Boy, how did I ever come up with that headline? 1,156 happens to be the number of USTA Coordinators working in all 17 USTA Sections across the United States. How do I know that? As a member of the USTA Tennislink Team I support Coordinators all across the country via e-mail and telephone. In addition, in my capacity as Team Lead for Tennis Leagues and NTRP Ratings, I travel quite a bit and train many of those Coordinators on both subjects. Working for Active gives me a unique perspective and allows me a rather objective opinion about what I see during my travels out there in the tennis world. However, I think it is only fair when I inform the reader upfront that the USTA is one of Active's biggest clients. We have been their Technology Partner for 2 years now and enjoy an excellent relationship with that organization.
Over the years I have come across quite a few organizations loaded with great volunteers and employees, both here in the US and in Europe (mostly in Germany and the UK). What makes the Coordinators of the USTA such an outstanding group of people is their complete dedication to the sport of tennis, despite the fact that their parent organization is large and entrenched in traditions, slow to react compared to smaller organizations, conservative rather than progressive. The latter is not surprising, of course. I compare this to another typical example in the work life, IBM, which happens to be my first employer in Germany many years ago. IBM, too, used to be one of the first in their business, was and still is one of the largest companies in its field, and is still constantly lagging behind the competition. It takes them years longer than any of their competition to bring out a new product just because of their sheer size, and that's why smaller businesses are often so successful in launching new, progressive ideas.
Back to the USTA, though. At the end of October, returning from my last training in Louisville, Kentucky, I was asking myself, what makes many Tennis Coordinators so outstanding? Here is the list of attributes I came up with. Attributes I associate with the words Greatness and Outstanding.
Dedication to the Sport of Tennis
Many USTA League Coordinators are avid tennis players themselves. That doesn't necessarily mean ex-High School, ex-College, or ex-Tour players (although they have those people, too!). I mean the medium to advanced players that make up the majority of the tennis playing community across the country. That demographic is directly reflected in those Coordinators. They love to play competitive tennis, mostly level 3.5 - 4.0, they live it, breathe it, watch it, and play it. They spend their own money for USTA memberships, or to go to the US Open and many other large and small tennis events. They work without small budgets but BIG enthusiasm about the sport, and that sport means everything to them.
Love for the People Playing Tennis
Boy, and they deal with all sorts of people playing tennis in USTA Leagues. For the most part they are really nice, which is one of the things I found out playing tennis in the United States. Reflecting the attitude of 99% of the US population, the overwhelming majority of tennis players are real nice, non-confrontational, loving the sport, loving competition, playing fair and nice with their opponents. USTA Coordinators love their players (and their Captains). They live in the same communities, they know what those players do and think, what concerns them, and what they all want to get out of playing league tennis: Fun, competition, meeting new people, staying in shape.
Inclination for Organizing and Planning
Yes, they are planners, those USTA Coordinators, having to deal with multiple types of leagues, dozens of flight, hundreds of teams, and thousands of players each year. In order to make that well oiled machinery called USTA Leagues work flawlessly, they have to not only plan and schedule all their leagues, but get them done in time for progression to the local Championships, then to Section Championships, and finally to the prestigious Nationals. Coordinators have tools at their disposal to get there and to make their life easier. Sophisticated tools, such as the online functionalities of Tennislink League pages, guiding and supporting them from the first planning of a league to creating teams, automatic registration of players and Captains, to scheduling, score entry, Stats & Standings, disqualifications, Championship planning, and much more. The other types of planning tools are the League Reports, which tell them everything from ratings histories to players playing on multiple teams, from facility usage to disputed matches, and from registrations to member participation and player retention.
I have met some wonderful people in the various Sections I've visited over time. From Kentucky to New York, from South Carolina to Kansas, from Hawaii to Southern California, and from Northern California to Georgia. And I'm looking forward to meeting more of those outstanding Coordinators over time. Next week I'll be traveling to the USTA HQ's in New York, where League and Ratings Leadership discuss and organize the annual NTRP Ratings Calculations for over 500,000 players. Only the most experienced and knowledgeable Sectional and National Coordinators participate in that process. As a league player myself I feel very good realizing that playing on my league team as well as the resulting ratings for my team members are in good hands. Knowledgeable people with dedication and integrity are running the show at the USTA and its Sections. Life is good!