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Programming The Future Of Country Club Tennis & Fitness

The Future of American Club Tennis & Fitness is Fresh, Appropriate Programming

How do you reinvent the wheel? How many ways can one create a tennis program that is fitting for a country club while instilling the true desire to play tennis and increase play in our community as a whole?

We have seen programming that we have instituted at various clubs take off on both the adult and junior levels and we believe that this is the future of tennis and fitness programming. The country club serves up several challenges. What are the demographics of the membership? Older retirees or youthful families with juniors? Or both? Are the members mainly seasonal or year-round? How exclusive is the club? Is it an elite club or a club looking to add members and add cash to its balance sheet?

All of these questions affect programming at a club. But the other issue at hand is to build tennis and fitness into life-long activities for members. The short-term goal is to keep the club active and busy, but the long-term goal is to maintain a members’ interest in the activities so that the sport and fitness are part of the members’ lives for years to come and to prolong a legacy at the club, and in fact, in the community.

Don’t Let A Member Go Home Disgruntled

A General Manager once said: “Make sure, as best you can, that each and every member leaves your club happy.” It’s a rule that should never be forgotten. It comes into play when planning and programming each and every clinic or group instruction class. An unwise clinic marketed to the wrong segment of a membership or an individual signing up for a far too advance spinning class can make or break a member’s experience for days or weeks or even years to come. And it damages the reputation of the department and its Director. The first thing to do is clear the air with the member and make it right. But, that’s reactionary. Proactively, a good Director of Tennis or Fitness can create programming and market that programming in such a way as to avoid many of the pitfalls that can damage a member’s experience.

A dissatisfied member is like a small cancer cell. The member talks to another member, and so on. Soon enough, there is a group of members that have taken up the cause and now there is a faction on the Board. Guess who takes the hit? The Department Head… the Director of Tennis or Fitness.

Small Changes Lead To Big Cross Sells!

Making a change such as separating a Cardio Tennis class into advanced and beginners, which can actually double participants across two courts, can lead to additional revenue while also catering to various levels. Why can’t a Pilates studio bring in a “pop-up” store for Soul Cycle in the back warehouse and enhance business offerings while bringing in new clients to your Pilates business. It’s called cross-selling, and every other industry does it. Why do tennis and fitness stay so isolated?

We see the same issue in regards to pickleball. So many tennis directors are against it. Why? Have they scientifically looked at the numbers and who actually plays pickleball? Have they considered the upsurge in traffic through the tennis shop? In our vast experience, we have found that only a small cross-section of tennis players enjoy pickleball. Pickleball is played by a different club segment: mainly golfers. Tennis players, in the end, find pickleball lacking. But golfers, who tend to be more stationary on a court, enjoy this new sport and have flocked to the courts being built at clubs and gated communities across the country.

Perhaps there is an anti-social ethos or environment presently at your tennis club. Clubs are really to foster not only sport, but also lasting friendships. Why not create a drill group and bring in a social aspect? to another level where we make it “social” with members and offer a social gathering with food afterward in the evening has made an enormous difference in turnout across various clubs. On the junior side, we’ve added barbeques to Triples or Touch The Fence events, making it an evening for juniors while the parents have dinner on the porch.

On the junior side, we have offered Cardio Tennis with TRX Training along with personal training – in this way we can work with juniors at a high intensity having them hit hundreds of balls while also really working on their focus and fitness levels.

Cross-selling is what Amazon does so well and why it’s one of the leading companies in the world. In our own small way, tennis and fitness should be cross-selling every hour of every day. Beyond that, we should be looking at generating revenues for our food and beverage department and other club departments. Beyond that, we should be looking at increasing tennis and fitness in the community. Community awareness brings more applications for membership and club growth or more home sales in a gated community. Job done.

Beyond The Baselines is a consultancy aimed at educating both industry professionals and club boards while recruiting and retaining “best-in-class” professionals and maintaining benchmark levels of service at clubs and home owner associations. Please email us at beyondthebaselines@gmail.com or call us at (508) 538-1288.

