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Federer’s Tweet Did Just What The Doctor Ordered

practice wall

by Ed Shanaphy, USPTA Director of Tennis

A group of us were pondered last week on a zoom call which was clearly monitored through the zoom security issue due to the nature and importance of the call. The question that had been posed: “Why has it been so long since an American man has won a Grand Slam.” The women have had Serena for years competing at the top. Although born in Russia, Sofia Kenin has adopted the USA as we have adopted her. Over the years, we’ve had Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams. But the men? Nothing since Andy Roddick lifted the US Open in 2003 – 17 years ago this summer.

In the group chatting on zoom was a renowned former Ivy League head tennis coach. And he said four words: “Bring Back The Wall. Well, guess what? Roger Federer did just that this week.

I’m not always the biggest Roger Federer fan, but this video, which has gone viral, done with Roger’s usual aplomb, has brought some humor and class to tennis during a pandemic. But it’s also brought back a tool that we often overlook. “Choose your hat wisely.” He threw out a challenge and the world of tennis and beyond has taken him up on it.

Fed’s twitter roll is now full of his fans – and fans of the game – doing the challenge in all kinds of hats. From Mexican sombreros to Irish caps, from sun hats to winter wool hats, people are finding a wall and volleying against a wall – any wall. From Rennae Stubbs to Lindsey Vonn, from Brad Gilbert to celebrities from the world of music, Roger’s fans and the fans of the game have taken him up on his #tennisathome challenge.

And that’s the beauty of the wall. As the college coach wisely said in the zoom call, “You can find a wall anywhere and you can do it by yourself.” In this day and age, that’s a recipe for greatness.

The Wall Is One Of Our Best Tools

The practice wall has always been around. With a line either curved to simulate a net, or a straight line marking 3 feet straight across, it’s been usually at the back of a club or facility, often with cracks in its facade and weeds growing at its base. Most practice walls remain largely forgotten and neglected. But in these times of self-quarantine and self-isolation, the wall has come back to the top of the charts. And now, Federer with his challenge, has made any wall a practice tool.

As a kid, I used the wall a lot. I grew up on clay courts, and the wall was on Court Six. It faced the back of the court, behind the baseline, on the South side. On the other side of the wall was a paved portion over grass in the shade. I used to like to test my skill on the hard surface in the Spring before high school practice started and then as the summer season started, I would spend more time on the clay side.

When I interviewed for a new summer position in 2016 and visited the club, I was struck by the size of the practice wall. I had never seen a bigger wall. Pavement on both sides, it rose above the clubhouse at the back to 18 feet in height. I thought it was an eyesore.

But the wall is a central meeting point for the juniors. Thanks to my predecessor who believed in the importance of practice on the wall, the juniors congregate and hit among each other on the wall, both before and after their scheduled clinic times. A morning ritual is a few of the juniors come down as the sun rises and the court maintenance folks are out preparing the clay for the day’s play. The juniors jump on the wall waiting for the grooming to finish.

This past week, with social distancing a part of our lives, I had several questions as to if members could use the wall. No one asked when the courts were being resurfaced – but because members are self-isolating – “Is the wall open?”

The Wall Can Free Up A Valuable Court

With court usage at its peak at 8am on weekdays – during our Tiny Tots and Little Little Tennis junior clinics – we often take the 2 to 6 year-olds onto the wall area to free up another court. We set up targets and obstacle courses focusing on the wall and using the wall to roll balls against or stop back swings for volleys. The wall also is a contained space, so ball pickup is that much quicker – a big factor to keeping both juniors and parents happy. And now with Roger showing off his skills at the wall, perhaps it will be more acceptable to the high-schoolers to drill on it during their clinic times.

The wall is really a two-fold drill sergeant. It allows the player to groove a swing, or in Roger’s challenge, groove a volley. But to hit against a wall, a player has to master control so that the bounce off the wall is manageable and playable. Time with the ball on the strings. The wall requires a player to create more time with the ball in contact with the strings which, in turn, creates the control needed to manage the shot so that the return off the wall is playable.

With all the pros and celebrities answering Roger’s challenge, the wall has become just what one college coach was hoping for – a training tool which had really been missing in the arsenal of American tennis at the grass roots level.

