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May 2006 Volume 34 Number 5 $5.

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RACQUET CUSTOMIZING
A Sure Way to Make Profits Stick Transition Tennis Balls Can Boost Your Business How To Prevent Theft

Contents
RACQUET CUSTOMIZATION 35 Made to Order
Building up and promoting a racquet customizing business will reap rewards for you, and give your players unparalleled service. Q Why and How to Customize Q Marketing Your Services Q Rules for Customization Q Resources and Online Tools

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INDUSTRY NEWS 7 USTA launches new “It’s Your
Game” campaign

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Oaks at Boca Raton Tennis Center

Instant replay debuts in pro tennis Federer signs lifetime deal with Wilson New Gamma ProTour ball features “ThinTex” USPTA offers “Junior Circuit” for novice players Wilson, ITF expand partnership “No Compromise” Babolat hybrid string promotion TIA deal adds media services benefit for members Tennis Week founder Gene Scott dies Sampras is top pick in World TeamTennis draft USTA sets Tennis Teachers Conference PTR awards state member of the year awards Sharapova joins initiative to grow the game

FEATURES 40 The Soft Sell
“Transition balls” are gaining in popularity and exposure, and can help your business make gains, too.

42 Private Retreats
Location is king for the RSI/ASBA residential court winners.

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Private court winner in Oakley, Utah

DEPARTMENTS 4 Our Serve 18 Retail Strategies: Theft Prevention 20 Court Construction: Indoor Clay 22 Focus on Apparel 24 Marketing Success 26 Oncourt Programming: Cardio Tennis

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Webwise School Tennis Tennis Tech Tips and Techniques Ask the Experts Your Serve
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Our Serve
Become a Tennis Advocate
(Incorporating Racquet Tech and Tennis Industry)

Publishers David Bone Jeff Williams Editor-in-Chief Crawford Lindsey Editorial Director Peter Francesconi Associate Editor Greg Raven Design/Art Director Kristine Thom Assistant to the Publisher Cari Feliciano Contributing Editors Cynthia Cantrell Rod Cross Kristen Daley Joe Dinoffer Liza Horan Andrew Lavallee James Martin Mark Mason Chris Nicholson Mitch Rustad RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY Corporate Offices 330 Main St., Vista, CA 92084 Phone: 760-536-1177 Fax: 760-536-1171 Email: RSI@racquetTECH.com Website: www.racquetTECH.com Office Hours: Mon.-Fri.,8 a.m.-5 p.m. Pacific Time Advertising Director John Hanna 770-650-1102, x.125 john@racquettech.com Apparel Advertising Cynthia Sherman 203-263-5243 cstennisindustry@earthlink.net
Racquet Sports Industry (USPS 347-8300. ISSN 01915851) is published 10 times per year: monthly January through August and combined issues in September/October and November/December by Tennis Industry and USRSA, 330 Main St., Vista, CA 92084. Periodicals postage paid at Hurley, NY 12443 and additional mailing offices. May 2006, Volume 34, Number 5 © 2006 by USRSA and Tennis Industry. All rights reserved. Racquet Sports Industry, RSI and logo are trademarks of USRSA. Printed in the U.S.A. Phone advertising: 770-650-1102 x 125. Phone circulation and editorial: 760-536-1177. Yearly subscriptions $25 in the U.S., $40 elsewhere. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Racquet Sports Industry, 330 Main St., Vista, CA 92084.

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play.

e all want people on our side. As teaching pros or coaches, you want your students to think positively about you, to

talk you up to others who may not know you or your talents. As retailers, you want your customers to know that you’ll go that extra mile for them, but in return, you’d like their loyalty and repeat business. As facility managers, you want your players to talk up your courts and your programs, bringing others out to
It’s all good for your soul. And it’s good for your business. But, as important as it is to have people advocating for you and your business, it’s maybe even more important that the sport have people advocating for tennis in their local communities—with schools, businesses, colleges, and park and rec associations. Yes, tennis is on a high right now—participation is up, equipment sales are up, play is up. But despite the good news, too many courts are still being torn up and replaced with parking lots and strip malls, or given over to other sports or activities. Too many local, school, and college budgets are reducing or eliminating their expenditures for tennis. This sport needs advocates on the local level to turn this tide. And that’s where you can help greatly. The USTA earlier this year began a campaign to create and help “tennis advocates” throughout the country. The USTA—but in reality, the sport as a whole—needs passionate people to organize and lobby their local park and rec departments to ensure that tennis is getting its fair share of the budgeted recreational funds. The sport needs advocates to help develop and run after-school tennis programs to introduce the sport to the next generation of players. Colleges and universities need to be contacted to establish intramural tennis programs, and to prevent courts from being lost. You need to jump into the fight on the local level. Talk with park and rec and other town officials. Meet with school physical education teachers. Get to know the athletic departments at your local college. And get together with your local Community Tennis Association or USTA section or district, even the USTA national office, to push for tennis in your community. Your business depends on tennis and keeping people playing the sport. You cannot afford not to become an advocate for tennis. It’s time to get out there and make your voice heard in your community.

Peter Francesconi Editorial Director

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RSI is the “official magazine” of the USRSA, TIA, and ASBA

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INDUSTRY NEWS
INFORMATION TO HELP YOU RUN YOUR BUSINESS

USTA Launches New “It’s Your Game” Campaign

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Federer Signs Lifetime Deal With Wilson
Solidifying a relationship that began at age 10, Roger Federer has signed a lifetime agreement with Wilson for racquets, string, tennis balls, and tennis accessories. Financial terms were not disclosed. Federer, the world’s No. 1-ranked player, has competed with Wilson racquets since day-one, signing his first professional agreement with the Chicago-based company in 1997. Federer has won seven Grand Slam titles. “I’ve literally grown up with a Wilson tennis racquet in my hand,” says Federer, whose mother gave him his first Wilson racquet at age 10. “Having come this far, I can’t imagine competing with anything else. Wilson and I share a commitment to advancing tennis and fostering athletics, and I’m very happy to extend our relationship.” Federer debuted the first nCode frame at Wimbledon in 2004 and went on to win the Wimbledon title. Since then he has competed with a Wilson nSixOne Tour exclusively. “Roger will continue pushing the limits on the court, and we’re thrilled he’ll be doing it with Wilson,” says Brian Dillman, general manager of Wilson Racquet Sports. “Wilson nCode technology has had a tremendous impact on Wilson players and their performance, and Roger is the ultimate example of this success.”

he USTA has launched a national advertising campaign aimed at bringing lapsed players back to the court and encouraging existing players to play more often. The campaign will drive consumers to the redesigned www.usta.com as the “one-stop shop for the game of tennis.” The new campaign has a tagline of “Find a Court, Find a Partner, Find a Program, USTA.com . . . It’s Your Game.” Ads will feature five public tennis courts throughout the country with text focusing on recreational players’ emotional connection to the court and the game. Print ads will appear in national publications including Newsweek, Tennis, ESPN The Magazine, Runner’s World, and Ski Magazine, in addition to multi-cultural publications. TV ads will also run on CBS, ESPN2, USA Network, OLN, and The Tennis Channel. The revamped USTA.com launched in April and now offers a range of new services and databases to help consumers find a local court, playing partner, or programs, including nonUSTA programs. The new site is cleaner and easier to navigate than the old site. "The new image campaign and redesign of USTA.com provide a great one-two punch to help grow the sport,” says Kurt Kamperman, the USTA’s chief executive of Community Tennis.

