TOM Conference Focuses on Leadership, Growth, Innovation

The fifth annual Tennis Owners & Managers (TOM) Conference, held April 8 to 11 at Wild Dunes Resort in Charleston, S.C., attracted about 250 tennis facility owners, managers and other leaders in the tennis and sports industries. Presentations, interactive sessions and networking focused on growth, business leadership, development and innovation.

“Our conference format really helped to engage all participants to share their experiences, ideas and best practices, and we were very pleased and excited to hear the great feedback from attendees and exhibitors,” said Jolyn de Boer, executive director of the TIA, which presented the TOM. “I think everyone appreciated this peer-to-peer opportunity to learn. It’s great to see this industry coming together at events like the TOM Conference to work together to grow this industry.”

The conference included a unique “TOM Talk” format that included short presentations by experts in their areas, followed by roundtable discussions to generate and share ideas and best practices. Topics for the TOM Talks included Grow the Game—Instant ROI Tools, Turning Challenges into Opportunities, Creating Staff Solutions & Hiring, Facility Case Studies to Share Best Practices, and The Future of Tennis and Innovation. Table leaders led the discussions, and their notes were compiled into “takeaways/action items” that were sent to all attendees, with future plans for greater distribution.

The conference also featured a Resource Center with 45 exhibitors, which included companies with new tech solutions, equipment and court products manufacturers, court surfacing companies and more. “Many thanks to all who participated, including our many exhibitors and sponsors,” de Boer said. “We especially want to thank our main sponsor, Hoparazzi, and its owner, Christi Turdo, for all their support of the TOM Conference and the TIA.”

Speakers at the TOM included de Boer and TIA President Jeff Williams on the latest news and data about the racquet sports industry; Kurt Kamperman, the chief executive of the USTA National Campus, on how that venue is helping to build the next generation of tennis providers; Craig Morris, the USTA’s chief executive of Community Tennis, on Net Generation and getting kids into the game, and how tennis facility owners/managers are a key part of this initiative. Jim Baugh, the founder of PHIT America and a former TIA president, promoted Play Tennis Month and spoke about how critical it is to fight the “inactivity pandemic” in this country.

Doug Conant, founder and CEO of ConantLeadership and a former corporate CEO, spoke about leadership and fielded questions from the audience. “If you have a high-trust team, it’s amazing what you can do,” he said. “Cultivate a winning workplace, with high engagement, and you’ll do wonders in the marketplace.”

Dr. Jack Groppel, the co-founder of the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute and the wellness advisor to the tennis industry, captivated the audience recounting how he and his son climbed Mount Kilimanjaro last year, using lessons learned from tennis to help reach the summit. Then Stephen Tharrett, the co-founder of ClubIntel, presented on how the “fourth industrial revolution” is changing the way we need to do business in the club and tennis industries. Communications Consultants President Casey Conrad had practical advice for marketing and selling through social media, and Tom Lehman, of Syntelli Solutions, explained how facilities and clubs can make better decisions through data analytics.

The third edition of the Tennis Innovation Challenge was held during the TOM Conference, and the winner was Tweener Lighting System, a unique LED system that attaches to existing fencing around the court. Tweener CEO Florent Colliau gave a five-minute presentation to the panel of judges, to beat out fellow finalists Armbeep, a portable motion-analysis device that helps players and coaches, and PlayByCourt, a community-based online platform that facilitates bookings, clinics, and more.

The TOM Conference also offered specialty courses (for CEU credits): Casey Conrad on Generational Marketing; Jim Bates and Greg Lappin on Advancing Your Career Path; Doug Cash and Jordan Schwartz on the Legal Aspects of Running a Club; and Stephen Futeral on Digital Marketing Campaigns. There also was a “Perfect Pro Shop & Demo Day” session by Dave Emkey, the vice president of business development for Fromuth, and industry consultant Peg Connor, which led into product demos and exhibitions of Cardio Tennis and POP Tennis.

The TOM audience also had a chance to view the acclaimed documentary film “Winning,” produced and directed by Jacqueline Joseph and chronicling the inspiring stories of tennis champions Martina Navratilova and Esther Vergeer, golf great Jack Nicklaus, Olympic gymnast Nadia Comaneci, and track star Edwin Moses.

Details on the 2019 Tennis Owners & Managers Conference, which is being planned for January 23-25 in Orlando, Fla., will be available soon at

What They’re Saying About the 2018 TOM Conference

* “This was my first TOM Conference and I will definitely be back. The highlight for me was the variety of education content—sessions covered everything from day-to-day operations to current industry issues to future trends.”—Rob Oakes, The Country Club of Virginia, Richmond, Va.

* “Attending the TOM conference was inspiring. I really liked meeting others in the industry and sharing ideas. I came back to my club with a plan for increasing participation and revenue. I’d recommend this conference for all club owner and managers.”—Beth Fitzgerald, Elysium Tennis, Plain City, Ohio

* “Excellent speakers. The TOM is a must if you're in a position of ownership or management of a tennis facility.” —Roy Barth, Kiawah Island Golf Resort

* “A conference all tennis directors should attend.” —Jorge Andrew, Lexington, S.C.

* “The number of impact players and decision makers in attendance is second to none and makes this an incredibly valuable educational and networking event. It also provided us with great insight on the state of the industry—the good and the bad, which we all need to know! That’s what motivates us all to get better.” —Mitch Kutner, International POP Tennis Association

* “I really enjoyed attending my first TOM Conference. It was a valuable experience that I would recommend to anyone.” —Steve Riggs, City of Irvine, Calif.

* “With the knowledge shared at the TOM Conference, we are better armed to change challenges into opportunities.” —Bonnie Vona, USTA Mid-Atlantic

* “The TOM Conference was the best tennis and racquets industry educational event I have ever attended.” —Patricio Misitrano, Wee Burn Country Club, Darien, Conn.