Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lesson Management: Lockstep or Free-For-All?

There is probably a different management style for every tennis club. At the first club I worked at (at first in an admin position; later doing a little of everything), it was a very small club. We had one full time teaching professional and one part time high school student who helped out at our summer camps. So the pro had full say-so on everything from creating lesson plans to ordering toilet paper. 

My current club is much bigger with several teaching pros and several layers of administration. My boss sets the expectations, but we all have a great deal of latitude on court. There are some broad common sense guidelines such as safety, customer service, dress code, punctuality, the usual worker bee stuff. We are expected to become PTR or USPTA certified. We are encouraged to maintain our skills by attending workshops and so forth. Our certifications lead us to general suggestions for lesson plans, skill progressions, the latest trends in tennis instruction, etc. But how we interact with our students and the details of each lesson plan is left to us. 

I understand some club management goes a little further, expecting all staff to teach in exactly the same way, using the same terminology, lesson plans, swing style/technique, etc. across the board. For example all 8-year-olds will play orange ball or higher. They will use a semi-closed stance with a semi-western grip and a baby C loop on the racquet prep. 

I have never worked in such a regimented environment. I can see the advantages, one big one being your lesson plans are already mapped out for you! I suppose this would be fine assuming the club's teaching style is in sync with those of the pros. My concern with this approach is: what do you do with the students who don't fit the mold? What if the club's curriculum is out of date, such as insisting on a one-handed backhand, or using yellow balls regardless of the age of the student? I suppose the easy answer is to not accept the job in the first place, but in this economy, turning down work is easier said than done.

What is your experience with various tennis club management styles? What works and what doesn't?