Instant Replay Debuts in Pro Tennis

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ro tennis made the leap to instant replay in March at the Nasdaq-100 Open in Key Biscayne, Fla. The Hawk-Eye technology was used on stadium court for both men’s and women’s matches. Of the 161 challenged calls (84 by the men, 77 by the women), the players were successful 53 times. The system that both the ATP and WTA tours agreed to allows players two challenges per set and a third challenge if the set goes into a tie-break. Line calls that are upheld on video review count against a player’s allotment, while successful challenges are unlimited. Instant replay will be used during the US Open Series this summer. Its Grand Slam debut will be at the US Open in August, on both Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong courts.
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New Gamma ProTour Ball Features “ThinTex”

Wilson, ITF Expand Partnership
he International Tennis Federation and Wilson Sporting Goods have announced a new three-year deal that names Wilson the official ball of Fed Cup and extends Wilson’s existing Davis Cup partnership through 2008. The new agreement, which gives the company on-site exposure at every Fed Cup tie played throughout the year, went into effect with the 2006 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first-round ties and Zonal group events in mid-April. “We are delighted that the ITF’s relationship with Wilson continues to grow,” says ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti. “The company has shown a great commitment to the ITF and its activities for several years, and to tennis in general.” Wilson began its relationship with the ITF in 2002 when it became the official ball of Davis Cup. In addition, Wilson is also the exclusive supplier of tennis racquets, shoes, clothing, and accessories to the ITF Development Coaching Team.

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amma Sports’ new ProTour Tournament Ball features ThinTex technology, which the company says combines an ultra-thin sculpted core wall and ultra-high pressure for superior playability. Gamma is also offering the ball with a money-back guarantee; if a consumer believes the ball is not the best-playing, says Gamma, it will refund the purchase price. The ThinTex technology allows the walls of the ball to be ultra-thin, increasing playability, says Gamma. “As we move from a thick-walled pressureless practice ball to a thin-walled pressurized tournament ball, playability improves,” says Gamma founder Dr. Harry Ferrari. “Thus, going to an even thinner wall with higher pressure further improves playability.” The ProTour has received approval from the USTA and the ITF. It also has been named the official ball of the PTR and is available with the PTR logo. For more information, contact Gamma at 800-333-0337 or tsr@gammasports.com.

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USPTA Offers “Junior Circuit” for Novice Players
he USPTA has created a USPTA Junior Circuit, to provide opportunities to introduce less experienced junior players to tournament competition. The Junior Circuit is run by individual USPTA pros in their local areas. Typically, most local and regional tournaments are designed for players with competitive experience, and they draw the area’s top tennis athletes. To help novice juniors, ages 10 to 18, gain positive, competitive experience, the USPTA Junior Circuit will feature: Q Tournaments that target lower-level competition or recreational players, so that more juniors can compete with peers of similar abilities, helping them prepare for higher-level competition if they choose to advance. Q A tournament series, in a recognizable pattern, such as the first weekend of three consecutive months, or every Saturday in a particular month. The exact series will be determined at least in part by the pro in the local area. Q Local events in one city or a metro area, to help keep travel time and expenses low. Q Consistent format. The series will use one format, such as playing pro sets for one-day events or traditional scoring at three-day events. Q A point system, to reward all participants, even if they do not win a match, and lets them track their standings. Masters tournaments might be held for point leaders at the end of the circuit, and top players there might qualify for divisional playoffs. Consumers looking to find a USPTA Junior Circuit in their area should contact their local USPTA-certified pro, or visit www.usptafindapro.com. More info is available at www.uspta.com.

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Dunlop, Tennis Life Mag Offer Trip to US Open
unlop Tennis and Tennis Life Magazine are offering to send two fans to the 2006 US Open finals through a sweepstakes at the magazine’s website. The grand prize winner and a guest will fly to New York City, spend three nights at the Roger Smith Hotel in Manhattan, and attend both the men’s and women’s finals from Dunlop’s box in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The winner also will receive four Dunlop racquets, a complete line of Dunlop Sport luggage, two cases of Dunlop tennis balls and an autographed John McEnroe poster. Two consolation prizes include Dunlop equipment and luggage and signed merchandise by McEnroe. The sweepstakes is being offered through www.tennislife.com and ends on July 15.

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RSI Columnist Wins U.S. Tennis Writers’ Association Honors
riter Marcia Frost (left), the editor of www.CollegeAndJun iorTennis.com, was honored by the U.S. Tennis Writers’ Association for a “Your Serve” commentary she wrote for the August 2005 issue of RSI. Frost’s commentary pushed for the USTA to recognize and reward top college players with wild cards in the US Open. Nearly a dozen writers were honored during the Nasdaq-100 Open as winners in the 7th Annual U.S. Tennis Writers’ Association Writing Contest. Six of the 12 awards were claimed by writers from Tennis Week magazine. Other media outlets whose writers claimed prizes are the San Francisco Chronicle, Advantage Tennis Grand Slam Yearbook 2004, ESPN.com, and The Oakland Tribune. “We had record-breaking participation in our 2005 Writing Contest, with 27 media outlets represented through 83 articles,” says Liza Horan, USTWA president and administrator of the contest, which was open to all tennis writers. Winning writers and their entries are as follows:
Feature Story 1st Place: "Who is the Greatest Tennis Player Ever,” by Paul Fein, Advantage Tennis Grand Slam Yearbook 2004 2nd Place: "Once Upon a Time, Before He was a Stadium,” by Joel Drucker, Tennis Week 3rd Place: "Life Could be a Dream," by Mark Winters, Tennis Week Game Story 1st Place: Federer Leaves Mortals Behind," by Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle 2nd Place: "Agassi Wins One for the Ages," by Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle 3rd Place: "Roddick, U.S. Beat Old Foe--the Clay Court," by Whit Sheppard, ESPN.com Hard News/Enterprise 1st Place: "Doubles, Doubles Toil and Trouble," by Richard Vach, Tennis Week 2nd Place: "Now up for Bids," by Richard Pagliaro, Tennis Week 3rd Place: "Tennis's Best Serve," by Richard Evans, Tennis Week Column/Commentary 1st Place: "Not Carping, Caring," by Michael Mewshaw, Tennis Week 2nd Place: "Open the Door to College Players,” by Marcia Frost, Racquet Sports Industry 3rd Place: "Tursunov's Victory Rings from Russia to Roseville," by Art Spander, The Oakland Tribune

“No Compromise” Babolat String Promotion
hrough June 30, all tennis players who restring their frames with Babolat’s Custom + Hybrid string combination will receive a blue bracelet featuring the “No Compromise” slogan of the Andy Roddick Foundation. Babolat is teaming with the foundation to support the “No Compromise” campaign. All proceeds from the bracelets benefit the foundation (www.arfoundation.org), which benefits at-risk children. For more information on the Custom + Hybrid combinations, visit www.babolat.com or call 877-316-9435.

