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Chris Gale, Director of Tennis at River Oaks Country Club, joins the BeyondTheBaselines.com and our “From The Desk of The Director” Podcast Series
From his Australian birth, to the roots he set in New York, through to his work at some of the most elite New England Clubs, Chris Gale now finds himself at the esteemed River Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas. Chris discusses how his personal growth and business experience in the industry allowed him to follow his path to a club with 4,500 members and 15 teaching professionals.
River Oaks, with a net asset value of close to $50 million and an annual turnover hovering at $35 million, is a behemoth among clubs. Chris manages the 16-court facility, which sees all courts booked at the ungodly hour of 6am almost every morning. He shares with us a few insights just as to how he built a well-oiled machine through staffing, member communication, and simply, energy.
Although Chris loves to be on the court, he realizes the importance of the administrative and business-side of the role and discusses the evolution of the Director of Tennis position. “When on court, ensure it’s not just private lessons!” He looks to the future of the Director of Tennis position and notes that it has morphed in reality to a Director of Racquets. He believes soon that it could be called the CEO of the Racquets Department – a chief executive officer in the office and an instructional leader on the court.
In offering advice to up and coming professionals and guiding club boards and search committees, Chris says the number one characteristic, which is a recurring theme, is that a good professional and future director should be able to listen and learn. Having a mentor is inspirational and educational, and even just hashing out an issue with one’s mentor makes for a better, wiser, and more disciplined leader. His second bit of advice? Whether at a seasonal or year-round club, “never let your guard down.”
Leadership again is a current theme and Chris’s leadership at all his positions, from his fragile start straight off a boat from Australia, to now leading one of the finest and most comprehensive programs in the country, is clearly evident and truly remarkable. He rotates his professionals so they don’t burn out, he offers on-property mentoring and continuing education, and he looks to communicate better each day with both his equity members and staff.
Chris earned his stripes long before River Oaks Country Club. While at The Dunes Club in Narragansett, Rhode Island and at the Duxbury Yacht Club on the Massachusetts’s coast about an hour outside Boston, Chris made two of New England’s finest clubs destinations where memories were created and summers full of fun and great tennis. And then instead of teaching “how to poach” on the doubles court in Duxbury, he got poached by the Texans. Here’s the story.