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Why are U30’s so important?

By John R. Embree, CEO, USPTA

It is no secret that the tennis industry is getting older. From manufacturer’s reps to USTA Adult League players, to members of our association, the numbers continue to be deeply concerning. The average age of a USPTA member is bordering on 50 and the trend continues to head north. What is going to happen over the next 5-10 years as we age out? Who is going to fill the roles of the jobs that are going to come open?

Young people today do not aspire to be tennis-teaching professionals even if they have a passion for our sport. For some reason, a career in the tennis industry or specifically in teaching tennis does not seem to engender much enthusiasm amongst high school players or collegians. I cannot figure out why that is…

Therefore, it is incumbent on all of us to recruit, encourage, and lead those young players into our profession. The problem, however, is that the millennials don’t want to be mentored by old fuddy- duddys like me (who would be eager to guide and provide direction to their students or even assistants). No, they would rather listen to someone of their own vintage who has some experience in the industry to offer insight and advice as to how to navigate the incredible maze that is our tennis marketplace. I don’t blame them.

While this is not the only reason why our U30 program is so vital to our long-term health, it is clearly one of them. The U30’s (who are already actively engaged with the USPTA) will play a critical role in representing our industry to those who are now on the outside looking in. Building a strong base of U30’s cannot only help restock our association with quality like-minded professionals, but they will serve as our leaders of the future.

People often ask me, “what keeps you up at night?” Without giving it much thought, this is it. I worry terribly about our industry and the current participation trends (which you know are not good), but I am very nervous about the lack of a youth movement within the USPTA. For that reason, our efforts to increase the visibility of our U30’s have to be a priority, both nationally and at the division/local levels.

Thanks to Jason Gilbert, the new president of USPTA Florida who is credited with starting the U30 program in 2013, almost every division has launched a U30 Committee. If you are reading this article and are a millennial that has resisted getting involved with the USPTA locally, do yourself a favor. Reach out to your fellow U30 colleagues and make yourself available for any number of U30 activities that are going on throughout the country.

Every one of our new committee chairs has been encouraged to invite a U30 member to volunteer for their newly appointed respective national committee. We need the perspective that only a millennial can bring to those committee discussions. As General Dunwoody so eloquently stated during her general session here in Orlando at the Next Generation: A Tennis Innovation Workshop last October, “diversity is just not ticking off the boxes. It is about diversity of thought.” That is a dimension that U30’s can bring to our committee work.

In addition, our multimedia department has just produced a dynamic 30 second TV spot that will be aired on the Tennis Channel that focuses on our U30 professionals. Finally, we will be working hand in hand with the USTA on all of the PTM programs that are hatching across the country. The latest count of PTM programs is 8-10 that are now underway. The students who come out of those programs will have extensive knowledge about the tennis industry, will have been mentored by USPTA professionals at some of the finest club facilities in the country, and will have learned first-hand what it is like to work as tennis-teaching professionals. Not only that, each will be USPTA certified before they graduate from college.

I implore every USPTA professional to reach out and identify one promising young tennis enthusiast and help them understand the benefits of working in our industry and why they should aspire to join our wonderful industry.

U30’s are the lifeblood of the USPTA going forward. They are the future. We cannot wait to take the right steps to bring new people in. It is now or never...
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