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TIA Deal Adds Media Services Benefit
ennis Industry Association members now have a media service available that can help them maximize their advertising budgets. Through an exclusive deal with the TIA, Blue Plate Media Services, a full-service media planning and buying agency, will help members maximize their media spending through smarter planning, efficiency buying, and highly targeted opportunistic media, says TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer. “Not only does Blue Plate Media have an excellent track record for helping companies get the most from their advertising dollars, they also provide expert media advice and planning,” says de Boer. “They can help our members strengthen awareness levels and build their brands.” The partnership will help TIA members, both large and small, by offering expert media advice, strategic media planning, and prime, discounted national and regional advertising at the best prices possible, she adds. “Long-term plans, as well as short-term media opportunities, are available across the media landscape, including consumer magazines, newspapers, television, outdoor, in-theatre and online,” says de Boer. In addition to more traditional, integrated media planning, TIA members are encouraged to complete a Media Buyer profile. Members are then notified via email to prime, discounted advertising inventory in national and regional media, with savings of up to 80 percent. In addition, TIA members may take advantage of Blue Plate’s full-service creative. This combination of services make Blue Plate Media an extension to member marketing departments—creating, planning and buying advertising—at substantial savings. For more information visit www.TennisIndustry.org and click on Blue Plate Media, or contact the TIA at 843-686-3036.
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Schwartz, Santorum, Gengler Honored by Hall of Fame
STA Immediate Past President Alan G. Schwartz of Chicago received the Samuel Hardy Award, presented by the International Tennis Hall of Fame, at the USTA’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., in March. The award is given annually to a USTA volunteer in recognition of long and outstanding service to the sport. Also honored by the Hall of Fame with Educational Merit Awards were Dan Santorum of Hilton Head Island, S.C., the CEO of the PTR, and Louise Gengler of Princeton, N.J., the longtime women’s tennis coach at Princeton University and a leader in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Tennis Educational Merit Awards are presented annually to individuals who have made notable contributions in the tennis education field at the national level. Award winners have repeatedly demonstrated leadership and creative skills in tennis instruction, writing, organization, and promotion of the game of tennis.

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Tennis Week Founder Gene Scott Dies
ormer USTA board member Eugene L. Scott, 68, the founder and publisher of Tennis Week magazine and a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1963 to 1965, died of heart disease March 20. “A tennis icon, [Gene] touched the game in every possible way—as a player, as an advocate, and as the publisher and founder of Tennis Week,” said Franklin Johnson, USTA chairman of the board and president. “His passion and enthusiasm for the game were unparalleled, whether on or off the court.” (For more tributes, see “Your Serve” on page 48.) Donations may be made to The Lucy Foundation, c/o Tennis Week, 15 Elm Place, Rye, N.Y. 10580, which is a family charity established to aid organizations and projects devoted to education and recreation, with a specific focus on tennis.

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Sampras Top Pick in World TeamTennis Draft
ete Sampras was the top pick in the World TeamTennis draft held at the end of March. He will be playing for the Newport Beach Breakers during the WTT Pro League’s regular season July 6 to 26. Sampras’s first match will be on July 10. This is the 31st season of play for the WTT Pro League, presented by Advanta, which has 12 teams in the U.S. that will play 84 matches during the regular season. The top two teams in both the Eastern and Western conferences will advance to the season-ending WTT Finals Weekend, set for July 28-30, at the Palisades Tennis Club in Newport Beach, Calif. Sampras, whose WTT debut marks his return to pro tennis competition, is one of several well-known names set to play for the professional co-ed tennis league in 2006. Other marquee picks included Venus Williams (Philadelphia Freedoms), John McEnroe (New York Sportimes), Anna Kournikova (Sacramento Capitals), Martina Hingis (New York Sportimes), Martina Navratilova (Boston Lobsters), and the doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan (Kansas City Explorers).
Fred & Susan Mullane/Camerawork USA

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New “Fit to Play Tennis” Book
ow available from Racquet Tech Publishing is Fit to Play Tennis: High Performance Training Tips, by Carl Petersen and Nina Nittinger. This physical and mental training manual arms athletes, coaches, and parents with a bullet-point guide to designing highperformance training programs. The book will guide you in learning how to enhance performance, limit injuries, and avoid overtraining and burnout by following practical tips and techniques. For more information, visit www.racquettech.com or call 760-536-1177.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

TIA Earmarks $1.5 Million to Grow Game
he Tennis Industry Association reported income and expenses of $2,188,980 for 2005. More than $1.5 million, or about 70 percent, went to grassroots programming and efforts to increase tennis participation. TIA membership for 2005 more than doubled, to 322 total members from 150 in 2004 (including individual, facility, retailer, and supporting members). Revenue from TIA dues were up 60 percent versus 2004, but short of budget due to slower than anticipated growth in the new member categories, says the TIA. The anticipated membership goal for 2005 was 573 members.

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Head/Penn and ATP Expand Partnership
he ATP and Head/Penn have announced a new three-year agreement that makes Head the official ATP tennis racquet and racquet bag through 2008. The new deal is an expansion of the ATP’s 13-year partnership with Penn. Head will be the exclusive licensee for the ATP and will introduce a cobranded line of bags that will be distributed globally. Further programs, including a co-branded racquet, will be jointly developed with a special focus on China, the site of the Tennis Masters Cup for the next three years. The Head sponsorship joins Penn’s existing sponsorship as the official ball of the ATP and the Tennis Masters Cup. Penn additionally sponsors 14 tournaments worldwide, including the nine ATP Masters Series events.

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Deco Installed at St. John’s University
ecoSystems, a division of California Products Corp., reported that their full cushioned tennis surface DecoTurf has been installed in the newly reconstructed tennis facility at St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y. The three existing courts at the University’s Outdoor Tennis Facility were rebuilt and replaced with five fully cushioned DecoTurf courts by tennis court builder JM Tennis Inc. of Old Bethpage, N.Y. DecoTurf was also recently selected for use at the University of Alabama, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Virginia. For more information, visit www.decoturf.com or call 800-DECO 1ST.

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Head/Penn Announces Partnership with Beach Tennis USA
ead/Penn Racquet Sports is the official racquet and ball of Beach Tennis USA, which kicked off its 2006 National Tour in April with two weekend events in Southern California. The 11-city tour will culminate with the U.S. Beach Tennis Open Championship in Long Beach, N.Y., in August. The relatively new sport of beach tennis is played on a regulation beach volleyball court. Using regulation tennis racquets, two players on each team try to hit a tennis ball back and forth, over the net, without letting it hit the sand. Only one hit per team is allowed on each volley. Scoring is the same as in tennis, with no-ad at deuce. If a player's serve hits the net and goes over, it counts. “We are very excited to be promoting beach tennis. This partnership with Beach Tennis USA is a great fit for us and we are excited to have established this new connection to the sport of tennis,” says Amy Wishingrad, national promotions manager for Head/Penn.

