The fourth segment in our series: “Women in Tennis”
Avoiding the “type casting” of the female pro as “you’ve got the 10 and unders,” Christen Zawatsky has made her role a universal one. One of the leading junior development directors in all New England, Christen joins us at the BeyondTheBaselines.com podcast to discuss her many years at The Kingsbury Club outside Boston, Massachusetts where she is a revered coach for both adults and juniors.
Coaching from red ball through to high performance juniors and adults, Christen has no desire to coach the ladies teams but loves being a female in our industry. She has made her mark by proving herself either by serving that ace down the T to the adults or backing up her teaching methods consistently to her juniors, parents, and adult students.
From Arizona to Kalamazoo, from Boston to Oklahoma, Christen travels with her juniors to zonals and nationals and sees herself as a role model for all her students. Christen has supervised the fantastic progressions and advancements of many of her juniors. But she has also witnessed the toughest part of her job far too many times: Parents ruining a flourishing junior’s career.
Christen is creating and building a program of over 200 juniors around solid progressions and fitness. Shifting her high performance pathway to a program built around athleticism, she trains many students who haven’t played a second sport. As an Orange Theory fitness coach, Christen is combining her two loves and is creating a dynamic program in New England at Kingsbury.
Women Students and the Female Teaching Professional
Women don’t always accept women instructors, states Christen, but women students are not Christen’s favorite either. For the most part, she removed herself from most of the ladies practices and clinics. ” I just couldn’t deal with all the drama. Maybe it’s because the ladies wanted to share with a female pro, but with all the chatter Christen found herself asking: Are we still playing tennis here? “There are more battles with the women. With the men it’s easy – If they know you’re better than them, that’s all they need to know.”
With that said, Christen believes that women directors understand the membership better than male professionals and “concierge” the membership more effectively. Organizationally and in terms of management, Christen sees her female director and other female pros more understanding of members’ needs.
And in terms of women entering the industry? Christen says to all those females thinking of perhaps trying their hand as an instructor to give it a shot and think back to how you started as a young girl player. Christen finds it extremely rewarding with such moments as opening the mail one day and receiving a hand-made card from one of her young students during a Pandemic. “I love it when I see one of my youngest girls asking to take a photo with me and she’s a ‘mini me'” decked out in her junior LuLu Lemon outfit. “Be that role model you always dreamed of having as a coach when you were a young girl.”
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.
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.
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.