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Continuing Education For Your Fitness and Tennis Professional Staff

The gym and tennis court can be a microcosm of life. Issues that we see in life are dealt with by making firm decisions. To be your personal best in the gym, one must be disciplined and make a clear decision to “stay the course” and improve. Same holds true on the tennis court. And same holds true for the professionals in the gym and on the court.

As a professional in the gym or on the court, these environments can become claustrophobic and lonely. A professional can find themselves almost hermit-like at a club or facility. The fitness center or tennis court fencing can be a cave where a professional hides every day from the real world… the horizon… and expansion through education.

Slowly, clubs and facilities are moving toward the idea of offering continuing education funds within departmental budgets. This has been a long time coming. Most contracts throughout the tennis and fitness industry do not cover the costs for employees or contractors to further education in their respective fields. Sometimes, the Director of Tennis or Fitness does have a line item in the budget for departmental continuing education, but far too often does this line item go back year after year used only for the Director or even completely untouched as budgetary constraints get tighter and tighter.

But continuing education really should be a requirement, if only to expose your facility’s professionals to new ideas, programming, and possible new hires.

In terms of fitness, we have found that Sara Kooperman is a leader in continuing education. Back when we were just starting Beyond The Baselines, a local personal trainer mentioned that SCWfit.com was a great source for fitness education. We looked and we liked. We’ve recommended their personal trainer certification for those new to the industry along with their Mania, a conference that tours the nation with fitness industry experts sharing their knowledge and experience, and sometimes selling the newest fad.

TRX TrainingTRX was just such a fad about a dozen years ago when it first arrived on the scene at SCW’s Mania… but now it’s a household and gym staple. We’ve worked closely with TRX (https://www.trxtraining.com) to enrich the country club fitness industry with their suspension training. TRX offers its own certification and education programming as well, rich in programming ideas.

Michele Krause, creator and owner of Cardio Tennis (http://www.cardiotennis.com), brought TRX on to the Cardio Tennis scene years ago and we have recommended that TRX be a part of this cross pollination at several clubs. It brings the fitness center to the tennis court and we’ve seen tennis players hit the gym for the first time after such a class on the court. We’ve added a fitness pro to tennis clinics across many clubs and found that this cross-fertilization is a fantastic way to boost club revenues. Michele is a leading proponent of continuing education and tours the globe providing teaching and instructional experience in tennis and fitness.

Tennis has so much in the way of further education for its professionals. From the United States Professional Tennis Association (https://uspta.com) and the Professional Tennis Registry (https://www.ptrtennis.org) through to the USTA, there are thousands of ways to gain credits while expanding a professional’s links within the industry. Just a simple “Drill Share” session on a court at one of the annual conferences can lead to a major change for a club’s membership on the courts the next summer.

For decades, industry professionals have been on both sides of the continuing education argument. Some say that the cost to them personally to belong to the National Academy of Sports Medicine or other such certifying association and to carry their insurance and to attend continuing education events is just too much for them to bear. We’ve heard it on the tennis side too: The cost of the USPTA or PTR (which provides liability insurance with its yearly dues) and then the cost of the conference just adds up to too much. Recently, the USPTA, like many of the fitness organizations, has added a continuing education requirement in order to retain professional certification from them. The moans from professionals across the industry were heard, but after the initial storm, it appears that the requirement has been met by the vast majority of their professionals. And there are strong reasons to maintain this requirement.

Jason Gilbert, who is USTA Florida’s Director of Competitive Tennis, also works with the USPTA on furthering the education of those professionals new to the industry with the Under 30 Initiative and liaises closely with the USPTA. He cites the number of young pros who leave the industry too soon and believes, rightly, that the lack of support and education after certification is a leading cause. The pros are hollowed out and lonely teaching hour after hour “caged” on a court and don’t find the support or education needed to “stay the course.”

As a community, it is our belief at Beyond The Baselines to help educate boards and committees so that they believe that continuing education of their professionals should not only be a requirement, but a favorable development for their staff at every level in the gym and on the court. If that education helps to expand programming and participation at the club or facility, it’s a valuable and inexpensive method of adding both member satisfaction and club revenue.