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LBH Names Evans Head of Sales
he LBH Group Ltd. has named industry veteran Bill Evans as the new vice president of sales. Evans will be responsible for managing the sales of all of the LBH brands for both golf and tennis, including Lily’s of Beverly Hills, LBH, Wimbledon, and Fancy Pants. He previously held the same position at Tail and is the former president of Sergio Tacchini in the U.S. “Bill brings a wealth of industry experience to LBH that will enable us to continue our growth in both the golf and tennis markets,” says LBH President Judy Petraitis. “We are looking forward to his positive impact with our customers, sales reps, and internal personnel.” The LBH Group, based in Torrance, Calif., has been manufacturing and distributing women’s golf and tennis apparel for 33 years. In 1997 it became the licensee for Wimbledon men’s and women’s apparel in the USA, Canada, and the Caribbean Islands.

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Bryans Have Firm Grip On Pro Doubles Lead

he world No. 1 doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan won a crucial doubles match in the recent Davis Cup win over Chile in April, which followed up a Davis Cup win earlier in the year. The duo, which also claimed their 28th pro doubles title in February, are expected to be the mainstay of the Davis Cup team that will travel to Russia in September for the semifinal round. “Over the last seven months, the Bryan brothers have won the US Open, the Australian Open, two Davis Cup matches, and The Tennis Channel Open,” says Gene Niksich, president of Unique Sports Products. “Through all their wins, Unique Sports’ Tourna Grip has been there.” The brothers, who play with Wilson nCode racquets, are longtime users of Tourna Grip. For more information, contact Unique at 800-554-3707.

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USTA Sets Tennis Teachers Conference

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ark your calendars now for the 2006 USTA Tennis Teachers Conference, to be held Aug. 26 to 29 at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. This year’s theme, “Setting the Stage for Success,” encourages coaches to establish a platform for players to develop and grow in both skill and experience. The concept encompasses all levels of play and development. At each phase, teachers can set the stage for fun, growth, and ultimately, success. Registration starts May 1. Visit www. usta.com/ttc or call 914-696-7004.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

PTR Awards State Members of the Year
he Professional Tennis Registry presented the State Member of the Year Awards to 27 of its members recently during an awards ceremony at the PTR Symposium on Hilton Head Island, S.C. Q Alabama: John Dotson & Scott Novak Q Arizona: Mike Lowdermilk Q Arkansas: Craig Ward Q California: Julien Heine Q Colorado: Phil Betancourt Q Connecticut: Sharon Weston Q Florida: Noel Cubela Q Georgia: George Hovsepian Q Kansas: Marc Blouin Q Louisiana: Jeff Smith Q Massachusetts: Jorge Magalhaes Q Minnesota: Roger Mitten Q Missouri: Greg Mahosky Q New Jersey: Joe Bautista Q New Mexico: Bev Bourguet

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National Public Parks Tourney Set for National Tennis Center
he 80th Annual National Public Parks Tennis Championships will be held June 19 to 25 on the blue courts at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., the home of the US Open. Entry deadline for all event—juniors, adults, and seniors in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles—is June 5 at 5 p.m. Eastern time. Online entry at www.usta.com/tennislink is preferred. Tournament I.D.’s are 100217106 for adults, and 100216906 for juniors. For more information, go to the website or call 718760-6200.

New York: Bogdana Romanska North Carolina: Allen Michael Ohio: Ralph Dunbar Oregon: Pam Lamb Pennsylvania: Tina Tharp South Carolina: Sam Kiser South Dakota: Daryl Paluch Texas: Kerlin Butchee Virginia: Mary Conaway Vermont: Errol Nattrass Washington: Karen Green

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Sharapova Joins Initiative to Grow the Game
aria Sharapova, the highest paid female athlete in the world who appeared in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue in February, is the latest superstar to promote the sport of tennis to attract new and former players as part of an industrywide initiative for Tennis Welcome Centers. “I’ve loved playing tennis since I was 4 years old, so it’s natural for me to participate in this campaign to encourage people to pick up a racquet and join in,” says 18-year-old Sharapova, who joins Jeff Gordon, Daisy Fuentes, Mike Wallace, Roy Jones, Jr., and fellow tennis pros Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and James Blake, in the campaign to get more people playing tennis. The national program is an unprecedented combined effort by every part of the tennis industry, including tennis facilities, manufacturers, tournaments, teaching organizations, tennis associations, retailers, and media. The marketing campaign includes print advertisements, broadcast spots for both TV and radio, and promotion on the Internet. The consumer website is www.TennisWelcomeCenter.com. The program is available to any facility or school with a tennis court. Prospective facilities can find information on participation at www.Partners.TennisWelcomeCenter.com.

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Federer, Clijsters, Other Top Pros Receive Honors

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orld No. 1 Roger Federer and US Open champ Kim Clijsters received top honors at the “Stars for Stars” Official Awards Party of Professional Tennis in March in Miami. Federer was named 2005 Player of the Year and also won the Fan’s Favorite Award and the Stefan Edberg Sportsman of the Year. Clijsters was named WTA Tour Player of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year. She also received the Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award for the fifth time and was selected as the Fans’ Favorite. Other awards included: Bob and Mike Bryan as ATP Doubles Team of the Year and also Fan Favorites. Lisa Raymond and Samantha Stosur won WTA Doubles Team of the Year. James Blake was named ATP Comeback Player. Most Improved honors went to Rafael Nadal and Ana Ivanovic. Newcomer of the Year Awards were presented to Gael Monfils and Sania Mirza, while Leizel Huber and Carlos Moya received Humanitarian awards for their responses to Hurricane Katrina and the South Asian tsunami, respectively.

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SHORT SETS
> Prince has announced a reorganization designed to accelerate growth in the AsiaPacific and Latin American regions. Mike Ricketts, a part of the Prince management team for four years, is now the vice president and managing director of the AsiaPacific region, and Jon Plimpton is the managing director of the Latin American region. More than 75,000 free racquets have been distributed to children by Advanta since the 2003 inception of Advanta’s “Ready, Set, Racquet!” program, designed to promote youth fitness and the lifelong sport of tennis. high > Wilson expanded its outreach toAnnuschool tennis as a sponsor of the 7th al All-American Invitational Boys’ Team High School Tournament in Newport Beach, Calif., in March. The company provided tennis balls for the tournament, which invites 16 teams from across the country to participate based on rankings and statistics. Wilson also offered coaching strategies, player tips, and equipment guidelines to coaches and players. The U.S. Davis Cup team beat Chile in April and now advances to the semifinals Sept. 2324. The U.S. will face Russia at a site to be chosen by the Russian Tennis Federation.

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home. Families featured on the show receive a $20,000 honorarium, and if you recommend a family that appears, you’ll receive a $1,000 finder’s fee. To apply for the show, email a family photo and description to daniel.markell@rdfusa.com.

