Preparing for the Future

by Denny Schackter, USPTA Professional

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the future can never be predicted. Like you, I was completely caught off guard with all the dynamics that have occurred, much less, seeing what has happened to our tennis employment.
I wrote an article a while back about retirement and tennis teaching professionals, indicating that all of us have to prepare for the day when we cannot feed tennis balls anymore. Needless to say, when I wrote it, I did not think about the reduction of facilities and staff, and the way they are forced to operate.
As you look to your future, you must have a plan for the “whatever is next.” In the article I wrote, I suggested that tennis pros, are in essence, “one trick ponies.” We do not prepare well and our talents are pretty limited.
As you look toward your future, I would recommend you consider the following:

Learn a second language. The content of America is very diverse. Meet that diversity head on by learning another language so you are marketable.
Consider working on a degree in accounting, either a 2-year degree, or an MBA so that you have value to your facility, or another profession, if and when you cannot feed balls. With so many advanced degree programs online now, one can do a post grad degree pretty efficiently.
Network with members and friends so that you have a readily available resource of people to rely on if and when things turn sour.
Most important, please be sure your resume is up to date and has the right content for the “what’s next.” Listing where you worked is not nearly as important as what you accomplished in the jobs you have held. Go online and learn the do’s and don’ts for resume building in today’s world.

USPTA Midwest Division Announces Congratulations
2020 Hall of Fame Inductees

Mark Faber, Toledo, Ohio
Dan Hopkins, Terre Haute, Ind.
Denny Schackter, Palatine, Ill.
Alan Schwartz, Chicago, Ill.

Read the complete USPTA Midwest Division Newsletter Summer 2020 by USPTA HERE.

Portrait of happy man teaching son how to hold racquet. He is putting his arms in right position and smiling. Boy is looking forward with concentration

Your Serve: Family Time by Denny Schackter

Click here for the full article published by Racquet Sports Industry magazine.

As difficult as these times are, they can be a golden opportunity to bring parents into the tennis-teaching equation.

Last fall, I stopped by a large athletic field near my house. There were at least six soccer games going on with boys and girls of various ages. Even though the weather wasn’t perfect, there was a large crowd to watch them.

I asked one parent who coaches her child’s team how everything came to be. “Two parents of the players,” she responded, and then added, “We rotate
as volunteer coaches so the burden is equally shared.”

In soccer, parents play a strong role in development with their kids. Parents also play a big part in coaching kids’ teams in hockey, softball, baseball, lacrosse, football and other sports.

If our sport is to grow, it needs to happen with the help of parents. After all, they offer the most influence and decide on the investment. In a postcoronavirus “new normal,” won’t parents feel most comfortable engaging with their children as beginning players? Like in soccer, we need to encourage the development of this more personal level of coaching.

One of my occupations in retirement is to recruit young people to teach tennis professionally. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, one of the biggest challenges facing our industry has been a shortage of coaches. Recruiting teaching professionals has been an ongoing challenge for the USTA, USPTA and PTR. Their current efforts have been focused on increased education and accreditation for existing teachers. While this is admirable and important, those thoughts appear backwards.

We need to build from the bottom up, instead of the top down. Because of this pandemic, there will most likely be an upheaval, as teaching pros may lose their former positions, clubs and facilities change their operating procedures, and facility owners reassess their expenses. The USTA, USPTA and PTR will be busy guiding both pros and players back to normal. But with all this quality family time, it may be the perfect opportunity to initiate beginning lessons using parents.

Neither the USPTA nor the PTR are yet addressing bringing parents into teaching tennis. A USTA staff member directed me to the Net Generation
site’s “Community Providers” section (under the “Coach” tab). But even that USTA staffer agrees the prompts aren’t specific enough to make parents feel like they are special in this process.

This pandemic will affect the tennis landscape in ways we can’t anticipate. At least for the near term, we won’t be working with large groups of kids at the same time. Facilities will need to incorporate social distancing. Tournaments, lessons, leagues and rec play will all be affected.

Before this pandemic hit, I had suggested the USTA, PTR and USPTA jointly design a progression so parents can help relieve the teaching shortage in tennis. Now, more than ever, this has to happen. Closer family ties will be the norm. So, while we wait for things to settle down, and for pros to get back to work, let’s promote youth-teaching curriculum for parents.

Many of the team sports seem to have a mechanism to fulfill their need for beginning coaching by getting parents involved. Yet tennis seems to rely on clubs, the USTA and more structured entities. By directing efforts toward parents, we can take advantage of this opportunity to grow the game.

Denny Schackter is owner of Tennis
Priorities in Palatine, Ill., specializing
in recruiting and placing teaching
professionals. He is a USTA volunteer, and
member of the USPTA and PTR.