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Exempt versus Non-Exempt Tennis Professionals – The FLSA On The Courts

Our leisure industry, and golf and tennis particulary, is lumped dangerously in with every other industry and falls under federal legislation just like any other business in the USA.

Just as there are rules governing the independent contractor and whether the IRS will see an independent contractor as a club employee and fall under the tax umbrella, so are there also stipulations governing exempt vs non-exempt employees. These regulations only come into effect if your tennis professional is an employee of the club. Oftentimes, clubs and home owner associations make the error in creating an independent contractor position to avoid these pitfalls within the employment legislation.

To try and make complicated legislation simple for the purpose of this article, an exempt employee is not due overtime pay. A non-exempt employee is due overtime pay when over 40 hours in one week or holiday pay comes into effect. The legislation falls under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the act itself defines an exempt employee as such:

  1. The employee must be guaranteed a salary that equates to no less than $455
    per week.
  2.  The employee’s primary duty must consist of managing the business or a
    customarily recognized department; and
  3. The employee must customarily and regularly direct the work of two or more
    other employees;
  4. The employee must have authority to hire or fire employees, or the employee’s
    recommendations as to hiring, firing, or promotion of employees must be
    given particular weight.

As you can see these points can be hazy given the position of a Director of Tennis, Head Tennis Professional or an Assistant Tennis Pro. An IRS fact sheet that can help any understanding of any exemption is located here: IRS Exempt Employee Fact Sheet

Almost on an annual basis, we hear of cases where tennis professionals have sued the club at which they work under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Each case is an employee by employee investigation as each case has its own characteristics and merits its own investigation.

Some of the points that have been raised previously by disgruntled tennis employees are as follows:

  • Time that is spent with members or players before and after lessons count toward hourly pay. These hours are often claimed by employees and have stood up in court as the employee is working with members on club property and providing a “concierge” service.
  • Less than 50% of time is spent managing other employees and programming. Most of the time of a head pro or assistant pro is spent on the court and therefore it is impossible for that employee to spend over 50% on managerial duties. In fact, any exempt employee must manage and be responsible for the hiring and firing of at least two full-time employees.
  • A club has docked the assistant pro for missing an afternoon. This is an immediate hint to any examiner that the employee is in fact non-exempt. Docking pay is looked badly on by examiners and should not be part of an exempt employees package.

Examples abound. And there are many ways in which a club can get itself caught in the web of legislation and defending itself during a state payroll or IRS audit. An exempt employee is one who has several classifications and because of those administrative and professional classifications, can fall foul of the federal law. Tennis and golf professionals along with fitness trainers, and even caddies, often fall within the cracks of this legislation, both at the federal and state levels and clubs end up paying overtime in back pay in court.

Before any club or human resources department draws up a contract, the club and its governing bodies should fully understand the FLSA legislation and the background in the case law.

 

 

 

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The Data Beyond The Baselines

Tennis, once again, is a growing sport in the USA. With an All-American female final last month at the U.S. Open between Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys, American tennis is at an exciting, yet pivotal point. There are two distinct tracks taking place and it’s important to note each one and the statistical trends that are occurring.

At the grassroots level, the USTA is looking at bringing the game to the masses. With its new National Campus in Lake Nona holding national tournament finals at all levels and ages. The USTA’s work at the grass roots levels with L9 tournaments all the way to Tennis on Campus at the college age shows that the USTA is trying to bring tennis to new players at all ages and levels. That said, tennis participation is up just 1% in 2017, according to the Tennis Industry Association and the core number of players is contracting slightly as the median age is rising. The USTA is winning slowly with the junior participation levels but there are limitations. With tennis being restricted not only by the number of public courts, tennis is a sport that requires initial technical instruction early on. Growing participation is not an easy task for the USTA.