“The ChampiU.S. defeated the > Thethe 20th BonnebellAustralian team 15- > Charlotte, N.C., will hostnew tennis touronships at the Palisades,” a 12 in Maureen Connolly Brinker Cup international girls’ team competition held in Australia in April. The competition is for girls 14 and under. The U.S. leads the series 17-3. ProTour Tournament > Gamma Sports’ new ball of the Peter C. Ball will be the official Alderman Foundation (PCAF) Pro-Am Celebrity Tennis Classic on June 9 and 10 at the Saw Mill Club in Mount Kisco, NY. To inquire about becoming a Gamma dealer, contact 800-3330337 or email tsr@gammasports.com The reality series “Wife Swap” is looking for a family that is passionate about playing tennis for an upcoming episode. Potential families must consist of at least two parents that have one child age 5 or older living at nament on the Outback Champions Series, to be played Sept. 20-24 at The Palisades Country Club. It’s the fifth tournament in the series, a collection of tennis events in the U.S. featuring tennis greats over the age of 30. John McEnroe and Jim Courier will highlight the eight-player field. official ball of the Delray Beach > Penn is theLife Open, Nasdaq-100 Open, ITC, Pacific Bausch & Lomb, and Family Circle Cup. ATP has announced a deal > TheBeijing Li-Ning Sportsseven-year Co., with Goods China’s largest sports clothing company. ATP-branded clothing from Li-Ning will be available in the company’s more than 3,000 stores in China starting in July.

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E signed a multi-year deal with Land

O • Maria Sharapova has

P L E W AT
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Pacific Sport Resurfaces in U.S.

Rover that includes her use of Land Rover vehicles, and her participation in retail promotions and events. ESPN.com reports the deal is worth about $2 million a year.

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• World No. 1 player Roger Federer was
recently appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. “It’s important to me to help the many children throughout the world who do not have the basic resources they need,” says Federer.

• Melanie McGeough is the new communications manager for Wilson Racquet Sports. • The USOC Coaching Recognition Program has
named Brian Barker of Monroe, Conn., as National Coach of the Year for his work with pro James Blake. Mark Bey of Skokie, Ill., the founder and director of CARE Academy, was named Developmental Coach of the Year, and Dr. Ann Lebedeff of Temecula, Calif., received the “Doc” Counsilman Science Award.

acific Sport, a German-based company whose Natural Gut strings have received the No. 1 rating by the USRSA four out of the past five years, has resurfaced in the U.S. Pacific Sport specializes in the manufacture of strings, grips, and accessories. Distributed out of Santa Barbara, Calif., Pacific’s string line includes award-winning natural gut, high-quality German-manufactured polyester, and multifilament synthetics. The company was best known during the early 1980s when John McEnroe won three Wimbledon titles using Pacific's Natural Gut. Pacific remains one of a handful of companies in the world that still produces its own natural gut. Pacific players, which include competitive players in top NCAA programs, nationally ranked juniors, and current and up-and-coming pros, are recognized by the unique “X” logo stenciled on their strings. For more information, visit www.teampacificusa.com, call 800892-5901, or email mail@teampacificusa.com.

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College Tennis Guides Available for High School Juniors and Seniors
he “Monthly Guide to College Planning” workbook was introduced as a complement to the information available on www.CollegeTennisConnect.com, but the workbook proved so popular that it was broken into separate versions for high school seniors and juniors. The books take the student/junior player through the 24-month process of preparing to become a college player and include worksheets to check off their progress each month. They are written by Marcia Frost, a college tennis advocate who travels to tournaments and writes about junior and college players, in addition to interviewing recruiting college coaches from all divisions. Frost is the editor of www.CollegeTennisConnect.com and runs www.CollegeAndJuniorTennis.com. She also is a member of the USTA Eastern College Tennis Committee. CollegeTennisConnect.com combines the tennis knowledge of the Port Washington (N.Y.) Tennis Academy’s College And Junior Tennis and the directory experience of Richard Lipsey of College Sports Connect. It is the only online directory that lists every college in the U.S. and Canada with a tennis program and features numerous articles to help with college planning, all at a cost of $29 a year. Coaches, teaching pros, and others in the industry can order the workbooks and College Tennis Connect subscriptions for their high school players. Volume discounts apply. For more information or to order, visit www.CollegeAndJuniorTennis.com/CTCForRSI.php, or call 609-896-1996.

• Maria Sharapova won her 11th
career tournament in March at the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, Calif., her first victory playing with Prince’s O3 White racquet.

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• Svetlana Kuznetsova, playing with a
Head Flexpoint Instinct frame, won the Nasdaq-100 Open in Miami in April.

• Mary Jo Campbell is the new strength and conditioning specialist and athletic trainer for USTA Player Development. She will be based in Carson, Calif.

• Bernard Tomic, the 13-year-old Australian tennis sensation, has signed with sports management group IMG. • Rebecca McPhee of Lexington, S.C., is the new
events manager on the USTA Southern Section staff.

• Mark Vandewater has been named the Regional
Sales Manager of the Year for Gamma Sports. Vandewater, who joined Gamma in 2004, services accounts in western Pennsyvlania, western New York, Ohio, and Kentucky.

• Todd Norton of Greenville, S.C., is the a
new Tennis Service Representative in South Carolina.

16 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2006

INDUSTRY NEWS

BJK, Austin Family Honored at USTA Annual Meeting
ennis legend Billie Jean King and the Austin family of Southern California were among those honored for their contributions to the game at the USTA Annual Meeting at the Disney Yacht & Beach Club in Orlando, Fla., in March. In a special ceremony, King received the 2005 President’s Award for her extraordinary service to tennis. “To me, Billie Jean King is not only a great name in tennis, but a great name in all of sports,” said USTA President Franklin Johnson. “She has so many accomplishments, but she’s still giving to the game.” “When I was 12, I just knew I wanted to change things,” said King, who was interviewed by close friend and TV commentator Mary Carillo on stage in front of a capacity crowd. Carillo asked King about her past, present, and future in the game as photos from her history in the sport were displayed, and King commented on the photos. Tennis champion Tracy Austin, along with her parents, George and Jeanne, and four siblings, received the 2005 Ralph W. Westcott USTA Family of the Year award, an honor presented annually to a family who in recent years has done the most to promote amateur tennis, primarily on a volunteer basis. The Austins have been at the center of the Southern California tennis for nearly 50 years and have supported the USTA and numerous charitable initiatives. Taught the game by their mother and father, all five Austin children—Tracy, John, Pam, Jeff and Doug—each have successful collegiate or professional tennis histories and have since made the sport their career. “The Austin family embodies everything the USTA and this award stand for,” said Johnson. Other awards presented at the USTA Annual Meeting included: Q 2005 Barbara Williams Leadership Award—Margaret Newfield, Miami, Fla. Q 2005 USTA Organization of the Year—Pikes Peak Community Tennis Association, Pikes Peak, Colo. Q 2006 Brad Parks Award—Grand Rapids Wheel Chair Sports Association

Classic Turf System Installed On Bermuda Parking Garage Deck

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lassic Turf Co. recently installed its patented cushioned court surface in Bermuda on top of a parking garage at the headquarters of Ace Insurance Co. Ace Insurance officials chose Classic Turf to replace previous surfaces that had failed on top of the concrete deck.

before

after “Classic Turf’s breathable and waterproofing properties allow the Classic Turf System to be installed over the concrete subsurface permanently,” says Tumer Eren, the president of Classic Turf. “This permanent installation over the concrete doesn’t just give players a soft, comfortable surface with a consistent ball bounce and speed, but also, it protects the concrete slab from the elements, such as the salt air, UV rays, rain, and hurricane-force winds.” Eren shipped the prefabricated Classic Turf rubber rolls, along with specialized installation tools, to the Hamilton, Bermuda, site from his factory and warehouse in Woodbury, Conn. After preparation of the concrete slab, the Classic Turf System was installed according to its specifications. The completed court also included the installation of two permanent basketball backboards and hoops. For more on Classic Turf, visit www.classicturf.org, email sales@classicturf.org, or call 800-246-7951.

