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.

image (28)

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


Organization of the Month: Tennis Club Business

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

Denny Schackter, Founder of Tennis Priorities Company has been integral in locating Professional Tennis Coaches for over 20 years. Understanding the need for promoting the profession of teaching tennis, Denny places the best tennis coaches at tennis clubs in Chicago, Indiana, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and the Greater Wisconsin Region. While also serving as an ambassador in support of Tennis careers, Denny remains active in Tennis Associations at the Local, Regional, and National level.

A 2008 Inductee into the Wisconsin High School Tennis Coaches Hall of Fame, Denny currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Milwaukee Tennis & Education Foundation. Denny is also on the Board of The Milwaukee Classic, and The Chicago District Tennis Association. A former member of both The USPTA Midwest Board and United States Tennis Association’s National Committee for ‘Tennis on Campus’, Denny is currently Chair of the USTA Midwest Committee for Tennis Industry & Education and also a member of the USTA National Committee for High School Tennis.

Denny’s goal is to attract more talent into tennis industry positions and to connect them with financially lucrative and stable job opportunities. Denny works throughout the region to inform young adults of opportunities within the tennis industry and promoting the positive aspects of working in tennis. Denny advocates on behalf of such benefits as the tennis lifestyle, helping others, healthful benefits, and financial opportunities.

With a lifetime of connections in the Tennis Industry including sales posts, coaching, and now human resources, Denny works on educating executives in the club, resort and park industries on the long term financial benefits of hiring and retaining top tennis professionals as well as additional opportunities and resources available to help grow their business.


Why A Lesson Plan Is Needed!

by Denny Schackter, USPTA Elite Professional


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

Recently one of my good buds was hired as a part-time tennis-teaching professional at a nearby facility. His first assignment was to team teach with one other pro with a class of beginning adults. He arrived a half hour early and waited for his fellow pro to arrive. Two minutes before the class was to begin, his partner arrived, introduced himself, and out on the court they went.

The senior pro did not introduce my bud to the class, but instead started to chat about the first segment of the lesson. My friend did his best to follow the leader’s steps, but was very lost and looked foolish to the students. What a bad way to start a new gig!

What should the process be?

If you are a director or a head pro, you should have a “best practices” protocol in a “Pro’s Manual” to be followed by your staff when working with others.

Again, if you are the director or head pro, you should introduce(with resume and/or qualifications) all new staff to existing staff, preferably in person, but for sure via email or inter-club communications. If the club has a newsletter, announcing that person is always a good practice.

A core curriculum for beginners and advanced beginners should be given to each pro. A sub or an additional pro required is now in the loop on what has been done up to that point, what is to be done presently and perhaps, what will be done in subsequent lessons.

It’s best when discussing a drill to actually demonstrate it. By doing so, you emphasize key aspects of what’s to be accomplished. It’s a great exercise for the second pro because they see the flow of the drill that’s to be conducted. Be sure the class is gathered together and shouting instructions over several courts is eliminated.

Based on a previous match or tournament, the content of high level drill and play classes are pretty much spelled out. However, having game situations and drills ready in the event the students do not provide the input, or the pro does not know what happened in the previous competitive situations is always a good practice.

During the lesson or drill, be sure the lead pro is asking for input from the second pro on points being made. I have been the lead and neglected to ask the associate pro for his or her opinion and I am sure I have been the recipient of neglect as well. This is a definite no-no.

Another good practice is for the director or head pro to periodically visit the courts being taught by their staff. The director is not there to intimidate, but to observe or maybe join in for a bit, and offer support for the younger pro or pros as they conduct their session. There is a business axiom, “management by walking around” which addresses bosses who never leave their offices and rarely interact with employees while working. The director who stays away from his staff’s work is not a good leader.

After each class, I like to pull the class together for one minute to review the day’s work. I ask what the students thought of the time spent and ask them what would be a good thing to work on in the future. One of my good tennis buds, Don Paitrick of Charlottesville, Virginia, likes to bring the group together to have coaches discuss two positive reminders that can be taken by the students for their next match.

Finally, it would be ideal if the lead or more experienced pro would take the time to meet once a week or so and review the progress of the classes taught and the progress of the new staff. Having a type of “buddy” or mentoring system is always another good habit to develop.

About Denny Schackter
Denny Schackter is a veteran tennis pro residing in Palatine, Illinois. He has been a college coach, industry rep, avid USTA volunteer and currently owns a business, Tennis Priorities, which attempts to recruit young people to the tennis-teaching industry. Understanding the need for promoting the profession of teaching tennis, Denny places the best tennis coaches at tennis clubs in Chicago, Indiana, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and the Greater Wisconsin region. While also serving as an ambassador in support of tennis careers, Denny remains active in tennis associations at the local, regional, and national level.


Coaches Clinic in New Berlin, WI


As part of my duties as a USTA High School Committee member, I attended a terrific high school coaches clinic February 24 at Moorland Tennis Club in New Berlin, WI.

Organized by Scott Ficks, he, Erick Martinez and Craig Mours, as clinicians,  did a great job helping high school coaches gain fresh knowledge before spring tennis.

I spoke to the group about the need for high school players to become interested playing Tennis on Campus as they further their education and opportunities in the tennis teaching profession.

47 coaches attended the event.

Cheerful father in sports clothing teaching his daughter to play tennis while both standing on tennis court

Short of Staff?

