During my career in teaching tennis, I have found it extremely useful to be able to conduct an evaluation of the tennis within a given community. This helps to direct your programming by being able to find what’s missing or weak within the community. It is also good to conduct an evaluation of the community’s tennis, prior to interviewing for a job in that community. This provides confidence when interviewing since you have the statistics that allow you to converse readily about that community. It also signals to the person interviewing that you are indeed a professional and have done your homework.
In today’s world you might start by a simple “Google” search on your computer. You can then follow that up by obtaining a newcomer’s packet from the local Chamber of Commerce. This is the packet that they provide persons inquiring about relocating to the community. It does not take long to ascertain how important tennis is within the community. Pore over the packet and find every reference to tennis inside. How many courts are there? How many public and private tennis facilities are there? Are there any major tennis events? How many colleges? How many schools? These are just a few of the things that usually stand out. If you do not find anything about tennis, then you are looking at a community that has limited tennis activity or has not yet tied tennis into its ability to draw people. Either way it probably means they need you!
You can also glean enormous information about the community from the USTA Yearbooks. These are often at district, sectional and national levels. They will give you the number of individual and organizational USTA members along with their names and hometowns. They also outline the available tournaments, leagues and circuits. As you can see with just this much accumulated data we are putting together an overview of what’s going on throughout the area. From this same data we can ascertain what tennis programs are being offered and conducted.
Next, we need to contact the local Parks & Recreation department to find out what they have available. How many tennis courts do they have and where they are located? Any tennis centers? Any tennis-teaching professionals? Also learn, the number and type tennis programs they offer. It is also very useful at this stage of your information collection to enter all the mentioned information on a community map. A map of this type was probably part of the chamber info packet we discussed earlier. When you add all of the tennis activities within the area onto the map, you might also be able to find areas within the community that areas lack facilities/coverage.
Find all the private clubs; yet another simple Google search will accomplish this. How many have tennis facilities? Put them on your map. Get the names of the tennis professionals associated with these facilities. You can even find out what tennis programs are being offered. Be sure to not forget to look for Special Olympics, Wheelchair Tennis, and other often hidden tennis applications.
Hopefully you will gain a valuable overview of any community to which you search. When you have answered the above questions, geographically placed them on a map and even entered them onto a yearly calendar, the community tennis will come to fore. The time involved is not extensive and certainly worthwhile when you weigh the value of the knowledge gained.
I invite every one of you to give this a try on your own community. Go back through this article and write down or highlight the questions I have posed and then go out and seek the answers. You will probably be able to vividly see your own impact and certainly become a better informed tennis-teaching professional and coach.
--About Jack Justice
A USPTA Past President (’90-’92), member since 1969 and a Southern Division Hall of Fame member, Jack Justice has served in a variety of tennis positions throughout his more than 50 years in the industry. He authored the USPTA “How to Hire a Tennis Professional” manual and was a long time tester for the organization. He served as Chairman of the Master Professional, Ethics, Archives/Hall of Fame, Long Range Planning, Club Relations, and USTA Relations Committees.