Tail to Introduce Cardio Tennis Apparel Line
ail says it will introduce a line of Cardio Tennis-specific apparel for November delivery. Tail President Andy Varat said the line should be ready for showing in July. “It will be part of the Tail Tech line, which is the active part of our tennis collection,” says Varat. The Cardio Tennis line will include fitness tops, capris, jackets, and skirts “and will definitely have more of an active fitness look to it.” The line will also merchandise back to Tail’s regular tennis collection. For more information on Tail apparel, visit www.tailinc.com or call 800-678-8245.
May 2006 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

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retail

STRATEGIES

On Guard!
Theft—whether from employees or customers— can destroy your business. Here’s what you can do to prevent it.
BY KRISTEN DALEY
he calls an “anti-snitch attitude.” Case suggests implementing an “anonymous tip” program to which employees can report a co-worker’s dishonesty without concern for disclosure of their identity. The program can be an informal, in-house set-up, although some go through services where employees can report incidents by calling a toll-free number. Addressing suspected employee theft can expose a business to liability to such issues as slander, defamation, false imprisonment, or infliction of emotional distress. An attorney or your local police department may be able to advise you on how to handle such an employee-theft situation.

urning a business plan into a successful endeavor takes time, money, effort, and dedication. Theft, which can happen in ways you may not expect, can hamper your success if it is not controlled. To protect your business and bottom line against theft, you need to stay vigilant and take proper precautions.

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THE INSIDE JOB
Surprisingly, businesses take the biggest hit not from customer theft, or “shoplifting,” but from employee theft. It is estimated that employees alone steal $1 billion a week from American businesses. In fact, nearly one-third of bankruptcies in the U.S. are caused by employee theft, explains John Case, who is with EmployeeTheft.com and is the author of several books on employee theft and shoplifting. Among the common methods of employee theft are embezzlement, common pilferage, and abuse of discount privileges. Another method that can result in substantial losses is employee collusion with customers, in which the two work together in a theft attempt. In some cases, an employee has the opportunity to obtain and isolate material for a customer, and the customer has the means to remove it without raising suspicions. Employee/ customer collusion can also take place at the cash register, where a customer brings several items to the register, but the cashier does not charge the customer for all of them. According to Case, motives for employee theft include revenge against the company, temptation, opportunity

for dishonest behavior, financial need, and boredom. To help deter employee theft, Case says, start with pre-employment screening, which can include criminal, prior employment, and credit checks. “Most employees who steal have stolen before,” Case says. “They have a pattern in dishonesty. If you don’t conduct a thorough employment check, you are getting the people who are rejected by other companies that do.” To deter employee theft among existing employees, Case says, “The key is to remove the opportunity.” A breakdown in business procedures, such as failure to conduct ongoing inventory counts, monitor item refunds, and personally supervise employee performance, can facilitate employee theft. After discovering that one employee was committing credit-card fraud through the item-return process, Corinne Pinsof-Kaplan, owner of the 18,000square-foot Chicago Tennis and Golf in Chicago, changed store policy, allowing only managers to handle returns. “Too many people had their hands in there,” she says. Other signs of employee theft can be easy to see, such as inventory placed in dumpsters or at exits near employee parking. “There’s no substitution for the owner being present as many days as possible and putting in as much time as possible,” says Mark Mason, owner of Mason’s Tennis Mart in New York City. “When that happens, there’s less of an inclination for employees to steal.” Often, Case explains, other employees are knowledgeable that a peer is stealing from the business but have what

CUSTOMER THEFT
Shoplifting by customers amounts to more than $10 billion per year. In tennis retail, one of the most targeted items is clothing. Shoplifters engage in such behavior to fulfill a desire to get “something for nothing,” and because there is a lack of fear of getting caught. Some signals that employees should look for that could indicate customer theft is a patron who refuses help and/or handles merchandise without looking at it, instead looking around to see if they have been noticed. Wearing bulky clothing where merchandise can easily be hidden is another sign of possible intent to steal. Employees should also take notice if a group enters the store together and then spreads out to different areas, forcing employees to monitor several departments at once. “The most effective deterrent of

18 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2006

customer theft are well-trained salespeople who are attentive and trained to notice suspicious behavior,” says Case. In his 1,000-square-foot shop, Mason commonly keeps three salespeople on the floor in the store’s main departments. “There’s nothing like hands-on service, which is good in terms of increasing your sales, but it’s also very good because it prevents theft,” he says. “An owner should make every employee aware that stealing is a reality. “You want to keep a very relaxed, cordial atmosphere in your shop, but at the same time you want customers to know that you are in control.” Further protection is offered by security equipment. Widely used devices include cameras and security tags on merchandise. According to Harry Greenberg, business counselor for SCORE, which offers training and advice to small businesses, some factors that businesses consider when choosing whether or not to invest in the equipment is the worth of the mer-

chandise and the business’s history with theft and subsequent losses. Another way in which to discourage customer theft is to plan your shop’s layout with adequate lighting in all areas, and to keep the most expensive products where they can be monitored. “We are very conscious of security and how we set up the store,” says PinsofKaplan. “For us, the fewer the blind spots, the better.”

PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS
Business owners, managers and employees should be thoroughly trained in shoplifting detection, apprehension, and prevention, and should also be knowledgeable of state and local laws on shoplifting. Before you implement a loss-prevention program, however, review the program with an attorney and coordinate whenever possible with the local police department. But, as any retailer would certainly agree, “The best thing is just to prevent it in the first place,” says PinsofKaplan.Q

May 2006 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

19

COURT

construction

Clay Courts Indoors?
Efforts are under way to increase knowledge and improve playing conditions on a surface typically reserved for outdoor play.
BY PAT HANSSEN, LEE TENNIS

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ndoor facilities play an essential and often overlooked role in the tennis industry. In the northern half of the U.S., for as many as nine months of the year, they are the lifeblood of the game, providing access to leagues, lessons, tournaments, and the accompanying healthy, fun, social interaction. Although they are found in abundance in the northern half of our country, some may be surprised to learn there are indoor facilities as far south as Alabama. They are even being talked about in Florida, where there are pressures to flee the intense summer sun for cooler, skin-safe environs. As the baby-boomers, and the largest percentage of the avid tennis playing population, sprint toward the years once known as “retirement,” providing access to tennis court surfaces indoors that are easy on the body, and will allow this group to play tennis well into old age, is increasingly relevant for facility owners, managers, and teaching professionals, all eager to attract and retain this well-to-do customer segment. Clay, and the American version of it known as Har-Tru or fast-dry, is one of these surfaces. It has long been known that a soft surface like clay is easier on players’ joints. But clay is not typically at the top of the list for indoor installation, for two basic reasons: 1) Indoor clay courts play differently than outdoor clay courts, tending to be harder and more slippery, and 2) indoor clay courts are more difficult to maintain than outdoor clay. When you add in concerns about wear and tear to the structure housing the courts from exposure to humidity

over long periods, it’s not hard to see why clay has been low on the priority list as far as a surface for indoor facilities. But recent developments are helping make clay courts in indoor facilities a more viable, and indeed desirable, option. At my company, Lee Tennis of Charlottesville, Va., which manufactures Har-Tru, developing tools and techniques for maintaining clay courts is a part of our culture. We have long realized that the simpler the maintenance and the better the courts, the easier it becomes to sell. Years of research and innovation have helped to reduce maintenance needs on outdoor clay courts from three hours per day to as little as 20 minutes per day. But up until three years ago, very little work had been done to improve playability and decrease maintenance on indoor clay courts. The reason for this is in the numbers. There are an estimated 30,000 outdoor clay courts, vs. less than 500 indoors. But with the recent interest in bringing the sliding benefits of clay indoors, we’ve been taking a close look at what needs to be done.