Ed Shanaphy is Director of Tennis at Sippican Tennis Club in Marion, Massachusetts, which has an enormous wall at the back of the clubhouse. It’s green just like Roger’s wall.

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Female Pros: Women Teaching Professionals Make More Than Men

Christine Murphy Foltz hitting a forehand on a tennis court

The first posting in our series “The Female Pro” of articles and podcasts focusing on women in the tennis and country club industry. In coming weeks and months we will be featuring female professionals on our BeyondTheBaselines.com Podcast along with articles investigating female teaching professionals and their participation in and affect on our industry.

Women do make more than men… teaching tennis. The USTA announced recently that they are pushing, in conjunction with the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA), for more women to enter the industry as teaching professionals. Although this is a lofty goal, what it does speak of is the short supply of women professionals. With such a short supply, demand is high. So is the take home pay of most female professionals in comparison to male counterparts at the same teaching level.

It’s been mentioned by women, whom we believed would be great instructors and ambassadors for the sport, that in large part they feel teaching tennis is a male-dominated profession. They may be right. Only 23 percent of teaching instructors and members of the United States Professional Association are women across the nation, according to the USPTA. This statistic really speaks to the law of supply and demand: such a low number creates a high demand for women professionals.

As a management consulting firm, we found interesting the announcement from USTA Florida which quotes Vice President of the USPTA National Board Trish Faulkner. Faulkner wants to add to the number of female pros and believes that it should be a focus of the USTA and USPTA. At this time, with such a demand for female teaching professionals, adding to the numbers of female pros could actually financially injure the current female pros in the industry. Adding additional female pros might lessen the current demand for female professionals as these organizations hope to expand the numbers of female teaching pros.

We have seen this at clubs and facilities in a broader way. Simply adding additional teaching pros “waters-down” the demand for lessons across the pool of pros at that club. Adding female pros to the industry might “water-down” the demand for a female teacher. We believe there is a lot of room in the industry but current female pros might see a drop in their income due to more supply over the coming years.

That being said, there is more work than there are female professionals. Clubs and facilities, both seasonal and year-round, continually search for female instructors to bolster staffs and cater to their membership and clients who prefer female instructors. One of the first questions we receive as a search consultant is: “Do you know any women professionals who might be a good fit for this job description?”

Changing The Norm

“I am seeing a great trend in the last few years where many of our certified young women USPTA members have gone after and secured high-level tennis positions,” said Faulkner, who notes USPTA membership is only 23% female. “There is still a perception that many high-level tennis jobs go to insiders or friends of directors, but we have educated general managers and other directors to check credentials and certification and look for the best person for the position.”

USPTA Certification is becoming more encompassing with 1500 hours of apprenticeship to include 1200 hours of experimental teaching and 300 hours of online course work and mentoring. These changes, making it certainly more of a process to become a certified professional, might affect the numbers of those entering the professional ranks. It could also affect the ratio of newly certified pros between male and female.

Female Sensibilities

When we act as a management consultant for clubs or as a search consultant for facilities, we here at BeyondTheBaselines.com always discuss the possibility of having one or two female teaching pros on staff, if not to serve as the Director of Tennis. There are several reasons why a woman professional on staff or running the program makes very good sense.

We all know that women are more sensible than men, don’t we? Well this may or may not be true, but there is definitely a sense among female students that a womanly understanding of the game while teaching a woman’s clinic can make all the difference. And why shouldn’t it? Shouldn’t female instructors better understand the women’s doubles game? Shouldn’t a woman instructor better understand the obstacles facing women players? We tend to believe that would be the case. The fact is that many students tell us that female instructors, in general, are better understanding the intricacies of women’s doubles and the strategies facing a woman’s double pair than their male counterparts.

We have found there are several reasons why female professionals, along with the fact that supply is low and demand is high, are paid more than their male counterparts. Over the next several weeks in our Series “The Female Pro” we will investigate some of the motivating factors leading to a higher pay scale and why female instructors often find themselves with more hours on-court than their male colleagues.

Jennifer Gelhaus, who beyondthebaselines.com announced as the new Director of Tennis at East Chop Tennis Club, Martha’s Vineyard, MA, changed careers and has instructed at some of the most elite clubs in the nation following a career in research technology.

