The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Americans chose to spend their time. Undoubtedly, the momentum of racquet sports participation has continued as one of the preferred mental health and recreational outlets—mainly due to the built-in social distance, and of course, the pure fun of the game. As a higher volume of COVID-19 vaccinations are distributed to the public, private clubs are returning to a new normal in their daily operations. With the increased activity in tennis and pickleball, the industry is in a period of change— yielding job movement and a new career pathway for tennis professionals to become Directors of Racquets.
If you’re a private club General Manager or a private club member who has been asked to serve on a Search Committee for a new Director of Racquets, consider 5 tips when searching for the right leadership fit for your community.
1. Create a diverse Search Committee
If your private club plans to form a Director of Racquets Search Committee, it is imperative that each demographic of the club’s population is represented. Throw out the notion of having too many cooks in the kitchen; instead, look to invite an active racquet sports female, male and parent of active juniors, as well as an active league or social member and a veteran member of the club.
By adding diverse perspectives to your Search Committee, you’ll achieve a healthy blend of club member viewpoints—avoiding a decision based on a singular voice that doesn’t necessarily represent the club at large.
2. Define the leadership and management style
Take a hard look at the staff culture and acknowledge the leadership style(s) of the current senior department heads. Depending on the club’s overall strategic direction, ask yourself what leadership style will complement the existing management team. What qualities are currently absent from your leads? What talents could add a valuable, fresh perspective—removing blind spots and bettering the team as a whole?
More specifically to the racquet sports department, recognize and define the needs of the current staff. Which management style would they best respond to? What challenges does the staff face and what support do they need in order to do their jobs? Do they need a service leader? Do they need clearly defined goals? Or if the staff is more seasoned, do they need space and support to self-organize?
3. Identify candidate traits to complement your unique needs
Some directors are chosen based on their confidence and assertiveness. Although these attributes can appear desirable, be careful not to hire someone who can only offer a forceful approach. Ask your candidates if they are aware of their personal limitations. If so, what have they done to overcome challenges, strengthen gaps in their leadership and rally their team during difficult times. Ask for specific, illustrative examples so you can understand how they think on their feet as a leader.
What’s more, the pandemic has taught us that the industry’s most successful directors will acclimate, occasionally misstep yet realign when faced with an ever-changing environment of moving targets. The uncharted territory of multiple shutdowns and re-openings during COVID-19 undoubtedly resulted in inadvertent mistakes. An experienced leader should be humble and transparent enough to own these setbacks, promptly respond with an action plan and move forward with corrective action.
4. Consider your candidates’ career progression and continued self-improvement
Gone are the days of one-page resumes. If a leader has over 20 years of experience, their resume should be more than one page. Look for careers that are marked with stability and a logical progression of title and responsibility. Look for professional growth and development outside of their day-to-day jobs. What committees have they sat on? What awards have they received?
And a gap in employment? Dismissing candidates based on a lapse in their work history is as antiquated as the one-page resume rule. Loss of a family member, severe medical conditions, a change in a partner or spouse’s employment resulting in a move—these are all valid, very real reasons why people have to pause in their career. And of course, sometimes it’s not personal at all. Last year alone, many positions were furloughed or completely eliminated at no fault of the employee. That said, focus on what the candidate has done to improve professionally during that unintended sabbatical.
A good example that’s specific to tennis professionals: Did they take the necessary steps to get certified in multiple racquet sports? More and more Director of Tennis positions nationwide are morphing into Director of Racquets roles. Adapting to changes in the industry is a good use of downtime, and there are many candidates who have positioned themselves to meet these new demands.
5. Consider a consultant to guide your search
Some General Managers and Search Committees take on the responsibility of executing a Director of Racquets search in-house, which can sometimes lead to a successful hire.
However, before deciding if you’ll conduct the search without the support of an outside executive search firm, consider having a conversation with a racquet sports industry expert. Given that the landscape is in a state of change, it’s crucial to take the time to acknowledge where your private club and racquet sports program have been, where things currently sit and what future state growth goals are. Having a neutral, outside perspective can help research, analyze and reframe your club’s most important challenges and opportunities.
Also be sure to take a temperature check of the internal political landscape amongst the membership. In some cases, personal and biased agendas may surface. To help realize these perspectives, it could be advantageous to have an unbiased voice to guide the process and offer candid transparency.
Lastly, a perk of working with a private club industry search expert is having access to their deep network of professionals and rising stars. Posts on job boards and professional social networking can work, but these channels don’t reach everyone. Moreover, sifting through a high volume of candidates who might not be of the caliber you seek—or worse, only having a handful of candidates to choose from—can quickly impact the velocity of your search. And remember: Some of the best candidates won’t even be looking.
Consider adding a private club industry expert to your search—someone who has been in the trenches and spent years developing relationships with the kind of private club and racquet sports talent who can bring your club and program right where it needs to be.
About the Author:
Andrew Minnelli, USPTA, PTR, USRSA, is a highly respected leader within the tennis and private club industry. In his 18-plus years in the business, he has effectively collaborated with private club boards, committees, members and staff to implement award-winning and innovative racquet programs and tournaments at some of the world’s most historic and iconic clubs. He is passionate about keeping tennis alive, specifically through empowering tomorrow’s leaders in the racquet sports industry.
As a Principal with GSI Executive Search based in Rancho Mirage, California, Andrew focuses on creating nationwide strategic placements between racquet sports professionals and associations, elite private clubs, semi-private clubs, resorts and colleges. He also consults on short-term and long-range planning, management in transition, capital and operational budget management, tournament and charity event management and staff trainings. You can reach Andrew by email or at 310-740-4488.