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.