We welcome your opinions and comments.
Email info@tennisindustrymag.com


Court-Side with Beilinson Tennis

Podcast with Denny Schackter

Recorded Pre-COVID-19, such a fun discussion with Denny Schackter. Click HERE for the full podcast.

Denny has worked in various capacities in the Tennis Industry for over 50 years. Denny was the Head Tennis Coach of the Wisconsin Badgers from 1972-1981; he was a 2008 Inductee into the Wisconsin High School Tennis Coaches Hall of Fame; he has served on a number of committees at across various levels…more numbers than I can count, and has currently been focusing on his company, Tennis Priorities, where Denny works with placing professional tennis coaches at various tennis clubs throughout Indianapolis, Milwaukee, the Greater Wisconsin Region and also the Chicagoland area.

Tennis Lessons Chicago

One Idea to Liven Up Your Group Lessons

We all know that teaching the same groups year after year and week after week can lead to some staleness. By accident, I came up with an idea that might add some “spark” to your lesson planning. Perhaps it has been recommended before, but in any case, I think, it deserves a re-visit.

With all the info we can gain by searching the internet, I typed in “music lyrics with a message.” One can search for all kinds of themes and find a song for whatever you are looking for. One of the best songs I found was “Stayin Alive” from the Bee Gees and “Saturday Night Fever” fame. Obviously, when I asked the class why I chose that song they knew right away that keeping the ball in play was the theme of the day. Another one was “Stuck in the Middle with You.” We worked on covering the middle both from the net area and all the way back to the baseline.

Adding an element like this certainly makes the class fun and focused. When I put the song of the day on my phone and they listen to the lyrics, some of the class break out in in some dance moves. This has been humorous because some of us can dance and, others, well, need a dance class!

Find us on page 16 of the Spring 2020 Issue of the USPTA – Midwest Division Newsletter! Click here for the full Newsletter!

tennis balls on court

Keep Networking and Your Resume Sharp

Hello Tennis Industry,
I am assured you are stuck in the house and realizing cabin fever just like I am.  Hope you and your family are hanging in there.

I have taken this down time to organize my files from Tennis Priorities.  I am reaching out to many of my contacts whom I have consulted with over the last 12 years and also looking to find new candidates for the tennis industry.


When and if this virus slows down, I am sure you will make, or have already made, decisions relative to your future.  I am not sure what the tennis market will be like, post shutdown, but I know there will be Pros losing jobs, looking for new ones in the industry, or perhaps, outside of racket sports.  My suggestion to you during this “dead” time, is to be sure your resume is up to date and that you are networking with all of your industry contacts.  I believe I will be contacted by Pros, Directors and owners, who either will be looking themselves, or in need of staff.

If you are interested in establishing some new contact with me, I would be flattered to receive your updated resume.  I know there will be a great amount turmoil in the field.  I am simply anticipating what will be.
I am still placing folks in the tennis industry.  I hope I can be of service to you.

Tennis Teaching Professionals for your Tennis Club

In addition, if you have tennis playing families whose tennis playing students are looking for guidance on college choices, I have expanded Tennis Priorities services to work with those folks.  Please review my website, tennispriorities.com, for an update. 

Thank you.

Denny Schackter
Tennis Priorities Company
c: 847-910-9713
e: dennyschackter@gmail.com

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”

Ernest Hemingway


Shortage of Tennis Officials

In a recent article, Denny talks about the shortage of Tennis Officials in USTA Tournaments and how we can potentially solve this issue.

“Like teaching pros, the average age of officials continues to rise, which means as they get older, they leave the ranks. The problem is, we aren’t recruiting enough young people to replace those retiring from officiating .”

Read the full article here: http://www.tennisindustrymag.com/issues/201908/your-serve.php


USTA Midwest Summit

The USTA Midwest completed it’s third Summit in Columbus, OH July 11-12.  The purpose of the event was to add “teamwork” to the growth of tennis.  Pictured left to right are Denny Schackter , Tracy Davies of the USTA National Office, Brian Parkkonen of the PTR, Jim Amick of the USTA Midwest and Jim Hendrix, Board Member of the USTA Midwest and a club owner in Columbus, OH.

Multi-ethnic teenagers playing tennis.  Girl in middle (17 years, mixed race) is a physically challenged amputee.

Article: “High School Tennis: An Overlooked Core for Tennis Growth”

I recently wrote an article for Tennis Pro Magazine! It is about the benefits of teaching high school tennis and how it can impact the number of future tennis players. Here is a snippet of the text and I will have a link to the magazine with the full article down below.

