Color me delusional but I always approached each new opportunity as a part of my extensive career as tennis professional.
As my mentor, Jak Beardsworth, once coined, “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” he said with a wry smile.
Indisputably, my early ascent to running my own tennis program was an integral aspect of my joy in choosing my path in life. Similar to my playing career, I was lucky to taste success early, and that offered motivation to keep climbing, pursuing my dreams.
My hometown club hosted the United States Clay Court Championships (for several summers). This mammoth event laid the groundwork for my burgeoning upcoming career. In particular, I was blessed to play tennis with both Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King; two pioneers who far exceeded their accomplishments on court and would blaze their own unique trails in life.
No doubt that my own tennis professionals (Al Pena, Tom Wright, Estebon Fillol, Brian Parrott, Jack Hughes and Rich Halpine) took the time to help hone my game with masterful insights and undying motivation, which provided the spark that all juniors crave.
During and after my collegiate career, I again surrounded myself with remarkable coaches who were happy to share their knowledge with the “kid.” Two of the three influential coaches were charismatic, energetic and full of many great ideas. Ironically, the other coach showed me how not to do it; he lacked energy, enthusiasm and any real passion in his life on and off the tennis court. Ironically, I was lucky to see both ends of the spectrum, as I knew which blueprint to follow.
Despite achieving top jobs early in my profession, I continued to surround myself with leaders in the tennis business. In order to triumph in any field, one must seek out as much wisdom as humanly possible or one will get stale.
Remember never be afraid to ask questions. Don’t assume you know everything because you are a great tennis player. Being a former tennis star does not have anything to do with running an active club. The club is about the membership; it’s their club and they want outstanding services.
One of the coolest aspects of the tennis industry is the large number of outgoing characters coaching the game throughout the world. In simple terms, tennis pros are incredible entertainers who continually help shape the lives of both junior and adult students.
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” – Confucius.
Since we wear so many different hats, there is never a dull moment. In particular, the morning might be devoted to coaching our league teams, and in the afternoon, we may be writing the monthly newsletter or setting up the next big social. Since no two days are exactly the same, we stay inspired.
Another trait of a committed professional is to make sure one is accessible to the membership. In a way, we are like physicians; we offer 24-hour service. Whether we are on property or off, it is vital to have an open line of communication. Top-flight professionals answer phone calls and emails daily; if the correspondence is important to the member/client, then it is crucial to be diligent and caring about each situation. Don’t be in a hurry to leave.
One of the bigger keys to success is to know when to be seen. League matches and well attended daily round robins require the pros full consideration. Experienced devoted pros know when to turn off the teaching book in order to fulfill the needs of their fully expanding job. A large number of the membership may never take a tennis lesson, so it is essential to meet their needs.
In order to achieve as much credibility as possible, pros must be well-groomed and outfitted “Every day my clothes are cleaned and pressed because I am representing my club.” Former professional, Tom Wright, told me with pride.
But there is more to wearing the best outfits; we also must promote the club’s pro shop. The best pros in the industry endorse not just the tennis department, but they also promote the golf staff, the food and beverage department and the administration.
Remember, each day is an opportunity to engage with your membership and dazzle them with the next big happening. Never take for granted that tennis will continue to grow at your facility. Take pride and show endless enthusiasm.
As the tennis leader at your facility, be a positive light with your membership. Each season it is important to adjust your programming- keep the winners and don’t be afraid to toss out the duds. Winners take chances and will always move forward with the right attitude.
So, are you punching a clock at your dreary job or are you excited to get back to your establishment and make a difference?
Since 2000, Doug Browne was the Collier County Pro of the Year three times, and has been a USPTA pro in the area for 28 years. Doug was also honored in the International Hall of Fame (Newport, Rhode Island) as Tennis Director during the 2010 summer season. Doug has been writing about tennis for the last 19 years.