But, that leaves an opportunity for us at the Club level, where we can work individually with juniors and pass them along to the upper ranks and prepare them for tournaments and beyond. In order to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity at the club level to move juniors into a position to play in high school, college, and beyond – it’s imperative that we hire the right instructors and have a handle of the wonderful new programming that is out there. This can only happen if you understand the industry across the the club and public environments.

The position of tennis instructor has been for years a vague one. It’s oftentimes a stop-gap for a player who didn’t make the tour. This doesn’t mean he or she is a good instructor. We see more often than not, great players are not good instructors. We do see that instructors do not always have to be great players. And, what has been the bane of existence for our industry is that we push along a great coach and instructor into a Director’s role, which is a managerial role rather an on-court role at most clubs.

But with more stringent examinations and internships for certification and continuing education being offered by the USPTA and USPTR, the industry is slowly realizing that the key component of increasing the tennis industry and coddling great players to move them along the routes to success. We are slowly learning that a great coach or instructor should stay just that and not become a manager. Management is very different from being on-court and should be viewed as such.

As we consult with third-party institutions and clubs, we are able to collect data from numerous sources across our industry: from country clubs, tennis clubs to home owner and properety associations offering tennis amenities. Armed with this data, we have a singular and special viewpoint of the tennis industry based on data available only to us at Beyond The Baselines.

Consulting with and advising club boards and tennis committees, we bring a new dynamic to the table.  Sharing the data that we have derived from our industry, we can help create not only a fantastic tennis department at the club level, but also enrich the programming and employment opportunities. Gleaning what we have learned from our experiences and bringing actual live data with us to the table, we can bring a whole new viewpoint to any board or committee discussion and move tennis programming in the right direction to the benefit of the club and facility as a whole.

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A Club’s Profile Is Just The Start

What Is A Club Profile?

Clubs are far and wide across our nation. Established country clubs in the Northeast with golf courses and old stone swimming pools are quite different from a yacht club in Florida which offers yachting, tennis and social amenities set in a gated community. Again, a tennis-only club is different from a golf club. Average ages of membership and length of memberships held vary widely from club to club.

How do each of these clubs fall into a general hiring process? They don’t. Plain and simple.

Having worked with so many clubs, the term “Director” or “Department Head” has various meanings – all defined by the particular club and its management structure. For demonstration purposes, and to keep it general and not even club specific, a Director of Sailing is quite different from a Director of Tennis. Sailing Directors are rarely seen instructing adults or offering much in the way of any adult programming. Programming and instruction for yacht clubs mainly focuses on juniors. The Sailing Director is asked to hire young, college-age instructors, find and organize those instructors’ housing for the summer, and run a program that aims at getting juniors age 8 to about 17 (they have to be over the age of 8 to be insured on the water) on the water and learning to sail.

With that in mind, many clubs place a major focus on their junior programs, sometimes with good motives, but oftentimes, with monetary gains in the mind of the present Director of Tennis or Golf. Junior programs, by far, outweigh adult programming in terms of revenue to most Directors of Tennis across our country. An industry standard that we have seen is something in the region of a 75/25 ration in favor of junior programming. Sometimes, this is how the club over years has structured itself. At other times, it is that the Director sees the junior program as his or her main revenue stream.  Often, the adult program is left behind – ragged and uninspiring. We see it far too often.

That’s why the first item in any process of finding a new Director of Tennis (or Sailing or Golf for those clubs that offer those sports) is to create a Club Profile. This profiling is imperative in understanding the ethos of the club. Sometimes we call it the “vibe” of the club, but both words help to describe how we unearth the actual essence of the club.

Through meetings with the board, committees and active members, we can glean the strengths and weaknesses of the Club. Without a bias and a truly objective eye, we focus on where the club is failing, where it should be more even-handed, and where it should be in the next five to ten years.

The Club Profile is divided into two parts, one statistical and one part motivational.

Club Profile Part A: Statistical

These figures we glean easily enough from club management. Below are some of the statistics we look at – but we would also look quite intensely at usage and revenues which are clearly club specific.

