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WHY HIGH SCHOOL TENNIS COACHES NEED TO BE EMBRACED BY THE TENNIS INDUSTRY!!

by Denny Schackter, USPTA Midwest Hall of Fame

In my long and very unspectacular career in tennis I had the privilege in college of coaching high school tennis for one season. While at the University of Wisconsin, the Athletic Director of a local high school called a Professor in our Department seeing if anyone was available. I got the job for $300 and was off and running.

Later, I became the college coach at Wisconsin and was part of a team of coaches that organized the Wisconsin High School Tennis Coaches Association. We got started in the mid 70’s and the organization is still going strong. As the area Wilson Rep for 22 years I tried to embrace high school coaches in my territory by supporting their activities and letting them know that our Company was behind them 100%. As I ended my career, I felt that my Company could have done more to embrace high school coaching efforts, but in defense of Wilson and others, getting their product message to the consumer was probably best done by social media, websites etc. and not direct contact with high school coaches. Now I feel the personal contact is needed by the student from his coach to set a solid tennis pathway for the high school student.

I returned from the USTA Semi Annual meeting in Florida in March of 2022. I am proud to serve on the USTA’s National Committee for High School Tennis. The Committee has witnessed great success due to the increased awareness of the value of the high school tennis player.

One of the byproducts of high school tennis has been the involvement of high school players playing Tennis on Campus. Not only are those former high school players enjoying intramural tennis in college, they have become prime candidates for Racquet sports companies, the USTA, and tennis facilities in our country.

One of the needs that has been addressed is the need for an influx of young tennis teaching professionals for full time work. Both the PTR and PTA recognize this and want to utilize the TOC data base to enhance the teaching professional ranks.

While the TOC students are a great breeding ground for industry leaders, I believe we have a larger base for future industry work. That base is the large contingent of tennis players currently participating in high school tennis supplemented by the large number of high school tennis coaches currently working in our country.

High school tennis coaches are organized in some states. My native state of Wisconsin, Texas, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois come to mind as states that have annual meetings and clinics. They promote, monitor and improve the high school tennis experience for student athletes. While TOC can give us some industry leaders, I believe we have to start with high school players who exhibit a passion for the game and could be our next generation of full time teaching professionals. To get this done, I believe high school tennis coaches can be a huge factor in creating tennis teachers should they organize themselves into a viable tennis trade organization.

Why?

Why should high school coaches should organize?

1. High school tennis coaches are a group of tennis advocates with a common goal that span the whole nation.

2. Their influence covers tennis players in season, in the classroom and out of season.

3. Many times they are the pulse of the tennis community.

4. They could be a part or full time tennis teacher at a local facility.

5. They could be a USTA Volunteer, league official, or official influencing many.

6. They could have a long term length of service to tennis; pivotal leader and advocate for court maintenance, lighting and general upkeep.

7. They could be a huge influencer for young people to elect to work or serve in the tennis industry.

8. Many high school coaches are lifelong mentors to their students thereby steering them to give back to the game that has been good to them.

9. If the coach AND his or her family are tennis players, they have a profound effect on the strength of the tennis community.

10. If the high school tennis coach has coaching responsibilities in another sport at the school, they can influence high school athletes to play tennis.

11. They might be the local racquet stringer and/or retailer therefore aiding the goods and services of tennis.

During my college coaching days, one of my tennis players wanted to be a high school coach. He helped me with our younger players and was essentially a player/coach for what was our JV program at Wisconsin. He then took a job at a high school in Wisconsin and stayed at that school for over 30 years until he sadly passed away a few years ago. As I look at my list of “whys” I realized that this former player fulfilled every one of my 11 points. I cannot remember all that he accomplished, but I do know that I could give an example of something he accomplished on all 11 points. There are many others in the country that have accomplished the same results.

Coaches could combine their efforts with current teaching professionals and channel interested high school tennis players on the correct pathway to become teaching professionals. That pathway could include what courses to take, what experiences are needed to be a competent tennis professional. In addition the students would gain a mentor for those day to day decisions young people need. The kids could work during school vacations and learn the business. When college was completed, we have a finished product ready to go to work.

