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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

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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.