Rich Slivocka, USPTA Vice President

A popular business buzzword over the past few years is “pivot,” which in basic business terms occurs when a company makes a fundamental change to their business after determining that their product isn’t meeting the needs of the intended market. I believe that we in the racquet industry are going through some pivoting on many different levels whether that be through the USPTA, USTA accreditation or our own clubs.

USPTA Business
When you take a look back on how the business of the USPTA has changed over the years, you can see how many of our past leaders had the foresight to recognize trends within our industry. A recent example of an important pivot that I believe helped shape our association is the thought of past CEO Tim Heckler and the board to purchase the building in Houston. Many people at the time thought that this was a risky idea and that it spread our association too thin financially. However, as it turned out, this was a great idea and provided us with a tremendous amount of financial security that allowed us to grow our platform of education, testing and member services. The last example I am going to use is the decision to move to Orlando, Florida. With the USTA building the National Campus and the huge opportunity with the Tavistock Group, it seemed like a very good move, but uncertainty existed. I believe that this move has set our association apart from anyone else in the tennis industry and has positioned us for continued success. The national offices are outstanding and have given our association the opportunity to grow and flourish for the next generation of USPTA professionals.

USTA Accreditation
With the USPTA deciding to move forward with accreditation, we were setting ourselves up for the biggest pivot we’ve seen within our association. Once we became fully accredited, we distinguished ourselves as the clear leader in teaching and certification in the industry and we are changing the face of teaching in the game. The accreditation is going to affect every aspect of how we deliver tennis and also how our profession will be viewed within the job market. It’s going to make our club members more aware of the importance of taking a lesson from a USPTA certified professional. The partnership we are forming with the USTA is an unprecedented relationship that will forge our association forward but also help grow the game of tennis within our country.

Club Pivoting
Some of the biggest pivoting that many of us as tennis professionals have had to do is related to the growing addition of paddle sports (or the Four P’s) to our programs. With the continued growth of pickleball, pop tennis, platform tennis and padel we’ve all had to “pivot” on how we grow and conduct business at our clubs. I am a tennis purist and I will be the first to admit that I fought against these sports. I had to ask myself the most important question: what’s best for my members and what can I provide them that will enhance their experience? Once I removed my reservations, I realized I was doing a disservice to my members. Sometimes pivoting can be difficult but we must try and stay ahead of the curve regarding innovation and how we can continue to grow as tennis professionals.

In closing, I know that pivoting can be difficult whether it’s at our own club or within the USPTA. If we are going to continue to be leaders in our industry, then we must continue to innovate and try to recognize trends before they happen. Whether that means servicing our club members or providing increased value for our fellow USPTA members, we need to continue to provide our members with cutting-edge programming and educational benefits.