THE STORY

The Generational Gap in Tennis

Since the early 2000s, it seems like the world has constantly been adapting to the latest technology trends; specifically different social media platforms, advanced software structures, and up-to-date applications. The leaders and fore fathers who have paved the pathway of the current technology system are now in their 30s and 40s.

The Culture

Keeping this in mind, I want to switch gears and share what the set up of an average tennis club or facility is today. Let me ask you a question: “how often do you see someone in their 30s and 40s working at a tennis facility?” Generally speaking, the director of tennis or club owner appears to have been running the club since it was built. The reliable, solid, experienced older director have had job stability for decades by managing and running these clubs and programs.

On the other side of this, there is another group of workers at these clubs and facilities. This group is the fresh-out-of-college and young tennis pros who spend hour after hour grinding on-court teaching lessons. For these coaches, aside from the occasional raise, there are not a lot of advancement in career options, as the top positions of the facilities are locked out by the club owners and directors I mentioned previously. After realizing this, and becoming burnt out and tired from the taxing hours on court, many pros leave and pick up a completely different career in finance, the family business, or something that offers more stability, potential career advancement, and doesn’t require them to be athletic for 8 plus hours a day.

Technological Advancement

With this tennis work place age gap from the college graduate to the club owner in his 50s, 60s or 70s, and the technology trends all happening in the early 2000s, it seems that the Mark Zuckerberg’s have skipped the tennis industry almost entirely. Tennis has fallen far behind in the potential technological advancement that it could have experienced years ago. We are just now seeing chips being put into to rackets to trace swing speed, shot count, playing patterns etc. We are now seeing new applications come out that offer coaching tips, ways to find people to hit with, and ways to track your playing progress.

Personally speaking, about two years ago, I was head tennis professional at a very nice country club in Sun Valley, Idaho. Every day, I would manually check in every attendant to every clinic in an excel sheet. 

I would also manually bill every single client daily into a separate excel sheet. I would constantly update our handwritten client address book which were sheets in a binder. Frustrated after long coaching days on court, I would complete these excel sheets.

I remember thinking, “It’s 2016! Why am I writing everything down? Is there not a template or program I can easily plug this information in to?” About two months ago, I was contacted by a company called “Courtly”. They explained to me how they are a tennis software company that markets and manages your tennis systems all in one place. Where was this when I was in Idaho? The perfect solution to unorganized and not updated tennis clubs and facilities. I saw an immediate need for this in the tennis industry, and see how much of an impact this management system will have over the entire tennis industry this year.

Clubs and facilities,

need to create a culture,

that motivate younger generations

Specifically speaking, the lost generation in the tennis industry is age 30 to 43. Clubs and facilities need to create a culture and environment that motivates younger generations to get into the tennis business as a long-term career. And it is the responsibility of those currently in the industry to update their “way” of doing things to support smart and talented younger coaches to succeed in the business. This type of adaptation in the business would help the sport to grow overall and attract more young ambitious people to the industry. In order for there to be a better environment and more stability to demonstrate tennis as an attractive career path, industry leaders across the board would have to change their models.

My point is, even though it’s 2018, and all of these technological influences may have gotten a late start to the sport, the tennis industry is changing. It is becoming more advanced, more available, but most importantly more up to date and structured.

Rachel Stuhlmann

Author Rachel Stuhlmann

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