Empirically, we have found that female professionals over the same period make on average 18% more in take-home pay than their male counterparts at similar positions. This data, collected through clubs for which we have consulted, provides us with some interesting numbers. Across the same level of position, women instructors tend to be on approximately the same hourly rate. For example, a female head professional average hourly rate has been in the region of $44 per hour taking total take home, on-court pay divided by time spent on court. Their male counterparts are slightly higher at just above $46 per hour. However, female professionals are on the court more. They are booked for privates up to 15% more than their male counterparts, both at the same facility and then if extrapolated over total number of hours taught across our data. Therefore, in our studies, female professionals total on-court revenues are higher than their male colleagues.

Clubs and facilities have understood these numbers, whether consciously or unknowingly. In general, employers have rewarded female professionals with a higher salary or stipend as the facility finds it has a greater revenue stream from retained percentages in connection with female instructors. We found, that facilities tend to reimburse female professionals slightly higher in relation to the revenues retained by the facility being higher.

Harking back to the short supply of female instructors, female pros can also garner a higher salary. Founder of Cardio Tennis Michele Krause explains through her comments to USTA Florida that the fixed hourly rate of compensation is an old model and should be updated. We agree and believe that female professionals coming into the industry have the opportunity to flip that model on its head. With such a dearth of female instructors, women who teach tennis can ask for more in terms of compensation and packages. And, in fact, we have seen this across the board. And clubs and Directors of Tennis should think outside the box in terms of incentives and compensation to retain not only excellent female professionals, but all professionals. The era of a flat, hourly rate on court should be long gone.

Fixed employee costs to a club or facility are higher where women professionals are concerned. Women professionals cost on average 8% more than their male counterparts at the same position across our research. This cost includes not only on-court retained percentages and salary costs, but paid time off, maternity leave, and other benefits in kind, such as housing costs. Because there are so few female instructors, female professionals are able to negotiate with their employers with better leverage. This leverage results in contracts that are more beneficial to the female employee than the contracts of their male counterparts. With paternity leave becoming more prevalent, these ratios might change.

In conclusion, women instructors on the court at present are enjoying an era in which they can reap more due to the lack of female teaching pros in the industry. As the industry matures perhaps this situation will change, but as Trish Faulkner notes, she only expects 1 in 4 members of the USPTA to be women in three years.

In May, we will breakdown the five reasons having a female professional on staff is essential for any best-in-class program at any club or facility.

Please see the USTA Florida article concerning women in the teaching ranks here.

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Equity and Corporate Clubs Have Different Strategies During The Corona Era

notepad from Harvard Club on Raffles Hotel Book

During our National Town Hall this past week as part of our BeyondTheBaselines.com Podcast Series, we were fortunate enough to have several club managers, club governors, retailers and suppliers on the call. Having such a diverse audience helped us to realize that there could be a difference between equity and corporate clubs during the Corona Virus era. Clubs from university and city eating clubs, to fitness clubs through to elite golf clubs are choosing different avenues of communication with members and methods of retaining staff through the crisis.

Club ownership and its distinctions aren’t always apparent from the outside. Some of the most beautiful and magnificent clubs in our nation are actually for profit organizations, looking to service a paying membership. Augusta National Golf Club is one. On the other hand, some of the oldest and most established country clubs, are member-owned, otherwise known as equity clubs. Usually these clubs are termed “social clubs” and are formed as a 501 (c) not for profit organization under IRS statutes.

Member Share Certificate For Aladdin Country Club which is no longer in existence.

The History of Club Ownership

Harking back to the 1800s, emanating from the Northeast, the idea of a club through member ownership followed manifest destiny and moved Westward across our land. The Country Club, located in Boston, Massachusetts, is simply called the The Country Club, as it was one of the first clubs in the nation founded by five gentlemen from Boston in 1882. Clubs of the day were focused on outside activities, of which golf and tennis were two.

There were shooting and equestrian activities at many of the clubs along with swimming at lake and beach clubs, such as the famed Bailey’s Beach operated by the Spouting Rock Association. The move westward followed and, as an example, Tradition Golf Club in La Quinta, CA, became a member-owned club in 2008 after years of development. Equity clubs usually offer a bond in return for initiation fees which under normal economic conditions accrues a profit and are “purchased” back by the Club at the end of the membership at the higher value.

