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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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Off Peak Hours: How To Make Them More Inviting and Attractive

We all know about crunch time. At university it’s the 24 hours before that final exam. In business, it’s making sure that presentation is glistening and vibrant the night before meeting that new business acquisition possibility. In fitness, it’s your personal training hours between 7 and 10am. And in tennis, it’s the crunch on courts from 8am to about 10 or 10.30am on weekdays.

Crunch time is basically the same everywhere – those morning hours where each demographic of member wants to play. The older generation that gets up early might start it off with a 7 or 7.30am doubles game that has been in existence for the past 20 years. Next to arrive are the working parents at 7.30 or 8am who want to get a game and some exercise in before heading to the office for the morning. Young family parents usually arrive around 8.30 after dropping the kids off at camp or school and participate in a clinic or have their game. If you’re going to run out of courts, it’s going to be in these weekday morning hours. How do we motivate members to play at other times?

There are numerous methods in which to push member play to off-peak hours. We will investigate smaller methods and ideas before we look at a bigger, club-wide picture later in the article.

Waive Guest Fees For Off-Peak Play

This is a fantastic, quick way to kill two birds with one stone. Members get irritated seeing non-members playing at peak times. Countless times I’ve had members ask me how many times a certain guest has played in a month or across a summer or year. Invariably, this is asked when the guest is playing at a peak time. When I was Director of Tennis in the Palm Beach county the biggest complaint I received was that the women’s teams played by league rule at 10am. Members would come up and say: “Mr. Pro, half of each court are non-members and we can’t get a court at 10!” This is something to keep in mind in looking at guest fees. Remember that team or leauge play does not add guest fee revenue to the club and members dislike that, especially if at peak times.

That being said, if you waive guest fees after 10.30 or 11am, this certainly pushes non-member play to later hours in the morning, which not only increases off-peak play, but also reduces the number of non-members playing during peak times thereby reducing member complaints.

Discount Private Lessons at Off-Peak Times

I have always been an advocate of early bird lesson discounts. Most teaching professionals advocate early morning hours to get two or three hours in before the “regular” rush. We usually advise offering 15 to 20 percent off lessons taken at 6am or 7am. This also alleviates the private lesson crunch professionals get for lessons at 9 through 11am – hours which are inevitably booked. If a teaching professional can teach non-stop from 6 to 12 noon, he or she already has 6 hours under their belts by the middle of the day.

You can take this even further. If you have a over-subscribed clinic (cardio in many cases at 8am) why not discount a 7am cardio clinic a few dollars and see if you can alleviate some of the pressure by not only adding a second class but one at an off-peak time.

For indoor courts, moving just one clinic or one game 60 minutes later in the morning to 11am or to 2pm before school lets out and junior clinics start is a massive help, not only to court usage, but to defraying heating and lighting costs. Having play throughout the day adds revenue to an indoor facility while defraying costs across more hours of play.

row of empty tennis courts
Having empty courts at an indoor facility is not cost-effective.

On A Bigger Scale – Membership

My fellow director Christophe Delavaut, who is creating one of the leading tennis clubs at The Boulevard in Vero Beach FL, brought up with me the idea of non-team memberships for off-peak hours. Oftentimes, leauge play is at those peak hours and men and women simply join a club to play on a team. However, if you offer non-team packages, you can make these packages for off-peak hours only without leauge play. Or, you can offer league play but open play at only off-peak times. There are many ways you can affect court usage through different membership types.

One of my favorite methods of increasing off-peak usage is by scheduling practices or open play in conjunction with lunch.  If you schedule a team practice for your ladies at 9am, you are fighting for courts at which you and your team of pros would almost certainly have privates. In many cases team practices are mandatory or pre-charged. Why make them at peak times? If you schedule a team practice at 10.30 to finish at 12 noon, you have made an enormous difference to court usage freeing up 2 to 4 courts from 9 to 10.30am. And, the food and beverage director will thank you as many tennis team members will invariably filter over to lunch at that time of day following practice.

Be A “Club” Team Player

You can make your general manager even happier by combining incentives across club departments or working schedules with the Directors of Golf and Fitness.

For example, why not offer a discount on the club lunch menu for all court reservations made between 11 and 12.30 on weekdays? In this way, you incentivize members to play at an off-peak time while at the same time pushing them toward using another club department. If you have facilities such as a pool or lake, why not offer free guest passes for non-member tennis play after 11am so that the guest can use the pool or lake after their tennis game, again usually adding to the food and beverage department’s revenue.

You can work with the Director of Golf as well. Usually practice facilities, which can vary between a driving range, putting green or chipping areas, are not prone to such crunch times as a limited number of tennis courts. Why not offer a weekly dual clinic – golf from 9.15 to 10.15am with tennis following from 10.30 to 11.30am? Or create a TRX/Cardio Tennis Clinicio to start in a TRX studio at 10am for 45 minutes and moves to the tennis courts at 10.45 for cardio tennis? Using two club facilities in one clinic also cross-polinates club department usage.

Here at BeyondTheBaselines.com we have many other ideas as to how to build play and member usage during off-peak times. The above is just a smattering of incentives and programming possibilities to enhance your member experience and create more play on the courts and usage of the club as a whole throughout the day.

 

Ed Shanaphy is Director of Tennis at Sippican Tennis Club in Marion, MA and President of BeyondTheBaselines.com. Ed has been a finalist in the Ernst & Young’s Entreprenuer of the Year for Europe.

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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.