As we look at the landscape of tennis in the United States, numbers released by industry experts tell us there are 17.96 million tennis players in our country. I am not sure if that number includes high school team players, but my guess is that it does. That 17.96 million figure includes 9.96 million folks who play 10 times a year, and who are considered ‘core’ players.


If we look at the 348,919 high school players (from the 2017-18 school year according to the National Federation of High School Athletics), they represent about 2% of the core players in our country. My math may be suspect, but I do know high school tennis is a very important segment of the current and future tennis population. Yet, when I look at the emphasis by the USTA on all levels, the slant is toward elite juniors, those aspiring to play college tennis, and touring pro players. What is missing is an emphasis on the sustenance and growth of our game is the normal, every day high school tennis player.

View The Full Article Here

Tennis Lessons

Tennis Club Business: Letter to the Editor – May 2019

Tennis Priorities was recently featured in the Tennis Club Business Newsletter. Our founder, Denny Schackter, discusses his thoughts on the issues facing tennis today and how more people can learn to play at a young age.

Check out the full letter to the editor here:


Hi Rich,

You are doing great work keeping the issues facing tennis in front of everyone. It’s always fun to hear what the folks in the trenches have to say.

In looking at the dialogue about certification and seeing what has transpired thus far, it really got me thinking about how other sports have structured themselves and tennis has not.

My insurance man has three daughters, all in college now, who are, or were, outstanding youth softball players. All three could have played in college, but only one is. During their formative years, they were coached by their Dad and other fathers. The only time they saw a “pro” was entering high school and/or college softball programs. Another bud, currently a tennis director, here in Chicagoland, has a son who took a liking to hockey. His youth coach was his Dad and other parents, and I believe, still is. I am sure soccer, boys baseball, volleyball and lacrosse all have similar structures. The only two sports, to the best of my knowledge, that have a “paid pro” as youth learners, are tennis and golf.

It maybe too late, but I would love to see the USTA, PTR and PTA really get on board training parents to become tennis teachers on a more organized basis. I see NET GEN is on a push to gain more certified teachers, but the solicitation really does not specifically target parents of players. My only stipulation, if such a program was generated, is that those parents who became trained, would try their best to not work with their own children.

I do not know if this premise has been brought to your attention, but in my mind, such a program makes sense and is sorely needed based on the huge hole we have gaining adequate training for youngsters wishing to be part of tennis.

I see the need for greater continuing education and certification for current teaching pros and the solicitation and marketing of young people to enter the industry, but the low hanging fruit in the attempt to gain more qualified folks on court, are parents.

– Denny Schackter

Subscribe to Tennis Club Business here:

Assorted sports equipment including a basketball, soccer ball, tennis ball, bat, tennis racket,  football, dumbbells and baseball

Should Tennis Juniors Play Other Sports?

By Denny Schackter

Denny Schackter has been serving the Tennis Teaching Professional Industry for his entire career.

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 a professional screening to supplementa a club or facility’s interview process, helping decision makers hire the right employee for the job.

The discussion of whether a high schooler should specialize in one sport or play multiples sports has been going on for years. As I visit various sports venues, I often hear parents chat about their kids and their sports: outside coaches, travel team politics, expenses related to activities, and so on.

As a youngster growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, I worshipped an athlete in my hometown. He played multiple sports in high school, lettered nine times att the University of Wisconsin in football, baseball and basketball, and played in the NFL for a number of years. He later became Athletic Director at Wisconsin and was instrumental in the turn around of Wisconsin athletics. His name is Pat Richter. Pat noted that in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, the time devoted to strength and conditioning was completely different than it is now. He commented, “I did not know anything about conditioning until my eigth year in the NFL.”

Being a Wisconsin fan, I am constantly reading about Wisconsin athletes. Recently, Greg Gard, Wisconsin’s Men’s Basketball Coach cited that both of his two point guards this season were football quarterbacks in high school and part of championship football teams as seniors. Hence, he really likes these kids as leaders on the basketball floor. My guess is that much of that leadership stems from their high school quarterback days, as well as their high school basketball roles.

As a Packer fan as well, I wondered if Aaron Rogers played other sports growing up. Coincidentally, in USA Today High School Sports, an article was written in January 2017, about that very subject. Rogers played soccer, baseball and basketball along with football. His comment was, “I think it is going away a little bit and it’s unfortunate.” He went on to say that he pitched in baseball, was a goalie in soccer, and a point guard in basketball. If you notice, all of the positions Rogers played were ones where he controlled a great deal of play.

Most experts feel that by playing more sports, fewer overuse injuries occur, there is less opportunity for emotional issues, one receives exposure to different kids and different roles, and one is not putting all of their eggs in one basket. Michelle Smith, of ESPN wrote these things, but others have as well.

