This year I have had the pleasure of taking over as head coach of a club, and seen the programme, attendance an finances improve dramatically. I am often asked by other coaches to check out their programmes and see what else I can do to advise them.
A well-structured program can attract members, improve player skills, and create a sense of community. Here’s my step-by-step guide to help you set up a successful tennis club program:
Step 1: Define Your Club’s Goals and Mission
Before you begin, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of what your tennis club aims to achieve. Define your club’s mission, vision, and goals. Are you focused on promoting youth development, competitive play, fitness, or a combination of these? Knowing your objectives will guide your program’s structure. I like to sit down with the committee and set goals with membership numbers and financial numbers required that they wish to see achieved in the near future. For me this gives me a buzz with motivation and persistence in attaining these goals.
Step 2: Assess Resources
Determine what resources you have at your disposal, including tennis courts, equipment, coaching staff, and funding. Understanding your available resources will help you plan a program that aligns with your capabilities. As I am writing I am looking at setting up a new programme in another part of the world. This will entail visiting for several days to see the layout of the centre, understand the environment and sit down with the owners to set quarterly goals for the first 3 years. Coming from zero as a programme I need to ascertain what staff we will have to begin with!
Step 3: Create a Club Structure
Establish the club’s organisational structure, including roles and responsibilities. Identify key positions such as a program director, coaches, and administrative staff. Clear leadership ensures efficient program management. I think the role of the head coach is great but prefer to have more coaches seeing themselves in certain roles. I like to place coaches where they feel comfortable and confident that uses their skill set. Head of Red ensures we have a solid programme working through the 9 stages of SYSTEM-9. Then I like to place a coach in charge of orange and green, a further coach for yellow ball and I like to envisage all work with adults. Some will prefer beginners, others advanced players.
Step 4: Develop a Program Curriculum
Design a comprehensive program curriculum that caters to various player levels and ages. The SYSTEM-9 methodology caters for every aspect of a club programme. In Denmark we managed to get many of the juniors attending 3 x a week not including the fitness and psychology sessions that we bolted onto the end of their classes.
If we look at the SYSTEM-9 set up
Stage 1-3 I call START
Stage 4-5 is called RALLY
Stage 5+ is known as PLAY
It really doesn’t matter what age the player is I like to group them with their capabilities outside of the red ball programme.
Of course, it is also important to run two strands of programme:-
- For social players
- For competitive players
You may find that the social players will jump over to the competitive side and those that find the competitive side to much jump over to the social programme.
Step 5: Schedule Programs and Events
Plan your program schedule, including group lessons, clinics, tournaments, and social events. Make sure the timing and frequency of activities are convenient for your target audience. It is good to throw in a good mix of social tournaments as well as a yearlong competitive programme in house for all. You will find the good old American tournament for adults with results being placed in to a chart each month brings the camaraderie of the members together and towards the end of the year can get quite competitive in the fight for first place.
Step 6: Secure Qualified Coaching Staff
Hire certified coaches who can provide quality instruction. Coaches should align with your club’s goals and values. All my coaches become S9 certified and gain access to the material I have written both in book and online form. I look for coaches that are willing to learn, like to specialise in one particular area and have an infectious personality. Do they have to be a great player? Not necessarily, but I believe it helps to be able to play at a least a club level standard.
Step 7: Promote Your Program
Promotion is crucial to attract members and participants. Use multiple channels, such as social media, your club’s website, local advertising, and partnerships with schools or community organizations, to get the word out about your tennis programs.
Once you start to build your programme and run it effectively then word of mouth really does take over. Friends tell friends who tell others. I like to have invite a friend or family member day in the programme. Recently in our red ball session I managed to get all the adults joining in a separate session to learn to play instead of just sitting there. Once the programme is running its easy to grow. If it isn’t growing, then the coach isn’t doing their job and as we know the job is not just to coach!
Step 8: Monitor, Evaluate and Grow
Regularly assess the effectiveness of your program by gathering feedback from participants and coaches. Use this information to make improvements and adjustments. If a particular session isn’t working or growing, then figure out why! It could be timing, or it could be the coach themselves, I have seen that many a time, the programme is failing, and committees fail to point the finger at the coach themselves. However, nothing that mentoring or some S9 education wont sort.
Step 9: Financial Management
Maintain a transparent and efficient financial management system. Keep track of income and expenses to ensure the sustainability of your program. At the end of the day, we need enough income to pay the coaches, give back to the club and of course pay yourself! And let’s not forget equipment needs renewing or upgrading at times also.
Setting up a tennis club program requires careful planning, dedication, and a commitment to providing valuable experiences for your members and players. With the right approach, your tennis club can thrive and become a hub for tennis enthusiasts in your community.