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Leaving our Footprint

by Kyle LaCroix, USPTA Elite Professional

In this day and age, when we hear the word “footprint,” it’s usually preceded by the word “carbon.” This carbon footprint is about our environmental or ecological impact on Earth and its natural resources. And although our carbon footprint is important, I would argue that for a tennis professional, it may not be our most important footprint that we will leave on this planet. What the word “footprint” means is the impressions and images left behind by people. Simply put, in our career as tennis professionals it is inevitable that we will have an impact on others and ourselves both personally and professionally.  

Role Model Footprint
A role model is someone who serves as an example and whose behavior is emulated by others and provides a great source of personal motivation. Chances are your membership and your students admire you. Sure, maybe not all of them, but I bet you have more fans than you think.
Our careers and the actions we take daily leave an impact on a personal, professional and psychological level. We are leaving our footprint on our staff, membership, students, and community. Like it or not, we are at least one person’s role model or idol. I often joke with my fellow professionals that our jobs are like that of rock stars…without the perks. Off the court, whether you are at the supermarket picking up lunch or at a restaurant with friends, members always recognize you.  Our visibility within our clubs, among our staff, and our membership obliges us to behave with at least awareness that we are being watched by hundreds and even thousands. Like it or not, we have influence on fans both young and old, multiplied by the huge factor of our racquet skills, on-court presence, and our extroverted demeanor on the job.

If you’ve been in this industry for a while, you have had a profound and life-changing impact on somebody. Maybe it was a sensitive membership issue which you resolved, or a club crisis and management sought your advice. Remember that adult that was looking to get in better shape and you made that happen with lessons? You are more than a role model, you are a superhero sans the cape. The Barna Group, a research group specializing in faith and culture, conducted a nationwide study, sampling teenagers ages 13-17. More than 11 percent stated their biggest role models were teachers or coaches.

Students believe that their teacher/coach is a fountain-head of all knowledge. This belief of the student must be kept alive by us, which is possible, only if we continue to learn, educate and push ourselves.
Be aware of your impact on your staff, membership and your students. It’s up to you to determine if it’s positive or negative.

Social Media Footprint
Did you know that the USPTA has a Social Media Policy? Anyone can view this policy by visiting the association’s website at uspta.com.

We’ve seen far too many instances where it has hurt and professionally endangered many because of an offensive tweet, a tasteless picture on Facebook, or an ill-timed rant on their blog.

But what if there is information on social media we project that may not be malicious, criminal, or has harmful intent? It’s important to remember that although many of us may be involved in this pastime to stay in touch with family and friends, some in our industry use it for hiring, recruitment and networking. You never know who may be tracking your progress. Fair or unfair, perception can be everything in this industry. Just a minimal social media presence still showcases to the outside world how you promote and market yourself as a person. An article by Sam Fiorella sources a recent Jobvite.com social recruiting survey that reported that 89 percent of U.S. companies plan to use social media in their employee searches. Companies are using social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn to screen job candidates. It also found that 50 percent of employers decided not to offer a job to a candidate based on the content uncovered on a social networking site.

Employers are increasingly finding reasons to terminate employees because of their social media interactions. Social Media entrepreneur Adam Ostrow points to a study assessed by Proofpoint, found that 8 percent of American companies had terminated a worker due to a social media verbal post or picture, and 17 percent of companies report disciplining employees for violating social networking policies.

Community Footprint
A successful tennis professional may only be as strong as his community’s support for him. Ask yourself, how are you viewed by your staff and other USPTA professionals in your city? When not devoting your time to tennis, how else are you impacting the community in a positive way? At 19, I was a tennis professional interning at a very prominent tennis resort in Florida. During my time there, I met a golf cart attendant who seemed to work at the resort just as many hours as I did., I made sure I said hello to him and ask if he could use an extra hand or even a bottle of water. He always declined but I always offered and exchanged pleasantries. Towards the end of my stay as an intern, I noticed a large increase in my lessons. I found out my students happened to hear from a particular golf cart attendant that I gave an amazing tennis lesson and it would be in their best interest to immediately get a lesson. I learned the significance of my role and how a simple act can provide incredible dividends both professionally and personally. It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice

Working with your local USPTA professionals also gives you a chance to enhance and polish your footprint. Whether it’s during a division conference, district meeting or even a round robin, your presence makes other pros aware you are working hard and striving to improve. Although we may not always remember a name, we can always remember a face of a professional we often see at our meetings, conferences or special events. Our best professionals and industry leaders always seem to be at USPTA meetings and conferences, and it almost seems to me like they have the very important Santa Claus trait. They know if you’ve been bad or good so be good for goodness sakes.

Working with charities may sound intimidating to some tennis professionals, but it is one of the best ways to promote yourself, the sport of tennis, and gain numerous advocates throughout the community. Involving yourself with a charity can be done by hosting a fundraising event at your club, volunteering just an hour or two during your off days, or by simply promoting and marketing a cause that you are passionate about. Many people assume they need to give up their hard-earned money, but in reality, many charities deeply appreciate and won’t decline the power of word of mouth.
Although we are all teachers, sometimes it’s not how much we know, it’s about how much we care.

Our footprints can make an enormous impact both positive and negative. Let’s do our best to leave a footprint our students, staff, industry and community can be proud of.

A member of the USPTA since 2004, Kyle is the assistant director of tennis at The Oaks At Boca Raton in Boca Raton, Florida. He is a proud graduate of the Ferris State University’s Professional Tennis Management (PTM) program and holds a degree in Marketing. Kyle is a member of the Ferris State University/PTM Advisory Committee. He has earned an MBA in Marketing from the University of Michigan. Kyle has been a USPTA Florida Division Tester for the past 10 years as well as a member of Florida’s U30 Initiative.
 
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