Simon Gale is at the top of our industry. As the Director of Racquets at the USTA National Tennis Center in Lake Nona, Florida, Simon oversees four head professionals and nearly one hundred courts across the campus. From hosting national USTA league finals to teaching locals on a daily and weekly basis, Simon has taken the USTA National Campus to new heights. And this month, he’s taking it to new sports.
Padel and Pickleball are set to be a part of the scene at the Lake Nona facility, which houses also the USTA National Junior Development program. Add this to all the events that the campus hosts, it’s one bustling place and Simon supervises all of it. He’s excited to see where the two new racquet sports being offered might take tennis in the future. He sees the various racquet sports aligning to help build participation in each.
We catch Simon at an interesting time. Coming out of the pandemic, the National Campus will be able to host travelling tennis players once again. Although there is a healthy number of locals, both adults and juniors, who use the facility, upwards of 40 percent of usage is from players not from the Orlando area. Simon is readying his staff of approximately 40 certified teaching professionals for the task of seeing more players and more hours on the court.
Simon’s philosophy and his experience up and down the East Coast of the United States from Connecticut to Brooklyn and now down to Florida has led him to ask the question when hiring a member of staff: “How’s your people management? Can you build a team?” Simon has been forced to build an enormous team of instructors, with four head professionals alone, on staff at Lake Nona. He wonders if the pathway for teaching professionals might be too simple and asks what we as an industry can do to change that so we broaden the experience of up and coming professionals.
He points to the need for people management not only while working with his own staff, but also dealing with the hundreds of events that the National Campus hosts each year. The team of event planners at Lake Nona is quite large and working with them and visiting groups, companies and teams all force Gale to manage people more often than he gets to teach tennis. “Being a good instructor should be a given at our level.” But being a good manager of staff and clients is a constant learning process.