In stark contrast are clubs which are known as non-equity, in which membership is owned by a group or an individual which are not part of the membership. Often now among corporate golf clubs, these clubs do offer a bond upon joining, however any accrued value is usually retained by the Club. Club Corp, which is the largest corporate owner of country clubs in the country, is just one example. Club Corp just acquired from PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, FL and added it to its list of clubs it manages through its subsidiary Club Life Management. In taking over clubs, usually after a developer finishes a gated community, Club Corp purchases the club and manages the club. Clearly, profits are a motivating factor for such clubs in order to finance their shareholders, who are not usually members.

Modern Day Distinctions In The Covid-19 Crisis

Bringing this historical differential to the present day and looking at the clubs such as New York Sports Clubs, which is corporately owned, and Midtown Athletic Club, which is family owned, both have shuttered up their doors, laid off all but essential corporate staff, and have communicated with employees. What they have not done quite as much is communicate with members. The New York Post writes that it is nearly impossible to get in touch with anyone at NYSC or its parent company, Town Sports International LLC, as the firms are attempting to make refunds harder to process for its members.

Midtown Athletic has, in fact, written a few times to its members, discussing the heartbreak laying off all its full-time and part-time workers and offering pro-rated refunds of monthly dues immediately upon closing its doors under State guidelines. It has set up a Covid-19 webpage stating its policies and with links to letters from the corporate president. That site can be found here and is an example of corporate-owned clubs communicating with their memberships.

Many of the non-equity clubs have stayed open as long as possible to avoid having to refund pro-rated monthly and annual dues. This is counter-productive in regard to social distancing, but it could also, if continued, open clubs up to a liability.

On the other hand, we are finding that clubs in which there is a bond held by the member, communications are almost daily. Clubs that we monitor, in Florida, Texas, the Mid West and the North East, have been constant in daily communications about what is to be expected. These clubs, where members are owners or have a shared bond, have boards and managers that have a shared financial objective. We haven’t seen members of these clubs breaking down the doors like a run on a bank for refunds or asking for pro-rated returns of their memberships.

In fact, one club we monitor, Silver Spring Country Club, in Ridgefield, CT is following the protocols on the golf side with foam in the cups on the green, no caddies and no touching the pin. It also sends out twice weekly newsletters to its members and extra communications about special happenings, such as an Eagle this past Sunday by one of the members on the signature 14th hole. The Golf Shop is offering pickup or direct mail delivery and the kitchen is open for curbside pickup. Communications such as this keep the membership informed, enlightened and familial.

Conclusion

When joining a club, those joining don’t often think about equity versus non-equity scenarios. But in a situation in which Covid-19 puts financial strain on all types of clubs, having a common financial goal with shared expenses throughout the membership creates a stronger foundation. A club which has its members as owners are more cohesive than corporate clubs, especially corporate clubs without a membership bond.

Perhaps the golden age of equity clubs will come back with more and more clubs offering a bond and ownership, which could help clubs through turbulent financial times and give membership a sense of ownership. Perhaps an effect of these tough times will be to enhance the value of membership bonds and perhaps a few new equity clubs.

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National Town Hall For Seasonal Clubs in The Corona Era

Windsor Tennis Club

As the Corona Virus Pandemic intensifies, seasonal clubs are looking at an approaching summer with trepidation.. Club managers, club boards of governors and Directors of Tennis and Fitness are wondering if and when the club may open. Boards of Governors are looking at liability and possible waivers of liability for all members and guests in connection to the virus.

In this age of uncertainty, we believed that most of the national associations and organizations were looking at the year-round clubs and the larger players. But seasonal clubs, largely member-owned with contract labor, are a large part of the industry. Focusing on these clubs, our National Town Hall attracted over 100 industry professionals to ask to join the call.

This call with club managers, club governors, clothing and tennis suppliers, along with Directors of Tennis and Fitness, discusses issues from slow supply chains to schedule changes. Offering ideas from a soft opening event free to members to updating and adding text messaging databases through Google Voice, Ed Shanaphy from beyondthebaselines.com moderates a lively discussion through the issues facing clubs for the 2020 summer.

Communicating with both members and staff in a congenial and regular way is clearly important to these industry leaders. And helping staff and contractors through the maze that is government aid and legislation is another issue covered.

