Coach teaching tennis lessons to a group of people and helping them hold the racket properly - outdoors sports concepts

Can Tennis Follow the Lead of the Major League Baseball, NBA, and MLS Soccer?

Our tennis industry is going through some very tough times. Certainly the efforts are there to maintain players, but we are losing a good many of our senior players to pickleball. Many of those tennis players were not tennis players in the first place. Twenty years ago we had a dip after platform tennis surged. In that surge, we lost a great many folks in their 30’s and 40’s, many of whom had stopped playing tennis altogether. These are indeed tough times for tennis numbers. One bright spot is the strength of high school tennis. Those players are showing up. Our challenge is to keep them playing.

I bring up the overview of play because, while participation is indeed a challenge, the industry’s biggest challenge is maintaining and growing the tennis teaching professional ranks. Specifically, the aging of the American tennis teaching industry is rising at an alarming rate. The USTA, PTR, and the PTA are all making concerted efforts to educate, recruit and promote the industry to young people, but it is a tough battle, especially recruiting accomplished players, who are much needed in clubs and facilities to work with aspiring high school players. In my view, the average American college tennis player is not gravitating to the tennis teaching industry. The reasons are many; hard work, variable hours, lack of a decent income, lack of benefits and little upward mobility to name just a few.

Where is the low hanging fruit to gain some teaching numbers? It is the large number of foreign tennis players attending and playing at American colleges. Truthfully, there is a profound resentment in the tennis industry on the large number of overseas tennis players playing at United States universities and colleges. The reason the number is large is because we are not producing enough high performance domestic players to fill college rosters. Hence, the large influx of the world’s best young players is here. In addition, in most foreign lands, athletic participation choices, are in comparison, modest, as contrasted to choices here in the States. One other fact that hurts tennis at this time is the low birth rate in the US that seems to be lower each and every year.

What the industry has to do is to keep the graduating foreign players here and train them to be tennis teaching professionals. The group graduating each year, who wishes to stay here, could certainly find work at our nation’s tennis facilities.

How do we keep those candidates here after their playing days are over? The answer might be in the next few paragraphs.

A question I have is “how can Major League Baseball, The NBA, and Major League Soccer operate here, year after year, with rosters stocked with foreign players?” For the record, based on the latest stats, Major League Baseball rosters have 27.1% foreign born players, the NBA 25.1%, and Major League Soccer 56.4%. How can those pros participate year after year in this country and yet a tennis teaching pro has to leave, for the most part, even with help, after 3 years? Plus, we need tennis pros more than we need baseball, basketball, and soccer players!

What’s the answer? It is, of course, money and navigating the system. Pro teams certainly have a legal team or have contracted those specializing in immigration law, to keep those players here. Tennis governing bodies have elected not to afford this process, have elected not to garner resources to pursue this option, or have simply ignored this opportunity.

One of my former students at the University of Wisconsin went on to become a Major League Baseball exec. I wrote to him asking how baseball players can stay year after year. His answer is, “baseball has a staff that works with the players to gain Visas. Their applications, coordinated by each team, begin in the off season for arrival in March. They can stay only thru November. In addition, players applying for a P1 Visa are treated differently than coaches. Coaches have a stricter protocol to go through. Also, families are not allowed to be in the states unless there are circumstantial reasons to do so. In that case, a special appeal has to take place.” The key factor is this P1 Visa. According to the official U.S. Citizenship and Immigration website, “an athlete must be coming to the United States to participate in team events and must have achieves significant international recognition in the sport. Obviously, with tennis, this is a tough description because most of the foreign tennis players are not international stars. That brings us to the coaches’ designation. This is a much stricter protocol, but achievable if the most knowledgeable people help tennis with this issue.

While investigating this article, I came across some valuable information from an immigration law firm, Jaensch Immigration Law, in Sarasota, FL. They have supplied up to date information to sportvisaamerica.com. The section pertinent to my thoughts is called the H-1B visa. This is for workers in specialty occupations. Stated is “The visa is issued for up to three years and is renewable for a second three-year period. The visa will permit the athlete to work for an American Company in a position that normally requires a university degree. Sometimes this will work for an athlete who wants to work as a coach or instructor, but not always.” Certainly this deserves some investigation by our tennis governing bodies.

The need for teaching pros is dire. American kids just do not see feeding balls as a career. However, I know from experience, having worked with former foreign born college players, that many have the desire and passion to want to teach here. Their alternative is going back to their home countries, which, for the most part, is not attractive for income.

I hope those of us in the industry can capitalize on this opportunity. Your thoughts?

Read the complete Winter 2023 USPTA Midwest Division Newsletter HERE.

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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: The Old College Try by Denny Schackter

Click here for the full article published by Racquet Sports Industry

Two-year college PTM programs, rather than a four-year duration, may be all that’s needed to produce qualified pros.

Recently I was reading a newspaper article on the shortage of Americans entering trades, such as welders, electricians,
carpenters, plumbers, etc. The article not only described the shortage, it listed schools across the country offering certifications for those careers.

This got me thinking. The tennis teaching organizations in the U.S. have endorsed college Professional Tennis Management (PTM) programs as a source for growing our tennis-teaching profession. So far, after many years,
there seems to be little indication that any of this is moving the needle on interest in teaching tennis.

My question is, why do young people looking to become tennis-teaching professionals need to get four-year degrees?
I believe all that an aspiring tennis teaching pro needs can be completed in a two-year program.

Promoting two-year PTM programs at junior and community colleges would help in several ways. Not only would this
industry produce twice as many qualified pros in the time it takes to churn out four-year grads, but young people who
love tennis and who may not be academically inclined would be great candidates for a tennis teaching career.

The perception many may have of two-year schools being “second class” to four-year institutions has been changing, as admissions requirements and academic standards continue to improve for community colleges. High-schoolers
who may have been average students can gain confidence as they see their progress through a two-year program. Plus, students can always transfer to a four-year school down the road if they desire.

Tuition, obviously, is lower for two-year schools and depending on the location, may be free. If a student had
to borrow money to stay at a four-year school, he or she may end up in debt for years, as they try to get their new tennis career off the ground.

The USTA wants to help out students in PTM programs with a $2,000 scholarship. While that’s great, it’s just a drop-in
the bucket to pay off a four-year school. That amount would go much further at a two-year institution.

Scheduling options at a two-year school often are much more flexible. This allows a student to take care of his
or her family and/or work part-time or full-time in addition to going to school. Most community colleges have
smaller class sizes, resulting in a better teacher-pupil ratio and stronger relationships with teachers. In addition,
there can be more support for the student as community college teachers may have more time to teach life skills.
Junior colleges also can zero in on the courses needed by a facility or club, while eliminating many of the “required”
courses at a four-year school, which may have no relevance to a tennis career.

I can envision young adults who played high school tennis at a decent level and possess a passion for tennis
as strong candidates for two-year PTM programs. One teaching pro/high school coach told me he has five players on his team who would be great candidates for our profession, but we, as an industry, need to “sell” them on this career choice.

As we know, there is a shortage of teaching pros. There is an acute demand for women tennis professionals. If all
these candidates could gain an affordable professional degree in two years, while working at a tennis facility at the
same time, we could well be on the way to fixing our industry and the tennis teaching profession.

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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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

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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.

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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
www.tennispriorities.com

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

Ernest Hemingway

tennis-officials

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

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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.

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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