How About Some Parents

By Denny Schackter, UPSTA Elite Professional: Palatine, IL

The other day I ran into a very fine teaching pro who does some coachin at a nearby high school. He’s the JV Coach. The season had just completed for his program and he was very proud of the progress of his girl’s team. I asked him, “Did you have any help?” “No” was the reply. I know this happens a great deal and I certainly sympathize for both coaches and the kids. That’s a large number to manage.

Very good teaching professionals and coaches can handle 24 kids. I say, handle but, really, the kids, many times, do get shortchanged. There is standing around, lack of focus, and above all, not lots of balls struck.

In many school situations there are not many quality coaches for all the sports offered. Like my bud, he was asked to coach because no one else took the job.

This is a problem in many schools, but I do think there are some candidates out there that can fill the void.

  1. There are former college players, both Varsity and Tennis on Campus, who might live in the areas, have some extra time, and might love to give back to the game.
  2. Many times there are former coaches who are idle who might like to be asked to come back and help. Those coaches might have coached at a school nearby or moved into your area and are looking for some fulfillment.
  3. I know of two retired teaching pros in my footprint that would be great volunteer high school coaches. Check out the roster of nearby clubs or call Tennis Directors in your area and see if there are candidates from that pool.
  4. What about a stay at home parent? Travel team women might have some time to devote especially if their child is on the team. A stay at home Dad might have time to devote to their child’s team. Obviously, a parent/child on same team can be a challenging dynamic, but if handled correctly, could be the answer to getting that pupil-teacher ratio down to workable numbers.

Let’s face it. It’s a lot more fun when you hit lots of balls. Any of my suggestions might work to give that JV or Frosh players a chance to really develop and add to the retention of players.

A follow-up article in Tennis Industry Magazine by Denny:

Be Certifiable!

College players are ideal candidates to become certified tennis teaching professionals:


Father Knows Best

By Denny Schackter

I don’t claim to be an expert on fatherhood, since I have never had the good fortune of being a father. But I have observed thousands of fathers over the last 45 years as a teacher, college tennis coach, teaching pro, industry representative, and now as a USTA volunteer and part time Pro.

From this unique perspective, I have concluded that fathers are extremely important to the stability and continued growth of the game of tennis.  Why?

  • Fathers can mold an aspiring tennis son or daughter to great heights by nurturing, consoling, disciplining and encouraging them.
  • Fathers have an innate ability to see the silver lining after a close loss and build confidence back in their child.
  • Fathers can hit with their kids, offering practice time and bonding, even a bit of coaching, while keeping things in perspective.
  • Fathers can be vital complement to a coach or teaching pro.

I recently attended a conference college tennis meet where I watched an interaction between father and daughter.  I happened to be a friend of the father and noticed how, after the competition, a constructive conversation ensued about the match.  It was only after the daughter had connected with her father that she went to hang with her teammates and coach.

I said to the dad, “every time I see you with Susan; I see a bond that is very evident.”  He replied, “If it weren’t for tennis, I would not have that bond.  Even more so, I don’t think I would have much of a relationship with my daughters. For everything outside of tennis, they are more closely bonded with my wife.”

What’s the point?

We woefully underestimate the bond of father and child.  Fathers can really interact and impart lessons in life to their children.  Since tennis is such a mental game, fathers have the ability to have many conversations to bring forth the positive dialogue players need to have when playing.

We often extol the virtues of tennis; exercise, decision making, social growth, family sport etc.  But personally, because of the individual nature of tennis, we are sometimes blind to the bond of father and child.  As previously mentioned I coached college tennis; many of my former players have kids playing in college now.  I have been fortunate to see my former players as Dads.  I am sure they took on their own persona and took on some of their own father’s traits.  Now I see a wonderful bond that both dad and child developed.  It’s great to see the Father/Son Father/Daughter tournaments in action.  They compete, but they laugh, cajole, support, high five and it brings about a warm feeling that is great to observe.

No question, kids play many times because Dad plays and certainly, many kids rebel because Dad plays, but when they accept the virtues of tennis, they see that the road to dad, and vice versa, is on the court.  That bond builds a lifetime glue which cannot be cracked.

What about Moms?

I know those reading will say it’s a team effort on the home front.  Moms drive to lessons and tournaments, handle tennis bills, and are the backbone of the family.  I know that.  My observation is that the dad provides the catalyst, the intangible force that makes it happen.

As we market our great game, implementing father/daughter/son activities could be a critical key to the continuance of tennis growth.

The 10 and under emphasis will be very well served by bringing fathers into a more impactful role that will sustain the attachment between tennis and families for a lifetime.

If you are in a position of influence, incorporate dads in your programming.  What can we do to aid this?

1) Lesson formats that are family in nature certainly could be a starting point.  Father/daughter/son group lessons with other father/daughter/son combinations could be fun.

2) “Stroke of the Week” clinics for families might work.

3) A one day Father/daughter/son club tournament with the emphasis being on round robin play and fun (rather than trophies and rankings) could be another.

4) Teaching Dads how to set up driveway tennis, drills, and conditioning the family can do together can form a bond.

5) Going to local college or professional matches to watch advanced players is another option.

All in all, we all believe the premise of tennis being a lifetime sport.  What we are doing is breaking the premise down into accessible, easy to manage parts and along the way, building a lifetime bond that should and can last a long time.  As I found over the years, fathers know best.



What’s Next for You?

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

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, 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.

tennis-teaching-professionalI have often told tennis pros to take an accounting class or two, or perhaps learn a second language, so they have value at the club when their body gives out.

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.”