The Tennis Workforce

How do you develop your team at your tennis venue? How do you make sure you have enough coaches and volunteers for everything you are trying to do? Where do we find more coaches for our programmes?

These are the questions that many tennis venues are asking as they look to increase participation or grow their business. More and more when I am speaking to clubs and centres, it is the challenge of workforce that seems to be top of the list. But what can be done to make sure that you have the right people to be successful?

At Liverpool Tennis Centre, over the past two years, we have been very successful in developing our team to ensure we can achieve our goals. We made this our priority and by growing the quality and quantity of coaches to work with our already strong off-court team, we have been able to get more children and adults playing. But this wasn’t always the case and in the past, even with the great facilities we had, we struggled to attract or develop coaches. This seems to be a common theme and when I speak to different tennis venues, a lot of them are telling me they need more coaches rather than better facilities.

But how can we find more coaches? Where are they going to come from?  It would seem that there is a shortage of coaches out there and when tennis venues are advertising for new people the response can be quite underwhelming and so we have looked at different ways of growing and developing our team.

The Tennis Leaders Award is still a hugely beneficial way of motivating young people to start their journey from being a player into a coach or volunteer and more emphasis needs to be placed on this scheme.  Since it was launched back in 2005, it doesn’t seem to be promoted as much as it used to.  More so, the LTA seem to be more focussed on their ‘products’ rather than thinking about who is going to deliver them. Certainly when I speak to tennis venues, they are more worried about who is going to deliver their activities before they can worry about what they will do.  The Tennis Leaders Award is a perfect way of turning players into helpers and can be hugely rewarding for everyone involved.

Linking with your local universities and colleges can be a great source of new coaches or volunteers.  We are very lucky to have a partnership with Liverpool John Moores University and we also try and work with University of Liverpool and Liverpool Hope University as much as we can.  Not all tennis venues are in big cities but we have taken advantage of the large number of students in Liverpool and looked to involve them in our programme as much as possible.

Developing partnerships with the outdoor tennis clubs in the city has also been very important.  It is unlikely that one venue can give enough hours to one coach but if venues work together then it is possible to attract the services of a good coach.  It is the role of indoor tennis centres, such as our own, to support the development of coaches as much as they can.  Rather than allowing newly qualified coaches to disappear into the wilderness on their own, we have been proactive in welcoming them into our team where they can learn from more experienced colleagues and get lots of hours experience under their belts.

At Liverpool Tennis Centre, not only have we grown the team but we have looked to support and develop them as much as possible.  Across our entire team, we have a very clear sense of why we are here and what we are looking to achieve.  It is this shared vision that is helping us achieve our goals of increasing participation whilst also securing the long-term future of the facility. We also try and support the team, both collectively and as individuals. We want everyone to be as good as they can be now but also for themselves in the future as they develop their careers. There is nothing that would give me more pleasure than the coaches who are working here now achieving huge success in the tennis coaching profession in the future, either here or at other venues. Helping individuals achieve their goals, whatever they may be, is one of the most enjoyable things you can do.

What is very clear is that it’s people that make a tennis venue succesful, not the facilities. You can have all the courts in the world but without a team of motivated people in place (coaches, staff or volunteers) then you won’t be able to achieve your goals.

Let me know what your experience is of developing a team.  What have been your challenges and what do you think the solutions might be?

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