  • Total Number of Present Members
  • Total Number of Members 5 Years ago, 10 Years Ago, and 20 Years Ago
  • Number of Member Categories and Change In Those Categories By Year Over Past 10 Years
  • Waitlist Numbers Growth and/or Decline
  • Ages of Members, Spouses and Children
  • Ages of New Members, Spouses and Children
  • Length of Membership Held
  • Projection of Membership Numbers and Age of Members: 5, 10, and 20 Years.
  • Tennis Court/Golf Course – Usage by Member Category, Age and Season
  • Tennis/Golf Revenues – Broken down between Instruction, Tournament Play, Guest Fees, Special Events, Socials, Fees, etc.

These questions and more will help to understand the type of Director of Professional that is required. The average age of a Director of Tennis in the United States is 48 – is that the right age for a club that is based in New York City and focuses on squash with a membership mainly of young people working on Wall Street? Probably not. But perhaps it is if that Director then hires two strong, younger professionals who are great players and teachers.

Club Profile Part B: Motivational, Change and Club Environment

Part Two of any Club Profile is a written survey and subsequent meetings with active members, the board and committee. Our “Club Profile Request” which we offer to all board and committee members helps to discover and uncover hidden ideas and agendas. Through this 25 to 50 question document created specifically for each club we work with, we discover the present programming and currently held ideas and opinions of members and the club’s governing bodies. We find where boards, committees and active members feel their club is failing and where it is strong and why they believe they require (or in some cases do not require) a new tennis or golf professional. And, more importantly, we uncover the various board and committee’s factions, so we better understand the entire situation prior to starting any recruitment process. This entire process aids us and allows us to better educate and work with the club’s governing bodies as we progress through any changes of employment or management structures.

Questions such as: Is there a teaching ethos at the club or do most members just use the club for their doubles games? Are tournaments catering to the same small group of members or do tournaments receive club-wide participation? Does the tennis committee represent all the various groups and demographics using the tennis courts? Does the Greens Committee overstep its job description and squash the Golf Committee? In this gated community, have house prices gone up or down and how has that affected the membership? These are simple enough questions, but we need to know the answers to these general questions before forging ahead.

The Club Profile is perhaps one of the most important documents and processes in any situation where a club believes it might be time for a new Director of Tennis or Golf… or Sailing. It is an investigation into the club itself, the board and the committees and why there is an apparent disconnect with present employee. Sometimes, communication and lack of oversight can create a hot-bed of resentment toward present employees. Sometimes, present employees are not fulfilling the clearly stated job description. Reasons for a disconnect are many.

However, the reasoning behind the disconnect, the apparent or non-apparent need to address issues, the desire for change, and ideas for the future all dictate why the present management structure may or may not be working. How to find a better-suited Director or professional in the future, if that is indeed required, is the responsibility of the governing bodies of the club. Understanding those bodies’ motivations and goals will help find and retain the right professional for the present and future.

 

 

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Independent Contractor or Employee: What’s Best For My Club, Facility or HOA?

W2 or 1099?

This question rears its ugly head every time there is a change at the head of the tennis, and sometimes golf, programming. As the country club industry in the USA contracts and clubs look to minimize costs, more and more often Directors of Tennis and, indeed, assistant professionals, are independent contractors and not employees. But, this savings in costs can come with a heavy loss in control over the tennis staff. This must be weighed by any Board or Committee before deciding whether to have your tennis staff as independent contractors.

Don’t Fall Foul Of The IRS!

It’s simpler in legal terms, and for the IRS,  if the Director and his staff are indeed all employees of the club. For the club’s owners, whether a member-owned, equity club or a business operation for profit, this action brings the entire department under the umbrella insurance policy covering the club’s facilities and brings the tennis staff under the worker’s compensation policy as well, which is indeed an important benefit to any worker. Clubs in recent years are preferring this easy method of controlling, insuring and employing their Directors of Tennis.

When tennis staff are employees, it’s easier for the club to track and record remuneration and compensation. Billing and revenues go through the Club – often, when the Director is an independent contractor, he or she bills the members directly for all revenues and leaves the Club without the knowledge of what the position may be worth financially. This is a tough situation when it comes time to hire a new Director. In many instances clubs are left without information, usage numbers and financial profit and/or loss reports.