CUSTOMER SATISFACTION
At Lee Tennis, the first thing we did was to compile an inventory of existing indoor courts and to get a feel for court conditions and customer satisfaction. A visit to 19 facilities in the Northeast in January 2004 revealed that for the majority of them, both the people maintaining the courts and those playing on them were very unhappy. From facility to facility, there was no consistency in either the maintenance routines or the problems, and generally there was confusion about what should be done to keep the courts in the best shape.

Facilities had been left to their own devices to come up with the best routines they could to keep the courts safe and playable. A few were doing quite well and achieving considerable success pleasing their playing public, but even at those locations, there was concern over a perceived lack of control over court conditions and over the lack of any support from the manufacturer or any industry trade associations. In response, we hosted a conference on indoor clay courts on Long Island, N.Y., that August to bring together builders, owners, managers, teaching professionals, and maintenance personnel to gather knowledge and share ideas and concerns. Close to 40 people attended what became the first of our Annual Conference on Indoor Clay Courts. According to conference attendees, players expect that clay courts indoors should play the same as clay courts outdoors, yet they rarely do. The controlled, comfortable slide on outdoor courts is replaced by a slippery court that often is too dry. There were three areas of concern: surface compaction, irrigation, and humidity. Severe compaction occurs indoors because of the extremely high use, and this compaction creates a surface that is bald, slippery, and difficult to irrigate. Water can and will help soften the courts, but with low evaporation rates indoors, it is difficult to irrigate the courts in a way that maintains an appropriate amount of water in the surface profile. Flooding the courts with too much water is a real concern because they take so long to dry, and that increases the humidity levels in the building. Whether the indoor courts are in a permanent structure or an air structure, controlling humidity levels is vital to make the playing environment safe and

20 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2006

pleasant. Simultaneously trying to keep the court surface wet and the air dry is a bit of a conundrum. In relative humidity greater than 65 percent, condensation occurs more frequently and mold and mildew start to grow. Too much humidity also allow the tennis balls to get dirty and heavy. The interconnected nature of these problems made resolving, or at least managing, these issue quite challenging, but some of the work that we had done on outdoor courts applied to indoor clay courts, too. For instance, several aggressive tools had been developed for use on outdoor, sub-surface irrigated courts, which also tend to get very hard and are susceptible to algae and moss. It was found that these tools could be incorporated into the daily, monthly, and annual routines effectively to break up the hard surface layer and make it safer and less slippery. Another outdoor strategy tested and successfully brought indoors was aerating courts. By using machines that shoot highly pressurized jets of water into the court surface, cavities were created to allow courts to expand and soften and water to penetrate more freely.

ing at two facilities in Virginia, and we will be conducting tests at more than 15 facilities along the East Coast. When it comes to maintaining indoor clay courts, we still have a lot to learn, and challenges still to overcome. But, for the first time, we know what those challenges are and have taken steps to find workable, practical solutions. For instance, we’ve standardized maintenance routines and tools and equipment to achieve excellent results in terms of playability, and we’ve developed ways to communicate this information to current and potential court owners.

We’ve also begun to quantify scientifically what owners and players consider “good” and “bad” in terms of playing conditions. As the data comes in, we’ll use it to develop new tools, techniques—and maybe even new surfaces—that will change the way people feel about clay courts indoors. Q
Pat Hanssen heads up Lee Tennis’s commitment to find solutions for maintaining indoor clay courts, including directing research and development in this area. The Third Annual Conference on Indoor Clay Courts will again be in August. For more information, contact Hanssen at phanssen@luckstone.com or 1-877-4-HARTRU.

NEW MANUAL
The outcome of this work was a new Indoor Maintenance Manual for clay courts. The manual was introduced last August at the Second Annual Conference on Indoor Clay Courts. While we consider this manual a work in progress, it has created a baseline to work from by outlining the challenges, explaining why they occur, and offering strategies for managing them. It is available to the general public at Lee Tennis’ website, www.hartru.com. (Also from the website, users can link to an “Indoor Forum,” where current and potential indoor clay court personnel can share ideas, post pictures, ask questions, and more.) In conjunction with the new manual, we’ve also launched research aimed at quantifying optimal surface compaction, moisture content, and traction. For this research, we’re utilizing the assistance of some of the best soils scientists in the country and hope that by understanding the science of what is making courts so hard, they can provide better solutions for court maintenance. There is ongoing testMay 2006 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

21

FOCUS ON

/

apparel
BY CYNTHIA SHERMAN
the well-dressed team as well as style conscious individuals. LEJAY is made in Miami and offers two catalogs per year featuring six fashion groups in each. Within their fashion groups, Lejay features a variety of styles/silhouettes to appeal to a broad age range. They may offer different tops in all the same color/print so that customers have a choice of style. Trish Levin of Lejay says a camisole would appeal to the younger, more fitnessoriented customer, while the cap sleeve may be desirable for the more mature player. Lejay’s lines, which feature built-in bras, are more fitted and have more cross-over pieces for active wear. The designs also reflect fashion trends, and Levin says their typical customer is active, energetic and fashionable. The company also offers more than 25 styles for team play to mix and match. BÄLLE DE MÄTCH lines are performance-driven and focus on kids, and men and women ages 18 to 45. This young, Southern California brand features the recognizable “Yippee Man” on many of its tops and bottoms, as well as more sophisticated looks for active adults. But owner John Embree notes that you don’t have to have the perfect body to wear Bälle clothing, so it’s “user-friendly.” Besides making a lot of team clothing, Bälle carries children’s tennis/activewear to include ages 4 to 14. TAIL has been in the business for more than 30 years, targeting the recreational, semi-competitive player, aged mid-20s and beyond. The company makes use of hightech fabrics, with lines that are geared toward the 25- to 40-year-old woman who seeks a more athletic fit and more aggressive styling. But within those collections are more relaxed fitting fashions for the more mature women. About 80 percent of garments in many Tail collections feature a more classic fit, while the remainder are geared toward a younger consumer with the more athletic fit. Tail does a lot of team business, and all clothing collections are “team friendly,” with plenty of crossover components. Q