All in all, a thorough conversation from industry leaders discussing how they are dealing with their business, their staff, their members and their clubs through the Covid-19 crisis.

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Rolex, Tennis, Marketing and Why Member-Guests Are Just One Morning

Roger Federer hitting backhand at Wimbledon

John Flaherty, former ATP and Division I player, joins us to discuss marketing to the tennis and golf masses through the eyes of a world famous brand, Rolex. John is a leading marketer for S&P 500 company Gartner after spending many years at Rolex and shares his experience, opinions and anecdotes from the tour.

We discuss the method behind Rolex’s marketing and sponsorship of both the tennis and golf tours and how golf professionals are more business-minded than their tennis counterparts. John takes us into the numbers and the marketing behind Tiger Woods’ raising the Master’s trophy wearing his timepiece, and how Roger Federer is probably the greatest ambassador for tennis that we will ever see in our lifetimes.

From his roots in Fairfield County, Connecticut, John has used his abilities both on and off the tennis court to carve a niche for himself in the marketing world. His views are indeed news for us here at beyondthebaselines.com. We investigate the rise of pickle ball and the expansion of paddle tennis during the winter in the Northern states.

We also discuss the changes that have come to the country club lifestyle over the past 30 years. Do you remember those halcyon days when the mixed tennis member guests were a weekend-long event? We reminisce and wonder why club tournaments no longer run past 12 noon on Saturday morning. We investigate how Directors of Tennis can compete with golf and other activities that are etching away at members’ time on the courts.

You can always reach us at beyondthebaselines.com by email at beyondthebaselines@gmail.com or by phone at the office on (508) 538-1288.

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Corona Virus Gives Us A Rare Opportunity

closed tennis court

As country clubs, gated communities and facilities close across the country due to the Corona Virus, we have a moment to pause, reflect, and learn. Let’s take this opportunity to do those things that we never have time to do. Although these are dark times, let’s throw light on our own business in the country club industry. Take this truly unfortunate and unpredictable crisis and make the best out of it in terms of using the opportunity and the time given at home to investigate, learn and make better our offerings at our country clubs and in the tennis and fitness departments.

The Corona Virus is hitting us in the country club industry hard – very hard. No part of the economy is truly immune. Coming at a time where we in the industry sometimes see thirty to forty percent of our annual revenue during Spring Break, this year will be marked by a lack of revenue and praying that we “flatten the curve”. The virus has certainly flattened the revenue curve.

Today at Windsor Club, in Vero Beach, we saw the true extent of the finality of the situation, and just how affected are country clubs. Courts were marked “Closed” and the tennis shop and clubhouses were locked tight as the sun shone brightly with no rain in the forecast. It’s not a pretty scene for any country club, tennis club or fitness facility. With fitness facilities under immense pressure to close due to germ transfer, we were hard pressed to find a light at the end of the tunnel. But there is a light in the tunnel.

We have been given an opportunity of time. Time where we are not servicing members and clients on a daily basis. Time where we are at home with our data. Time where we can work on those items that are always pushed to the back burner.

closed tennis court
Court at Windsor Club, Vero Beach, closed due to Corona Virus

The Big Picture

Look at the big picture. This is your chance to rework that budget for 2020/2021. You’ll never have a better time to work on a new business plan for your department, business, or club. Now is the time as we are forced to hibernate in our homes.

Look at your systems. We are reworking our Intuit Quickbooks Desktop settings to make billing easier this summer at our managed clubs. Can you reword your point of sale system on Jonas, or Northstar, to make billing clinics and lessons faster and simpler? If you’d like some help, let us know. We have specialists on all point of sale systems ready to help.

You have time to create that report in your point of sale system that will break down your revenue streams just the way you have always wanted them. What is the true ratio between personal training and group classes in your fitness facility? Have revenues from the spa grown in comparison to personal training and group classes revenues? If so, how much and why? Did you teach more private tennis lessons in 2019 than in 2018? What was the ratio and revenue breakdown between your junior and adult programs?

These larger questions will bring us a new focus when we are able to resume at our clubs and facilities.

On our Patreon page at http://www.patreon.com/beyondthebaselines we provide an outline of these bigger issues. Look to tick each issue off as we work through this tough time. If we d

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Staff Clothing: Is It Worth It?

