Making a great hire for your racquet club teaching professional position is challenging. The true “cost” of making a poor hire extends beyond the balance sheet—it can set the club back in membership and reputation.

Club managers, however, can use objective criteria to identify great teaching professionals during the interview process. You don’t have to rely on your gut in today’s information-packed world. The background on new hires is available for club managers to review.

Here are five key areas to investigate regarding racquet club professional candidates:

  1. Verify professional certification. For tennis, it is with the USTPA (United States Professional Tennis Association) or PTR (Professional Tennis Registry). For pickleball, it is with the IPTPA (International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association) or PPR (Pro Pickleball Registry).
  2. Gauge playing ability/experience.
  3. Attitude assessment—the can-do approach.
  4. Verify references.
  5. Review past employment history.

“It’s important that a teaching pro be certified by the USPTA,” said Kim Perino, Head Tennis Professional at Life Time Rancho San Clemente in California. Over the past 45 years Perino has been a general manager and tennis director at a host of facilities, including the San Francisco Tennis Club, Jack Kramer Club in Palos Verdes and the Riviera Tennis Club in Los Angeles. “It’s a certification that in the old days would not have been necessary; I used to think if they played college tennis and were good with members that would be just fine.

“But now the USPTA certification is critical because it is so thorough,” Perino continued. “There are written exams, on-court performance tests and they also have you do some mock teaching in private and group lessons. If I am a tennis director or general manager, I want to know if they are certified.”

Perino says the USPTA certification is a bit deeper than the PTR certification, but having one or the other is a sign to your employer that you are committed to your craft. “If they are not certified, I want to know why,” Perino said. “If we are hiring someone at Life Time, they must have the USPTA certification. We also just hired a new pickleball teaching professional, and he is (IPTPA) certified.”

Next, it’s important that teaching professionals be able to walk the talk; in other words be able to play good tennis.

“You don’t want the head pro to get beaten by half the club,” Perino said. “That’s why the pro must be a 4.5-level player or above. Ideally, the pro would have some college experience. But if the candidate leads off the job interview with tennis accomplishments, why he is such a great player, then that’s not what I want to hear. I want to hear why they love tennis, and why they want to make teaching tennis a career.”

A can-do attitude goes a long way, and the pro must be able to teach tennis and have a willingness to learn.

A great tennis player does not automatically make someone a great—or even good—tennis coach. The person’s playing resume is only part of the story. That is because no matter how great the player, first and foremost the pro will be a teacher.

“The most popular teaching pros are always the ones that get along well with the members,” Perino said. “Having a pro that gets members to come back for lessons, who teaches the right way, that’s the best pro to have.”

Following up on references is also a big part of making a quality hire. The tennis community is small, so making phone calls to past employers about a potential hire can yield information about a pro’s capabilities.

Finally, a tennis professional’s past employment history can say a lot about his potential performance. A pro that’s established a good teaching program at several clubs is likely to be able to duplicate that same performance at your club.

“The tennis professional spends 80 to 90 percent of his time on the court,” Perino said. “He’s engaged with the members and active in getting them involved in the game. If the pro doesn’t do that, then it’s reflected in the membership. Always ask why a pro is leaving or left his last job, and then follow up and verify those answers with your own research.”

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