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Your Serve: The Old College Try by Denny Schackter

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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.

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