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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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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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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.