When housing is involved, especially at seasonal clubs, technically housing paid for and provided by the club is a benefit in kind and is taxable. If an independent contractor is in the housing provided by the club, this becomes a liability if the independent contractor  doesn’t claim the housing as a benefit and it is found out later that this housing was indeed provided. It is quite easy to deduct this taxable benefit if the professional is an employee.

Basically, as an employee, the Director of Tennis and his staff are far more under the control of the country club or facility hiring them. Whether on the clock (and that is another issue we will look at in the coming articles) or salaried, the Director and his staff must be on duty a certain number of hours and have to answer to an employment contract and usually an Employee Handbook. As an employee, the Director can be told when to take time off, how to teach, and when it might be needed to attend departmental head meetings and management conferences.

Independent Contractors

The classification of independent contractors is in and of itself a bit tricky. There is a 20-point test that the IRS will put any club through to prove that their tennis staff are indeed contractors, and not employees of the club. In many cases, we would say in the majority of cases, clubs have mis-classified their independent contractors who are essentially employees.

There is a three-question simple test:

  1. Behavorial Control – Who keeps the schedule of the independent contractor? If the schedule is kept by the Club, then they are exerting control over the worker and that worker is an employee and not allowing the contractor to pursue work elsewhere. The Club cannot at any time tell the independent contractor when or how to work. Does the Club in any way tell the independent contracted professional how to teach or who to teach at certain times? And does the Club dictate what tools to use or provide tools (baskets, balls, etc). If any of the above questions are “yes” then you are most likely falling foul of the independent contractor classification. Remember, the view of the IRS is that the member taking a lesson or clinic from an independent contractor is a client of the contractor, not of the Club or the Director (if an assistant professional is teaching the lesson or clinic).
  2. Financial Control – Does the independent contractor stand to lose money in the teaching at the Club? This would mean that your tennis professional could lose money as an independent contractor through un-reimbursed expenses. In most cases, especially with assistant professionals, this is not the case. In most cases as well, the independent contracted tennis professional will have several facilities at which they are teaching and therefore the reliance on one facility or Club would often point to mis-classification.
  3. Business Relationship between The Parties – The IRS will often look at whether the work being offered is “indefinite” or by “project” and will also look at if there are benefits usually reserved for employment status: housing, along with employee food offerings, can run a Club afoul on classification.

Perhaps where clubs misunderstand the difference between independent contractors and employees in a tennis shop is the so-called “lesson” book. By law, an independent contractor is required to keep his/her own schedule. A club cannot dictate when or how long an independent contractor must be on-site or teach, or even discuss how to teach. In reality, the IRS would say that a club tennis shop cannot book a lesson for a member with an independent contractor – that member is a customer of the independent contractor and must book directly with the professional under this classification and pay the independent contractor directly to avoid any wrongdoing. When faced with this issue, there are many ways clubs may give incentives to the independent contractor to make the club and its members a priority, but again,  it is easy to fall on the wrong side of the tax law and classification.

So the Club must weigh the loss of control as noted above with the savings gained by not having costs associated with employees: tax, 401k, food and housing benefits, worker’s compensation and other costs. The decision should not be taken lightly but can easily be changed if needed by revising contracts and employment status and housing leases.

At Beyond the Baselines we work within the club structure to help management and member-filled committees which would be best for their facility – employee vs independent contractor. Often it is the environment and the ethos of the club that will make the decision for us, but sometimes the decision is more about financial and time controls. What will your club offer? A W2 or 1099

Coming next week:
Exempt versus non-exempt tennis professionals.

Coming in October:
How to create incentives for independent contractors. 

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What is a Director of Tennis

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 – The Director of Tennis now serves as the Department Head. With the cost of club membership rising and the actual number of country club memberships declining over the past two decades, the need to service the elite 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. Whereas the Head Tennis Pro was really 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 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 be spending on court. This limitation in effect leaves time for the Director to be the “in-house” concierge, administrator and cross-marketer that is necessitated at any club, no matter 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 those skills the candidate possesses in relations to running a business – as 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.

