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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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Staff Communication Leads To Member Retention

Members we are told are a family. We grow up with the membership and as we stay at a club longer and longer, we become part of that family as we watch the juniors grow into legacy memberships. That’s partly true, but it’s important to keep a fine line between service to the membership and becoming too ingratiated and familiar with the members.

This being said, we often get waylaid by the minutae of a department – the day-to-day banality of billing or inventory.  The day to day business of running a tennis or fitness department can become mind-boggling at times, but it is important that we continue to see through the weeds to our final destination or goal:  a happy membership which participates and funds the club or facility at growing levevls.

Maintaining transparency with the members goes a long way in keeping and retaining key staff. Staff stays motivated for a Director who is in touch with his or her membership and sees the relationship between members and staff as rewarding for both sides.

Communication is often the key. Solid and timely communication, ranging in everything from a text database for quick memos about court conditions, upcoming lessons or sudden changes, to email newsletters well-crafted and organized. Add to the above possible “thank you” cards to a member for doing something special. And what do most directors misunderstand? That these communications should not only come from themselves, but from all their staff. Make staff part of your communcations team, and relationships between members and colleagues will flourish.

  1. Email – Emails are more formal and leave room for marketing and promotional content to be detailed and clear. Email can also be used to aid in the set up to an event or item on the schedule.
  2. Text – Texts are fantastic for short bursts directly to the person or people involved. Examples like a change in lesson time or a booking in the spa is best by text to the member’s cell number.
  3. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – Social media is the newest form of communication that clubs are using. Twitter can be quite personal – tweet a member directly. But we believe that social media is a more general method to sell and promote the club as a whole rather than a department or an event.

What we should understand best is to make such communication using the appropriate technology and aim at making it as personal as we can given the type of media.

Tennis and fitness departments lead to member/member communication as well as member/staff communications at clubs. This all adds to the relationships which are the mainstay of any club. Through personal communications and events, tennis and fitness departments can really add reason for members to retain their membership status. – 508.538.1288