There’s a strong demand for tennis professionals that outpaces the number of new pros coming into the field. It’s a sellers’ market for young people interested in teaching tennis, organizing leagues and programs, managing clubs, and even manufacturing equipment. The marketplace quickly offers jobs to those well qualified for such careers. “We need to get many more tennis pros into the market,” says Scott Schultz, the managing director of USTA-U, the education and training division of the U.S. Tennis Association. “And we also want to be increasing their competencies through education.”
In 2015, the USTA launched an initiative to answer this demand: USTA-U now supports Professional Tennis Management (PTM) programs operating at seven universities across the country. USTA-U builds on new or existing Professional Tennis Management (PTM) programs in an effort to enrich and expand the game through the vehicle of professional development. The sites include Ferris State University in Michigan, the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Berry College in Georgia, Hope College in Michigan, Methodist University in North Carolina, Manhattanville College in New York, and Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas. About 100 students are now enrolled in PTM programs at these schools, and the USTA plans to add 10 more to the list by 2018.
“You don’t need to be a great player, but you do need a love of tennis.”
A core misunderstanding about tennis pros is that they all played varsity ball in college, or even competed on a pro tour. This is far from the case. “Most tennis pros did not play varsity tennis in college,” says Schultz. “They mainly played high school tennis. In fact, to be a successful pro, you don’t necessarily even need to be better than most club players. People forget that youth tennis—teaching kids six to 10 years old—represents a major segment of the market. In many ways, a kindergarten teacher would do as well at this as a varsity college player, maybe even better! You don’t need to be a great player, but you do need a love of tennis.”
The college students who enroll in PTM programs typically major in business, hospitality, or kinesiology. They’ll add a minor or a concentration in tennis. “A business degree will cover basic skills,” Schultz explains, “and the PTM minor drills down into the tennis industry.”
There is so much demand for tennis pros that the field even offers highly paid internships, says Schultz. At Ferris State, which offered the first PTM program 30 years ago (and where Schultz formerly worked) “there’s a 100 percent placement rate,” he says.
USTA-U and PTM education fit well with Universal Tennis Ratings (UTR). For example, the PTM program at Methodist College in Fayetteville, North Carolina, recently offered a workshop focused exclusively on rating systems, including UTR. “You want to be sure the students understand rating systems and how they work,” Schultz explains, “and see how they can use them on the job—as with leagues, programs, and steering players into one program or another. Pros should understand ratings—UTR and others as well.”
Ferris State University
Accurate ratings are crucial, for example, in retaining players in tennis by setting up good matches. “People want to play against players they have a shot at beating,” Schultz says. ”They don’t want to get creamed. A system like UTR also lets the pro chart them and watch their progress.”
Furthermore, “we do know that the high school market is a ‘sweet spot’ for us—a place where kids who love tennis may consider combining a bachelor’s degree with a PTM program,” Schultz says. “UTR is getting into the high school market now, and talking to some of the people we want to reach.”
There’s another, more basic level of overlap as well. As the world’s most accurate, reliable system of rating tennis skill, UTR is a very powerful engine for attracting people to the game and keeping them involved by facilitating good matches. Expanding participation in tennis can only be good news for the next generation of aspiring pros.
Interested in a tennis career? You don’t need to be named Federer or Williams. Look into the USTA-U and sign up for a UTR membership, free of charge, here.