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The Retention Equation

business handshake

Tips For Retaining A Director of Tennis or Head Tennis Professional

Retaining a Director of Tennis, as the economy improves, is one of the hardest tasks facing a country club. A great Director may be approached by a panoply of other clubs as he or she makes a name for his or herself in the industry, and keeping that Director happy at your club is a salient responsibility.

The most important initial factor into the retention equation is that the Director’s qualities and strengths within the industry fit the requirements with your position, the club, and the environment in which the role exists. This is why it is important to have a very strong job description which is related to the past issues and the future goals for the club.

Usually, the opportunity of hiring a new Director of Tennis or Head Tennis Professional is a chance to reflect on how the previous holder of the position could have improved the department and program from the members’ perspective. A survey of the membership is a wise choice to encompass not only the membership in the idea of hiring a new pro, but also garnering ideas and viewpoints of the program that a smaller committee of members may not see or even be aware of.

Secondly, the pay must be commensurate with the level of job and the level of the applicant. Pay for a Director can be handled in many ways, between salary and on-court revenue along with merchandise and stringing sales. There appears no stead-fast or formulaic basis for compensation across our industry. That being said, a search committee needs to have reference materials and comparisons to other local, area and regional country clubs to ensure that their compensation is in the appropriate neighborhood in terms of pay scale. Both committees and candidates for any position should check what the local and regional compensation levels are as well as on-court fees at competitive institutions.

In today’s stressful world, the work environment is very important to any tennis professional. From the ethos of the club and its members through to how Human Resources reacts to employment issues, the workplace needs to be a happy and enjoyable location to help retain good professionals. Employment benefits, especially to the younger professional starting out and the older professional who might be facing some health issues, are increasingly more in demand across our industry.

The relationships at the country club are extremely important to the professional in regard to job satisfaction. The relationship between the other department heads at a club along with the bond between the General Manager and, at larger clubs, the Assistant General Manager and Accounting are crucial. The bond between management and the tennis department is crucial as it helps solidify the tennis professionals base within the club structure and cash flow for the bottom line.

Finally, the support of the tennis committee or the board is integral. Often, a new hire is not supported by the entirety of the committee. Several reasons, we have seen from our work, can provide a splinter group within a committee: the letting-go of the previous tennis professional; the way in which the search was conducted to find a new pro; the decision on the new hire might not have been unanimous; the lead candidate turned down the job offer. All of these and more need to be hammered out – and often it takes a mediation from a third party to help all committee members understand the need for solidarity.

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Working With Committees

Business Boardroom

Functions Of The Tennis Committee

The tennis committee is in reality an extension of the Board and usually, at a country club, an executive committee which has its formation and power emanating from the by-laws of the club. It really has several functions within the organization. The committee, in the first place, is responsible for deciding and implementing policy in their department. Secondly,  they provide a method of oversight on behalf of the main board in relation to policy and implementation as well as overseeing long term strategic goals that fall within the tennis program. Finally, committees are there to recruit new members for the committee and eventually the Board for future work which safeguards the future of the Club and the tennis program.

Working With Committees

The philosophy behind a standing or executive committee is an important one. Clubs cannot be run (or ruled!) by committee but should work hand-in-hand with the Board, the club manager and the Director of Tennis. But this is not always the case as committees often become an oligarchy of a sort. And, in many instances, the chairman or chairwoman of the tennis committee will rule with an air of petulance. In addition to this, when looking at the duties of the tennis committee within most by-laws and club handbooks, rarely does it show the responsibility of recruiting and hiring the Director of Tennis.

At all times the makeup of the committee is a significant factor. Oftentimes, the by-laws allow the chairman or chairwoman of the committee to hand-pick the members of the committee. We feel this may not always be the wisest way forward. It is imperative that the committee, along with the Board Of Directors, be comprised of members from various demographics who have various interests within the club and, especially, see the tennis program from various viewpoints. Too often, friends of the chair, will have the same viewpoints and thoughts on the tennis program as the chair that reached out to add them to the committee.