I would urge the TIA to embrace a national organization of high school tennis coaches. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, there are 11,253 high schools providing tennis as an interscholastic sport and in 2018-19, there were approximately 350,000 students participating. I would guess that there were at least 11,253 coaches coaching. This number represents a bit of a downward trend from several years ago, but with the USTA’s 10 and under multiple initiatives, I see the number skewing upward in the next few years. Some coaches are doubling up working with boys and girls, but still that’s a lot of ball, racquet, string, shoe, grip and apparel sales that a coach’s influence contributes to the industry in addition to the relationships developed.

One could say, wait a minute. The USPTR and USPTA are responsible for high school coaches. Agreed, and they both have certification programs for high school coaches in some form. The USTA also does that.

My reasoning for a TIA/high school coach duo goes back to reading about Toyota building its first plant in the USA and designing their work force. The assembly line worker, designer, accountant and purchasing agent all met regularly to make the product better. There was no “class” system in the plant, but a team of workers unified to make a quality automobile.

If tennis is going to grow and grow with a solid “tennis teacher” foundation, all facets of the “influencers” should be part of the trade group that governs the business of tennis.

Read the complete Summer 2022 USPTA Midwest Division Newsletter HERE.

Two tennis rackets and balls leaned against the net.

Does Your Staff Need Some Energy?

It’s always rewarding to catch up with long-time industry professionals. I crossed paths recently with a very respected USPTA Pro in Wisconsin. Like you, when having lunch with a contemporary, many subjects, tennis-wise, are discussed.

The USTA Midwest Collegiate Committee, chaired by fellow USPTA Pro, Timon Corwin, hosted a variety of educational webinars for potential college-playing tennis players. The response by parents, students, and coaches was very positive. At lunch, I asked my fellow Pro if he knew about the webinars. He stated he did not. It got me thinking. Why?

This Pro is a club owner, teaching pro, high school coach, husband, father, and a stalwart in his community. He readily admits he does not read his email enough, but also, he does not delegate things that could make his staff more responsive to fellow staff and club membership.

If you are a Head Pro or a Director at your facility, I would guess that many club functions fall in your lap. In many cases, they do not receive proper attention or fall through the cracks.

Online enrichment opportunities are plentiful. My recommendation is that the director or Head Pro assign different types of “enrichment” to various staff pros. For example, one could investigate and formulate a weekly email to fellow staff members on “tennis education” sources available online. Another item that could be assigned and investigated is “opportunity tools for high school graduating students” such as the ITA (Intercollegiate Tennis Association), UTR, and Tennis on Campus. Incidentally, on that subject of college tennis, the USTA Midwest has a Facebook page entitled “Midwest Collegiate Tennis Hub” which provides an abundance of information on collegiate tennis. Another Pro could tackle “personal enrichment ideas”, such as personal finance or updated information on health insurance for the staff. Yet another would be to check out the websites of the USTA, PTA, and PTR to acquire current trends in tennis, both on and off the court, to enhance staff performance.

These assignments would accomplish several things. They would build teamwork within the staff. Second, this exercise would delegate all things pros need but would share the workload for the Director or Head Pro to gain those needs. Third, doing this exercise will help all the staff members grow and make them more aware of all the resources available to them that, many times, are ignored due to a lack of time. It also makes the staff more accountable to each other while sharing all kinds of information. Lastly, and most important, it makes you and your staff a better teaching and life team.

Read the complete Summer 2021 USPTA Midwest Division Newsletter HERE.

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Your Serve: Saving Our Courts by Denny Schackter

Click here for the full article published by Racquet Sports Industry

Pickleball seems to do a much better job advocating for what it needs. Can tennis state the case for itself?

With the pandemic, sports that have a built-in degree of physical distancing, like tennis and pickleball, have been fairly popular. But as pickleball continues to grow, I’ve noticed some tension between these two sports, which makes me concerned for tennis.

My wife plays pickleball. She enjoys it because her physical abilities match up well with the sport. For many people, pickleball is a great way to expand motor and mental skills without putting one’s body in a precarious position.

Recently, my wife introduced me to a fellow pickleball player who coordinates much of the pickleball activities at our club. He told me that many of the tennis pros at the club resent pickleball. He said he’s had to work hard to get space so that he can conduct pickleball activities.

