“We want every woman who has a passion for tennis to become involved in the sport as there are so many exciting ways to grow the game.”
Addressing a group of tennis volunteers and board of directors from USPTA Florida and USTA Florida in May of last year, USPTA past president Trish Faulkner laid out a challenge to both organizations, and other tennis organizers at a joint meeting: commit resources for a new Pro-Women Initiative to bring more women teaching professionals and leaders into the game.
Leading the effort are Faulkner; Dana Andrews, USTA Florida President-elect; and USTA Florida Directors at Large Rita Dotson and Delise O’Meally. The first steps entering 2020 have been connecting at all regional and section meetings, and creating a support system to help identify and address challenges.
“I am seeing a great trend in the last few years where many of our certified young women USPTA members have gone after and secured high-level tennis positions,” said Faulkner, who notes USPTA membership is only 23% female. “There is still a perception that many high-level tennis jobs go to insiders or friends of directors, but we have educated general managers and other directors to check credentials and certification and look for the best person for the position.”
A new addition to the USPTA Florida board is Michele Krause, who founded and drove the popularity of Cardio Tennis across the U.S. As a long-time teaching pro she believes there is a lot of opportunity in the industry for women, but moreover thinks it is the time to bring a change to the overall model.
“How a tennis teaching professional is compensated and what their job responsibilities include needs to be addressed,” she said. “I don’t have the answer, but the standard model of an hourly rate for being on the court needs an overhaul — off-the-court responsibilities for growing the game needs to be included in a new compensation package. Younger people need to see tennis as a viable career option.”
Jolyn de Boer agrees. As executive director of the Tennis Industry Association, she has seen increased outreach and diversity over the years but says the potential journey for aspiring teaching pros needs to be better articulated.
“There should be more women in teaching pro positions,” she remarked. “Career pathways and opportunities need to be more clearly defined and increased education among owners and managers who are hiring on the benefits.”
Faulkner, as a former USPTA Florida president and current national board member, is seeing a sea change and expects the USPTA’s female membership growth to reach 25% in the next 2-3 years.
“USPTA had an All-Female Speakers Day at our World Conference in Las Vegas last September, and we intend to continue this tradition in New Orleans next September,” she said. “I do know that USTA Florida under the leadership of Laura Bowen is definitely promoting opportunities for women in the sport. I head up the Pro-Women Initiative task force and women now have many avenues for mentoring and assistance.”
Andrews, the USTA Florida president-elect speaking last year to industry leaders at the joint USTA Florida-USPTA Florida meeting, says strides have been made but the work has just begun.
“We know there are not enough women tennis professionals in the room. This is a long-term effort that requires support from all areas of the sports industry.”
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