Committees Rarely Have A Chance To Hire The Director

With many Directors of Tennis remaining in the position for five to ten years, even twenty to twenty five years in certain circumstances, the tennis committee rarely has an opportunity to go through the process of researching a possible new hire, let alone recruiting and hiring that new hire. Most committee members serve for just two to three years, so there may a total turnover of committee members since the last hire, even if that hire was just five years ago. Therefore, the committee has the chance to go through the hiring process of its leading employee very infrequently and is largely ill-prepared for such a process.

During a transition between Directors of Tennis there are numerous influences on a search or tennis committee assigned with hiring. Fellow members push forward their own, favorite professional for the position. Ladies Teams, which can often consume a Director and a committee, add their input and sometimes threaten to take their spending and team elsewhere. Indeed, management often has an ulterior motive in the candidate that is selected.

Industry standards are constantly changing as well, in terms of salary and stipends, allowable expenses within the department, health and insurance benefits, housing benefits and more. Here at Beyond The Baselines, we are on the cutting edge of the industry and constantly researching and experiencing what is new inside and outside the committee rooms and in the industry across the nation and the world.

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Would You Let A Tennis Pro Hire A CEO?

“Hiring is the toughest and most time-consuming part of my job.” How many times have you heard this from a Director or Manager? Hiring is perhaps the single biggest decision a manager, company, or country club can make. How often does an employee leave after a few months in which the position just isn’t the right fit for the new hire. How can we achieve a great hire and find that perfect applicant who will improve the member experience while at the same time increase participation?

Why Allow A CEO To Hire A Tennis Professional

Country club management and the hiring of a Tennis Director of Head Tennis Professional is one of the most important tasks in a the leisure industry. The country club and leisure industry is actually seeing a contraction in new memberships. Country club membership, due to a more diverse population and changing demographics in the United States, is falling andhas been falling over the past 15 years. Increasing participation across country club programs and attracting those new members is essential and hiring is now even more significant than in the past.

CEOs Do Have Some Of The Same Skill Sets

A Director of Tennis is a position which requires a similar skill set in some respects to a CEO or CFO. Budgeting and payroll are both high on the priority list of any Director or Head Pro. But along with that comes human relations and the hiring and maintenance of an efficient workplace. How do you find good assistant professionals? Where does a Director look for new hires? Does he or she have access to a steady stream of assistant instructors that can work with both juniors and adults?

The duties of a good department head at tennis, as any Tennis Director should be within a club management employment structure, are varied. From a concierge mentality in membership services to creating a teaching environment where all the assistant professionals are teaching from the same book are just a couple of what to look for in a new Director. The fact that he or she played NCAA Division 1 is meaningless when attempting to quell a ladies team revolt and therefore the idea that your Tennis Director be the best player in the county is simply out of date as the country club industry grows more complex.

Just these three examples in the paragraph above show how difficult it is to find a true Director of Tennis or Head Tennis Professional who can fulfill such diverse needs within a country club or tennis facility.

In Conclusion

Search committees and tennis committees are of course not made up only of CEOs but are comprised of players and members from all demographics. From the mother of a rising junior to a father who is a weekend warrior to a college graduate at her first job in the city, committees should encompass individuals who see the club and tennis at their facility in different ways. This alone should help the hiring process. But how can we find that perfect applicant from the multitude of professionals in this country and abroad?

Firstly, defining the exact job and to create a full and complete job description which outlines the duties of the role and the desire of the committee and club management in regard to the position is crucial. This process can take days or even weeks and should be looked upon as an integral part of the hiring process.

Sifting through the hundreds of applications and resumes that are in due course received is a test in and of itself and education in this regard to knowing what to look for in past service and positions is one way to help separate the wheat from the chaff. Finally, contractual negotiation is as important with a tennis professional as it is with a general manager or golf professional and contracts are legally binding for both parties and should be part of the hiring process.