By Ed Shanaphy, Director of Tennis

Every March, after I have selected my team for the upcoming summer, I send out an email asking new staff for sizes. This year, with three new professionals joining a team of nine, I have a bit more to order.

I usually order two sets of whites for new staff members and senior team members, and a single pair of whites for returning staff. Oh, and my own… I seem to get the dredges of the box! I say to myself, each year, that I won’t allow that to happen, but one short doesn’t fit or the style doesn’t match the top. You know how it goes. Clothing is never perfect.

Team Spirit

But, I do think that staff clothing is important. It creates a sense of belonging to something for your staff members. It creates a team spirit, which each staff member will need to fall back on at some point during the summer. A team spirit, or sense of belonging to a group, will help pull each member and the group as a whole through a summer of hardship.

The summer season at a busy club is a grind. We in the industry actually use that term frequently to describe the three months between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It’s just 12 weeks, but it seems an eternity without much time off, if a day at all, in reality. Staff can’t socialize with membership while “concierging” those same people, and seasonal professionals may feel isolated in a remote part of New England or Michigan without a friend or family. And at some point, maybe under the heat and humidity of a midday sun each staff member is going to ask him or herself: “Is this worth it?” For only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

As the summer grind goes on through July 4th, be ready for staff to melt, sweat, and falter.

I think the most coveted part of my tennis wardrobe are my old, beat-up caps from previous positions. Those baseball caps from the early 90s when I taught in Greenwich, CT still adorn my closet’s top shelf. They bring back fond memories of summers in the sun and collegiate years when the world seemed enormous and less stressful.

Depending on terms with suppliers, it’s not a bad idea to offer racquets, accessories, and especially shoes, either free or below cost to your staff members. They appreciate the financial help, but even more, they will truly appreciate the thought. I know I appreciated it when I was a Head Pro and Adult Director. I had new “feet” for a week and it felt like I was walking on air. Just 5 or 6 days through a busy summer can really bolster confidence and energy in a professional.

Yes, there is a cost to staff clothing. You can work with your club or facility to share the cost. Many clubs assume the cost in entirety as they too believe it’s an important factor for a member-focused team. Many clubs like the delineation staff clothing creates between member and staff.


Please visit our Patron Page where we have created a spreadsheet and cheat sheet for your staffing uniforms – we do all the budgeting for you so you will know exactly the cost and the commitment before you put in your staff clothing order!


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Randy Walker: Marketing The Mardy Fish Foundation

We were happy to catch up with Randy Walker at The Boulevard Tennis Club in Vero Beach, FL. Randy, owner and President of New Chapter Media, is not only a tennis publisher, but also an avid player, marketer and tournament director. Randy directs the annual tournament for the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation. Part of the USTA Pro Circuit, this tournament serves as the biggest fundraising opportunity for Mardy’s foundation. Randy discusses with us how he markets and communicates to the many demographics along the Treasure Coast of Florida for the biggest fundraiser for Mardy’s foundation.

Marketing Secrets From One Of The Best!

Randy realizes that each player has a story and that’s the first tantalizing or teasing piece of the marketing strategy for his tournament. He has a sound marketing strategy and he shares it with us: “Make your tournament like a mini US Open!”

Randy just released the book Juan Martin del Potro: The Gentle Giant this year at the Delray Beach ATP event, and he continues to serve as Communications Director for the Invesco Series. It’s one of our favorite tournament series in which we have the opportunity to watch some of the best ever: Jim Courier, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, and John McEnroe.

You can always reach Randy on Twitter @tennispublisher and please visit his publishing firm’s website at www.newchaptermedia.com

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Politics In Play – Ladies Teams

DBH Ladies Team Website

Ladies Teams can run a club. They can also ruin a club. They shouldn’t do either, but they do at times and at some clubs. Men’s teams, although not as numerous, can also throw a wrench into the cog. But Ladies Teams tend to be one of the top 5 reasons for Directors of Tennis being shown the door.  Here’s the low-down on how to avoid the politics that are inherent in any competitive league.

