Tennis director and former club owner Rick Vetter says it’s not rocket science: Fewer Courts + More Players = More Income.
How do you put this formula into practice at your tennis facility? One of the most reliable answers is with 10 and Under Tennis, which brings more kids onto the court at one time. But there’s a bonus, adds Vetter: 10 and Under Tennis also helps you build your base of players for the future.
Vetter recently put on a 10 and Under Tennis workshop in the indoor courts at the Boulder Country Club in Boulder, Colo., for tennis teaching pros and facility managers. “We had about 25 pros there who were all interested in developing and gaining more information and knowledge about running 10 and Under programs,” he says. “But importantly, from their standpoint at their facilities, they were very interested in utilizing the business model, too, to help their bottom lines.”
“It was an excellent workshop,” says Rob Scott, the executive director of the USTA Intermountain Section. “Rick not only has a ton of energy and enthusiasm, but he has the perspective as a tennis director and club owner, so he knows how to set up 10 and Under Tennis to help your facility grow.”
Vetter, who is a pro with Elite Sports Clubs in the Milwaukee area, is part of a team of “consultants” who work with the USTA in giving workshops to help clubs and facilities understand the benefits of 10 and Under Tennis—and how to run the programs successfully.
“We thought Rick would be terrific to talk about indoor programming for 10 and Under Tennis in Boulder,” says the USTA’s Bill Mountford, who coordinates the club consulting program. Mountford says with 10 and Under Tennis workshops, the consultants generally focus on six areas:
* Facilities, including how many courts are available, how best to use them, and how to line them. “Organizing the ‘real estate’ is essential,” says Mountford.
* Parent orientation: Making sure parents are treated as good customers and that they understand the progressions of 10 and Under Tennis. “Ultimately, it’s not a race,” says Mountford, “but parents do need to understand programming steps to avoid confusion and second-guessing.”
* Identifying, recruiting and training the right staff to deliver 10 and Under Tennis. Not every coach is suited or qualified to coach young children, just as not every coach is qualified to train professional players.
* Competition, and how important it is at the local level. “Competing goes hand-in-hand with programming at the best facilities, but it needs to be offered in a welcoming manner,” says Mountford.
* Equipment: Making sure teaching pros (and therefore parents and kids) understand the importance of using smaller racquets, lower bouncing balls, and shorter courts.
* The business model and programming: Understanding the return on the investment. “This might be the single most important element to the club consulting, because when anything becomes financially successful, there is increased market demand,” Mountford adds.
Mountford says the consultations on 10 and Under Tennis, which typically are free to the attendees, can be tailored to what the audience is looking for, so they may or may not include an on-court component. For the Boulder workshop, Vetter went on-court with some kids for some of the activities.
“That’s what some of these pros in Colorado had been looking for,” says Dan Lewis, the director of Junior Leagues for USTA Colorado. “They wanted to see an expert actually doing it with kids who weren’t high-performance kids. It was great information, and very well presented. Rick is very engaging.”
"It’s absolutely the way to go to teach 10 and Under Tennis,” adds Jon Winegardner, the director of tennis at the Boulder Country Club, which supplied not only the venue, but also the young 10 and Under players. “You don’t go take a basketball lesson before you play basketball—you just go out and play first, then refine it. This games-based approach to learning tennis for kids is the way to go.”
“The teaching pro can be a real difference-maker here,” says Vetter. “If I’m a club owner, and you’re a pro promoting 10 and Under Tennis and you’re doing a good job with it, you’re more valuable to me as an employee. Everyone needs to be a stakeholder in this.”
For more information on 10 and Under Tennis club consultations, contact Bill Mountford at Mountford@usta.com. Typically, club consultations are geared toward club owners, general managers, and directors of tennis, although senior teaching pro staff members have also been included in some consultations.