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?
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
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
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.
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