Finding Your Relevance – An excerpt an article in from Tennis Pro Magazine
By Denny Schackter
Denny was the Head Tennis Coach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1972-81, and spent 22 years as a sales rep for Wilson Sporting Goods. In 2008, he was inducted into the Wisconsin High School Tennis Coaches Hall of Fame. Denny owns Tennis Priorities, a service company that specializes in recruiting college graduates to the tennis teaching profession. He also provides professional screening to supplement a club or facility’s interview process, helping decision makers hire the right employee for the job. Visit Denny’s website www.tennispriorities.com.
From most information I read or hear, the average age of a tennis teaching professional is 47-plus. There’s concern that our profession is aging rapidly. PTR has been working to lower that number with programs like PTR on Campus, but many of us are going to face aging out sooner rather than later.
That’s all fine and dandy. Today, you are working 30-35 hours a week on court, you’re reasonably healthy, making a decent buck, and a hero to many students. However, if you are in your late 40’s or early 50’s, it’s not too early to think about What’s Next? And if you’re beyond your 50’s, what’s next should be a pretty high priority.
For many pros out there, the one and only skill they possess is teaching tennis. Of course you can teach tennis in ‘retirement’, but if your body has short changed you, you had better find something to fill those hours, not to mention dollars.
I am flattered that many of my tennis teaching friends call me and ask about planning for their post-tennis years. Much is written and many articles are published about retirement, filling your days, what to do, having enough money, and the like. By observation and comments, it is clear that most tennis professionals have not made a plan for the day the court runs out of room for them.
Relevance is not just good for the psyche and the soul. If you have invested in a job for decades, when it disappears with (or without) the honorary gold watch or going away party, it behooves you to find a new mission, possibly new friends, and a reason for being.
In the December 2015 issue of American Way magazine, Rob Britton, writing on health, stated that in retirement, “First you have to write a plan. There are three parts, must do, might do, and may do.” He takes that further to add, “Achieving Balance.” While reading other articles, one word caught my attention. The item most of us do not think about in retirement is the loss of status or even “relevance.”
Picture this in a few years. You might experience this now but can’t quite define it. The phone stops ringing, the emails slow to a crawl, and your work circle forgets about you. Your students have moved on and with all of that, your self-esteem starts to plummet. The loss of status or relevance can be debilitating. Britton says, “You slow down or stop doing, and you die.” This loss cannot be allowed or you may find yourself battling depression.
Mark Cussen, in an article in Investopedia.com, stated that one of the stages of retirement is “Reorientation – Building a New Identity.” He wrote that one of the most difficult aspects of this stage is to manage the inevitable self-examination questions that must be answered.
- Who am I, now?
- What is my purpose at this point?
- Am I still useful?
You have heard it many times – tennis is a sport for a lifetime. When you hang up the teaching pro position, but still have the ability for tennis involvement, you can find something in the tennis industry that capitalizes on your skill set. All that knowledge. All that education. It’s there for you in this transition period. Facilities need good desk help, support for membership, maintenance and growth, or maybe work in the accounting office.
Or if you are set financially, you can volunteer for PTR and USTA activities. You can help coach your local high school or college team or even start a tennis program in a place that is lacking in exposure or where the kids need to learn an individual sport like tennis. One thing is for sure, your mind and body, not to mention family, need you to stay busy.
Kids of all ages and levels need your attention. We need to continue to grow the game. Now you have time to focus on the growth and all the various needs out there to make tennis special to someone or many.
One of the most rewarding things you can do is to mentor a young, aspiring coach or help a terrific player do exactly what you did – choose a career teaching tennis!
I have been retired from my full time work for eight years. Fortunately, I spent a good deal of time planning for my What’s Next? For the most part, things have worked out. Regardless of your age, you have to plan for the future. I urge you to work on your plan, refresh what you know, and change the plan as change occurs to you.
In a recent interview on CBS This Morning, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said, ‘My biggest fear in life is being unprepared.”