Document, and then Document Again

As a Director, Club Manager or Facility Owner, it is essential that you avoid the pitfalls that competitive teams can so quickly present. By documenting all conversations and reiterating that conversation with a team player, either by text or by email, after the fact, you are creating a protective backup throughout the team environment. However, first and foremost in our play book, is this: Avoid as much discussion with team players as possible. We advocate a “hands-off” approach to competitive teams. There really is no reason why, beyond practices and strategies, that a Director or Owner should be involved in day-to-day decisions for teams. Competitive teams are there as an additional offering to members – a small percentage of members in most cases at the facility – and should be treated as just that. Teams are just another opportunity for competitive play.

The best method to avoid confrontation is through communication. If members of a team understand how the season is going to work from the outset in terms of pairings, which team at the club they will play for, and how they can move up to a new team, or move up within a team, then half the battle is won. Do remember to communicate that with the chance to move up to a new team or within a team, so also exists the opportunity to move down. We advocate a full “Team Member Rule Book” which should outline all possibilities from the first team meeting. For a BeyondTheBaselines.com “Ladies Team Rule Book” Cheat Sheet, please visit our Patron Page and become a Gold member at https://www.patreon.com/BeyondTheBaselines

Control vs Delegation of Team Play

Therefore, delegate as much as possible to elected team captains. We believe, particularly at a member-owned club, that delegation to captains wins hands down over control over the teams. Far too often we have seen the backs of dismissed Directors of Tennis over Ladies Teams. In most cases, this can be avoided by upfront communication with the teams and delegating to team captains, fellow members, of pairings and placings. With our experience with Ladies Teams ranging from New England and the Dorothy Bruno Hills Indoor Tennis League (DBH) to South Florida and The Palm Beach County Women’s Tennis Association (PBCWTA), we have found that we advocate an “advise and consent” position by the Director. They can listen to the captain and maybe help with some additional ideas or advice, but leave the major and final decisions to the team captains.

DBH Ladies Team Website

Certainly, as a recently employed Director of Tennis at a club, it is essential to mind your communication with team players. Just like a first day of school, trust no one. But do know that those who want their say are going to find you and believe that you will have a sympathetic ear to their woes, unlike your predecessor in their view. That’s why you’ve been hired, right? Wrong. Directors are hired to run a complete program – aimed at all demographics, juniors and adults, through offering programming and event planning. Too often we see certain demographics of membership left unattended while a Director is literally consumed by Ladies Teams and their issues. Ignoring a demographic of membership can be as fatal as not dealing with a vocal ladies team.

Remember, most players and lesson-takers are not team players. And if teams start to dominate a Director’s time, or even court time at peak times, the tenure of the Director might be shorter than he or she would like at the Club. We have heard it so many times from a member:  “Why must ladies teams play at 10am on a weekday? Thats a peak time and we are allowing 12 non-members on our courts every Tuesday morning with ladies league matches. What am I paying for when I can’t get a court!” They’re right of course – when else would a club let guests show up weekly and take up 12 or more playing spots on club courts. Most clubs hold fast to a particular guest showing up more than once a month!

Personal Conclusion

One of the best lessons in life, I learned at ATP Chair Umpire School while travelling with Jerry Armstrong, one of the highest qualified chair umpires in the world and assistant Wimbledon referee. It was one of the last days of training in Dublin, and of course, how to handle players disagreeing with line calls had been a recurring theme in our discussions. “We all remember when I defaulted McEnroe at the Australian Open,” remarked Jerry. “But, do you remember who was on the other side?” I couldn’t recall. Since then, I’ve asked numerous “tennis know-it-alls” the same question and no one has been able to answer. “Always remember, there’s a player, waiting to play on the other side of the net while you discuss the call.  That player is ready to play.” said Jerry.

The same holds true for Ladies Teams. They are just one player among a plethora of players at a club or facility. It is too easy to be consumed by a particular group or demographic of a club and forget or neglect all the other groups. Keep a distance, like a good chair umpire, and realize the entire setting while gently advising the Ladies Teams.\

 

Ed Shanaphy worked for the ATP Tour across the globe and had several run-ins with players. He never forgot that Byron Black was waiting to play as Jim Courier shouted about an overrule at the Lipton Championships on set point. Neither has Ed forgotten the spectator with the bellowing voice and whipped up towel in the top row of the stadium that saw the call better! By the way, it was Mikael Pernfors, now Ed’s neighbor, who walked away a winner after McEnroe was defaulted. Small world.

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Our First Podcast

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