as well as costs with the club or facility helps to alleviate any issues down the road.
3. Creature Comforts – Getting Too Close To The Membership
This is a very common reason and we see it at various levels in the tennis and fitness industries. Examples abound, but here are a few.
Your Director of Tennis has golf privileges after 3pm on weekdays. Far too often, these privileges are exploited and he is playing golf with members two days a week or more. We have seen situations where the Director of Fitness keeps an hour open on her book for a particular member every day of the week and often it goes unfilled. We call this the “regular” factor which other members despise. Finally, there is the far-too-often misdeed of ruining a member’s connubial bliss, sometimes through deed, but much more prevalent, simply through rumor or assumption.
All of these can be almost always avoided. Professionalism at the highest standard is expected of a Director and that should never wary based on dealings with particular members or groups of members.
2. Misunderstanging 1099 Contracted Labor
We have found, over the years, that Club Governoers, HOA boards, tennis committees, and more often than not, fellow Directors of Tennis, misunderstand independent contractor status. The rules governing a 1099 worker versus an employee are truly staggering and are not always revered as closely or legally as they should be.
Independent contractors set their own schedules. This one fact creates friction with both governing bodies and fellow Directors. A recent court case at one of the exclusive HOA’s on the exclusive island of Palm Beach, saw a long-term Director of Tennis being sued and forced to resign over work habits of an independent contractor. Contractors often cross-over between their work outside the club, and there can be cases of restraint of trade along with simple misunderstandings of how an independent contractor can instruct within a club or facility environment.
Communications with your independent contractors is a necessity. Poor communications will lead to disagreements between the Director and the Club and the instructor. The contractor will go find work elswhere. The Director will be the scape goat as the governing boards have to be seen as addressing the situation.
And, Number 1…
Ladies Teams and Tournament Management
At a recent USPTA conference, fomer WTA player and now USPTA Officer Trish Faulkner, mentioned a staggering figure: Almost 7 out of 10 Director of Tennis are terminated in large part due to mishandling ladies teams. We would add to this tournament management and, with that addition, it’s by far the most common reason for termination of a Director.
In discussing this with professionals ranging from elite country clubs to racquet clubs in the Northeast which host USTA indoor women’s teams, it appears that a Director’s success must start from the outset. A planned, written team manifest seems to deter issues across ladies teams. This document must address pairings, captaincy, rankings and placements from the beginning of a season, if not from when the Director takes the helm at the club or facility on day one. Ladies Teams are a business and the Director must remember this throughout his tenure.
One of our esteemed colleagues put it best very bluntly: “The last thing you want to do as a Director is put yourself directly in opposition to a team member on a woman’s team or a member who feels they should have the easier road to the final in the club champs.” There are several ways to avoid these two dangerous, and almost fatal, scenarios. At clubs that are member-owned, it really is essential that the Director of Tennis cede the desire to make team decisions to a member-accepted captain. Create a tournament committee for each draw requiring seedings and placements. In this way, the Director can offer advice, help and support – rather than making poor, ill-advised decisions that will be held against him for the rest of his tenure.
Ed Shanaphy, USPTA, is former Managing Director of Haysbridge (UK) Ltd, a global advertising and marketing firm with offices in London, Dublin and Sydney. He is presently President of Beyondthebaselines.com and a Director of Tennis.
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