This got me thinking. In a typical city, the park and rec department oversees athletic facilities—monitoring and repairing the venues, building new facilities, running programs at them for all age groups. Pickleball players seem to be doing a much better job “politicking” park and rec agencies and boards so that resources come their way. Tennis players, on the other hand, seem to stay on the sidelines, not engaging or creating support for their tennis courts, then watching as they slowly but surely disappear.

This is a problem that affects more than recreational tennis players, who will have a harder and harder time finding a place to play. Also suffering will be high school and college teams that use public courts to practice and compete.

Pickleball players always seem ready and able to help aspiring players learn the basic skills of their sport and find places to play, and they’re always very welcoming when it comes to introducing new players to existing players. In the tennis world, this often is not the case.

Tennis also needs to be concerned that park and rec departments hire qualified teachers, otherwise aspiring tennis players will receive less than adequate instruction, resulting in a less than satisfactory tennis experience. The USPTA and PTR have long advocated that education and certification need to be keys for teaching tennis. If we, as tennis players, do not insist on that happening, we will lose more tennis candidates.

What can recreational tennis players and providers do? CTAs, high school coaches, parents, district USTA officials and many others should start meeting with the local decision-makers regarding facility construction, maintenance and usage. Also, run for election on local park and rec boards, which can ensure tennis won’t be an afterthought in your community. And push for accurate data regarding the number of tennis players in your community, so that park boards realize a good percentage of its residents play tennis.

Obviously, tennis and pickleball can, and should, get along. They both can provide important segments of society with much-needed fitness and activity. But tennis players can’t just stand by and watch others win the budgetary and resource battles in our communities. Tennis players need to start lobbying for and advocating for what the sport needs.

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

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

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College Tennis During COVID-19 Webinar Series: Life After Tennis and Career Opportunities

Date: Thursday, November 5, 2020

Time: Noon (East) / 11 a.m. (Central)

Featured speakers:

  • Frank Barnes, Men’s and Women’s Tennis Coach, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
  • Brandon Currie, CEO, Stryv365; Tennis Club Owner
  • Cy Dofitas, US Grassroots and Promotions Director, Wilson Racquet Sports
  • Katie Orlando, Director of Tennis, Towpath Tennis Center; Vice President, USTA/Midwest Section Board of Directors
  • Erica Perkins Jasper, William B. Arce Director of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation and George R. Roberts Fellow, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps
  • Kevin Theos, Tennis Service Representative for Alabama, USTA Southern

Moderated by Denny Schackter, Owner, Tennis Priorities Company; Member, Collegiate Committee, USTA/Midwest Section

Read speaker bios here.

Register here.

“I am very proud to moderate this webinar with a group of outstanding tennis ambassadors. I urge all tennis pros to circulate this link to their high school juniors and seniors so they can see what a wonderful career tennis is and can be.” – Denny Schackter

Tennis Lessons Chicago

Utilize Talents and Skills of Your Members

by Denny Schackter, USPTA Elite Professional

Several years ago, I was invited to sit in on a staff meeting at a very large multi-purpose club. Fitness, tennis, paddle, swim, snack bar were all included. Discussed was a forthcoming event that needed to be catered. I was asked my opinion on the event and my only comment was, “do you have members that are in the catering business?” The staff looked at each other and could not answer the question.

My point is that, as much as privacy allows, Directors in clubs should know the profession of their members. Utilizing your membership for skills and services is good public relations for the Club, excellent exposure for the vendor, and a benefit of trust from both parties. One could argue, “what happens if there are two people in the same business?” I would say that you give both parties a chance to bid, but most important, give all a chance for the Club business. Why not use a club member for electrical work, catering, plumbing, or carpentry work? Why not buy or lease a vehicle from a member or two?

Whether you agree to the pros and cons of this premise, I still feel it deserves discussion in staff meetings. If I were a member pulling into the parking lot and saw a competitor doing goods and services at my club, and I was not asked to engage, I would be very disappointed and wonder why I belong to this club? Food for thought.

Read the complete Fall 2020 USPTA Midwest Division Newsletter HERE.

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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.

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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

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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 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:

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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

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