I remember talking to a tennis parent about his daughters who wanted to go to a particular Division I college to play tennis. The college coach did not recruit her, because her national ranking was too low. The young lady was not only a fine tennis player, but also a member of a state championship softball team. Hence, the time she devoted to tennis was not as much as other athletes. However, another DI coach recruited her and she became one of the winningest women tennis players in school history. That coach recruited the total athlete, not just a tennis player, and was rewarded.

Certainly, the flip side can be said for devoting oneself to the sport or activity one does best. I am not a musician, but in researching musicians, I found out that many fine musicians learn piano first and then branch out. We’ve all heard about a musician who can play all kinds of instruments, but the really great ones seem to focus on one. I believe there’s some mental and physical fatigue in that program as well, but the rewards of being extremely strong in one instrument, are probably pretty extensive.

Certainly the same can be said for an athlete who focuses on one sport. Greater work and emphasis on one thing can result in greater rewards, but at what price? I often hear about tennis players who just get sick of it, because they played way too much in a short period of time. One thought my good friend Don Patrick said, “What happens when you specialize in one sport and you fail at it? What is there to gall back on?” Regarding that point Don added, “If there is not another sport to fall back on, self esteem and a sense of belonging goes south, and then there are mental anguish issues.”

The commentaries I have discovered focused on multiple team sport participation, but there was little written on playing a team and an individual sport. Hence my desire to write this article.

I decided to ask several Division I college tennis coaches for their thoughts on this subject. Arvid Swan, the Men’s Coach at Northwestern, did not express a preference for a multi-sport or single-sport athlete in his recruiting. He just wants a player who fits their team’s culture.

Brad Dancer, the Men’s Coach at Illinois, told me, “The question to play multiple sports in high school is such a personal one and needs to be a fit for each family. There can be advantages to continuing to compete in sports outside of tennis, even at the high school level, but it often takes a young man or woman who is pretty comfortable in their own skin, to not b e overwhelmed by the feeling of ‘falling behind’ on the tennis court.

There is substantial data published that illustrates the potential benefits of giving the body seasonal changes, allowing for physical growth and recovery. Overall, there shouldn’t be a plan for everyone, but adopting what is right for each individual. Claire Pollard, the Women’s Tennis Coach at Northwestern, said, “Finding a complementary sport can do wonders for any athlete.”

Another respected college coach, Tina Tharp, who coaches both men and women at West Chester University, mentioned that she has had “better success with multi-sport athletes than with pure tennis players – not as many injuries, and they understand the team concept.”

Kelcy McKenna, the Women’s Coach at Wisconsin commented, “It would be hard for a high school athlete to be able to have success in ITF/USTA tournament competition, if they played more than two sports in high school.” My thought is – dividing time between two sports would inhibit practice and improvement for both.

In Time Magazine’s September 17, 2017, issue, Sean Gregory had an extensive story on our very subject, titled, Kid Sports Inc. How your child’s rec league turned into a 15 billion industry. Noted was this statement having do with team travel, which of course, parallels the tennis tournament circuit in which many kids get involved. “There are upsides to the frenzy. Some kids thrive off intense competition… the travel circuit can also bring people of different backgrounds together in a way that local leagues by definition cannot.” It’s worth asking what’s lost in the process. Already, there are worrying signs. A growing body of research shows that intense early specialization in a single sport increases the risk of injury, burnout and depression. Gregory added, “Fees and travel costs are forcing out lower-income families.”

Gosh, I love sports! I love what they teach us. However, attending a junior tennis tournament in many locations is not very rewarding. Of course, it’s not just tennis, but team sports, competitive parents, warring coaches, and poor sportsmanship, that really adds negativity to the fun of competing and meeting new and interesting kids along the way.

In my investigation, I discovered there are pros and cons to multiple sport participation and sole sport participation. I don’t have an answer, but I do have an opinion. If an athlete wishes to play a sport in college, then participation in high school in one sport is probably a great idea. However, if a high school athlete is on a fall team sport and a spring individual sport, then muscle and mental fatigue is reduced. Meeting new and different kids with new and different experiences, is a given. If someone plays a physically grueling team sport then jumps into a physically gruelling individual sport, I can see some issues arising. I believe the conclusion is each athlete and his or her family have to have open discussion on time management, dollar costs, physical and mental turmoil, and then make a sound judgment on what’s best for everyone involved.

I formerly coached college tennis, but it was over 30 years ago. We did not have a great deal of off season conditioning. We did not have year round play or required kids to stay on campus during the summer, etc. Today the requirements for DI athletes are completely different and, in my mind, over the top. Even at the 03 level, I am seeing a great many expectations put on athletes to insure they compete at a high level. However, today the pressure on coaches to win has superseded anything resembling common sense on behalf of the athlete.