Denny Schackter, USPTA Elite professional, had a court dedicated to him in a ceremony on March 18 at the ITA Men’s Division 1, Indoor Team Championship at XS Tennis Village in Chicago, Illinois.
XS Tennis Village “THE XS TENNIS AND EDUCATION FOUNDATION (XSTEF) MISSION IS TO PROVIDE CHICAGO’S UNDERSERVED YOUTH WITH AN ENRICHING SAFE-HAVEN AND POSITIVE PATHWAY TO COLLEGE THROUGH A COMMUNITY-BASED TENNIS AND ACADEMIC ENRICHMENT PROGRAM.”
XS has been a long supporter of grass roots tennis thru the top levels of tennis. In the last several years they have had players participating in USTA Orange, Green, and Level 7 thru National Junior Championships. They also host six college teams, the ITA Indoor Team Championships and several professional tournaments.
Denny’s court will be next to courts named after people who have had a big impact in the Chicago, Midwest and International Tennis scene like Billy Martin and Billie Jean King.
Denny was honored because of his nonstop work to promote tennis in the Milwaukee, Chicago, Midwest, and nation. Denny was a Men’s Tennis Coach at the University of Wisconsin, a long-time Wilson Tennis Representative, and a long-time tennis volunteer for the Milwaukee Tennis Foundation, the Chicago District Tennis Association, the Midwest USTA, the National USTA, and the USPTA.
Just as important is how many tennis professionals that Denny has mentored including many tennis professionals that welcomed him into the USPTA Midwest Hall of Fame.
Currently along with tennis volunteering Denny is the owner of Tennis Priorities where he is in the profession of recruiting new men and women to the profession of tennis teaching. The USPTA Midwest Division inducted Denny into their Hall of Fame in 2020.
Read the complete Spring 2023 USPTA Midwest Division Newsletter here.
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 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.
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.
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 AnnouncesCongratulations 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.
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!
College Players Are Ideal Candidates to Become Certified Tennis Teaching Professionals.
By Denny Schackter
The tennis industry needs to bring in younger people. We’ve known this for many years, but as the average age of teaching professionals has climbed into the late 40s, the importance of doing so has only grown.
I’m in the business of recruiting people into this industry, and I’ve worked with college tennis players for many years. When I see former college players who have taken jobs in other professions, they often tell me “something is missing” about their new jobs. What they miss is not having as much contact with other people, like they did when they played tennis.
Both the USPTA and PTR have initiatives to bring young men and women into the tennis teaching profession, and we all should be encouraging young adults to get and stay in the industry. There are many reasons I give to college and Tennis on Campus players on why they should consider becoming certified tennis teaching pros:
Help people of all ages enjoy and benefit from tennis.
Most college players come out of school with great experiences from their time on teams. As a certified teaching pro, former college players can continue to pay this forward.
Get a handle on the tennis business.
Certified pros stay informed and updated on the tennis industry, new teaching adaptations, rules, equipment, new products, programs, facility administration and much more.
It’s a good career backup plan.
If a young person enters a profession and then later feels it wasn’t the right choice, being certified to teach tennis can almost guarantee a job.
Hone organization and time management skills.
While tennis pros work with others, they have to set their own schedules, organize their commitments and budget their time – all skills that other jobs and professions also require.
Gain and maintain a strong circle of friends.
Who do high-school and tennis players often consider their best friends? Their teammates. And these are friendships they maintain for the long term. On a staff with other tennis pros, strong friendships also blossom, and these professional connections can reap benefits down the road.
Draw out a hidden talent.
College players who enjoyed the game can be terrific teaching professionals because of the wealth of experience they gained in match play. Often, players don’t realize they can be effective teachers. Going through certification helps bring out these talents.
Stay in shape.
How many jobs give a person the chance to stay in shape? Teaching tennis is a great way to stay healthy and fit, while remaining aware of the body’s limits. This shouldn’t be overlooked.
Stay engaged in the game.
Most tennis players genuinely love this sport. Becoming a certified teaching pro keeps players connected to it.
Denny Schackter, USPTA Illinois District President
Over the last few years we have seen membership in the USPTA decrease here and
there. I am sure those that have dropped out have very valid reasons for doing so. I feel bad for those professionals.
We recently held our Midwest Conference in Aurora, IL. I believe we had about 150 pros attend from all of our Midwest States. Some came because of the great speakers, others because they wanted to fulfill their education credits, and still others came to catch up with old tennis buds.
One pro said to me, “Denny, you know why I am here?”
I answered, “No, why?”
He said, “Take a look at your Board. There’s a load of experience amongst those pros and I like to BS with them and maybe pick up a thing or two.”
I then asked our Board to give me some short bio points and found out if this pro is absolutely correct. Our Board is loaded with experience. A Midwest Conference is the only option to see everyone and tap into his or her vast experience.
Take a peek:
Scott Ansay, our Regional VP, has been an Elite Pro since 1998, Wisconsin Pro of the Year, and was a fine college tennis player at UW-Green Bay.
Michael Parker, President of Indiana, has been a terrific pro at Wildwood Racquet Club in Ft. Wayne, IN since 2004 and was Junior College All American at Tyler JC where he trained to become a tennis professional.
Mark Ficks, President of Michigan has been Michigan Pro of the Year twice, a USTA District Vice President, is currently a high school coach and his facility has been named a “Facility of the Year” in Michigan.
Mike Graff, Second Vice President for the USPTA Midwest, is a Tennis Director for Baseline Tennis in Michigan since 2004, played collegiately at Oakland University, has served the USTA Southeast Michigan Board, and played tennis continuously for 111 hours with three other pros to raise money and set records.
Dan Oliver is the Wisconsin District President. He has been a D1 College Coach at UW-Green Bay, a long time USPTA Pro in Appleton, WI and currently Junior Davis Cup Coach for the Badger State.
Chris Chopra is the Head Professional at Indiana University’s Rec Sports Tennis Facility, is a USPTA Master Pro, High Performance Coach, and is also a Third Vice President for the USPTA Midwest.
Cathy Thomas, the Ohio President, has been a USPTA Pro since 1985, a high school coach, fundraiser, advocate for tennis with school boards and city councils, and is a go to person at the Western & Southern Open event in Cincinatti.
Matt Davis, USPTA Midwest Secretary-Treasurer, chairs our newsletter, the Midwest Connection, is currently a country club racquet sports director. He has been a head pro at an indoor club as well. He’s been a USPTA member for 18 years and is a graduate of Ferris State’s Tennis Management Program.
Mark Faber, Division President, is a club tennis director, high school coach, head of a USTA National Task Force on High School Tennis, USTA Midwest Volunteer, and a graduate of the PTM program at Methodist University.
Your truly has been a USPTA member since 1974, Division 1 college coach, tennis industry rep, and a USTA volunteer for 25 years.
I am proud to serve on the Board. For any of you who have let your membership lapse, it’s not too late to tap into this talent and their willingness to aid you in your work. We hope to see you at our next Conference to be held August 18-19 in conjunction with the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati. You’ll meet some great folks, and I am certain, walk away and say, “That pro was right. The USPTA Midwest Board has got ‘stuff!”