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 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.