How to Shop for your Customers

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onfused about what apparel lines to carry? Making sure you bring in lines that will easily find their way back out the door is one of the toughest tasks you’ll face. You need to pick what appeals to your customers visually and financially, and is comfortable to wear. And you need to know what sizes to stock. First, know your market. Take a close look at who’s playing at your club. Chances are your players are a mixed bag of sizes and shapes, from fitness divas to mature figures who need more forgiving styles and fit. Ask a cross-section of members what sorts of things they look for in tennis apparel. But be wary of basing your orders on just one person’s opinion. Don’t just look at the catalogs or website of apparel makers. Ask questions of the rep or manufacturer about the way their clothing fits and what types of players are more likely to wear one of their product lines over another. Then compare the manufacturers’ target markets to the people you actually have playing at your facility or visiting your shop. Always ask about advance ordering or pre-booking policies. Larger manufacturers may pre-book orders, but odds are you won’t be guaranteed all you order. Since many manufacturers forecast a specific number of units to be produced, larger retailers may receive all or most of what they ordered over smaller shops, and once

a product line is gone, it may gone for good, with no backorder leeway. In some instances, there are no guarantees, especially if clothing production is overseas. But that’s not true of all manufacturers. That’s why it’s best to check and see what each apparel company’s ordering policies are and what availability will be throughout the season before you commit to a certain line. A few apparel manufacturers offered some insight into how and who they design their clothing for. THE LBH GROUP has three different lines of clothing. The Lily’s and LBH lines, both made in the U.S. by the same manufacturer, may appear somewhat similar, but there are some subtle differences. Lily’s has been on the market for about 30 years and features a slightly more forgiving and traditional fit with more “sweep” to the skirt, whereas 10-year-old LBH has a more active fit, employing high-tech Coolmax fabrics featuring racer-back tops and built-in bras. Wimbledon, the third LBH line, is very traditional, catering to the “country club” niche, sporting more white, pleated skirts and cables. LBH’s Katie Curry says their market caters to women who are reading fashion magazines and want their tenniswear to mirror their everyday ready-to-wear clothes. Their lines are composed of many complimentary pieces and components suitable for

22 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2006

&

marketing

SUCCESS

Options for Hiring On-Court Summer Help
BY JOE DINOFFER
of kids in numerous fun and engaging activities. Most certified tennis teachers would be totally stressed and uncomfortable in that type of environment. Maybe that’s why tennis teachers resort to line drills most of the time. If they have more kids, the lines just get longer. It’s just a question of training. Elementary school PE teachers, on the other hand, are well-schooled and comfortable engaging large groups of kids and can make the activities fun and effective for each age group and skill level. It is usually much easier to show a PE teacher the basic tennis progressions for beginning juniors, as compared to training tennis pros to become competent group activity coordinators. Definitely have a trained teaching pro head up the groups of beginning juniors, but give him or her a staff of enthusiastic professionals to work with and let the fun begin! You’ll probably find that you can offer the college players a decent hourly rate that will be more than the academies, yet still fit your budget.

ENGAGE YOUR OWN JUNIORS
A few programs in the U.S. have figured out how to design and schedule their junior programs to capitalize on the powerful motivational force of kids helping other kids. Well, here’s how it works: Most summer programs group juniors by playing levels and ages. Schedule the oldest and strongest children to play in the first time slot. The next oldest should be scheduled next, and so on, until the very youngest children are scheduled to play last. Now, have the best kids in each program stay for 30 minutes and help with the next younger program. Set it up so that kids who are asked to stay are looked up to for their qualities of reliability, maturity, helpfulness, and overall ability. They become the “assistant pros” for the next younger group. This benefits them in that they get more court time and contact with your professional staff. Plus, they will enjoy being looked up to by their slightly younger peers. The next younger group benefits because they look up to the next older group and will be inspired to perform well just by being around them. This natural mentor program is one of the most powerful yet underused tools available. Q

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orried about finding the right people to help you on court with your summer programs or holiday camps? There are three often-overlooked categories that you should look into to ease your hiring anxieties. Consider any one of these resources, or use all three, to create new levels of success in your junior programs. Remember that if you make your programs fun and build the self-esteem of each participant in the process, you are almost guaranteed to succeed.

COLLEGE PLAYERS
For your more advanced juniors, you will need coaches with solid tennis games. College players are always looking for summer employment. No doubt that you need a veteran teaching pro to direct the overall program for your competitive juniors, but try placing a strong college player to execute your drills on each court. Hiring college players for your summer programs makes sense. It could be a cost-effective alternative (generally you can expect to pay them less than full-time teaching pros), and the college players themselves are probably looking for a way to be on the court as much as possible during their summer break. If you want to check competitive pay scales, just call some of the larger academies across the country and ask what they pay college players who help them out in their summer programs.

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PHYSICAL EDUCATION TEACHERS
If your summer program includes younger beginning children, consider hiring elementary school physical education teachers. Many in your area are looking for summer employment, and the month of May is a good time to start asking around. They don’t even need any tennis experience. First, go to a local elementary school and ask if you can just observe a phys ed class. You’ll probably see a very dedicated and competent teacher organizing dozens

Joe Dinoffer is a Master Professional for both the PTR and USPTA. He speaks frequently at national and international tennis teacher workshops as a member of both the Head/Penn and Reebok National Speaker’s Bureaus. He is president of Oncourt Offcourt Inc. and has written 16 books and produced more than 30 instructional videos.

24 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May

2006

on-court

PROGRAMMING

New Promotions, Workshops Add to Cardio Tennis’s Appeal
BY PETER FRANCESCONI

TRY CARDIO FOR FREE
The newest promotion for Cardio Tennis is a free lesson promotion for the month of June. Throughout the month, hundreds of facilities around the country will offer free Cardio Tennis classes for players who have yet to try the new fitness activity. “If you can get that person out on the court for a Cardio Tennis class, and you’re a great pro who gives a great class, you’ve got them hooked,” says Cardio Tennis Program Manager Michele Krause. “People have been hearing about Cardio Tennis but may not know what it is,” Krause says. The survey last fall, she adds, indicated that pros at sites offering free introductory classes felt that was by far the best method to bring in new participants. After the free class, pros are urged to sign up potential players immediately for future classes, offer Cardio Tennis package deals, get email addresses, and send follow-up email reminders.

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ennis facilities are always looking for ways to increase revenues. And the new Cardio Tennis program may be just the thing to help your bottom line. For the 250 facilities that took part in a survey last fall to gauge the effectiveness of Cardio Tennis programming, revenues increased an average of 10 percent, says the Tennis Industry Association. The survey also indicated that for facilities running Cardio classes for three months, participation rates doubled. Cardio Tennis—developed by the TIA in conjunction with the USTA and tennis teaching pros—launched at the 2005 US Open. It’s a group activity, ideally done to music, that combines tennis with a highenergy cardiovascular workout, offering players of all abilities a way to get in shape while improving their games. Currently, more than 1,100 public and private facilities have signed on as official Cardio Tennis sites. And Cardio Tennis has spread beyond the U.S. The program is in more than 20 countries, including the United Kingdom, Italy, and Germany. “Cardio Tennis is not only growing tennis participation, it’s growing revenues as well,” says Jim Baugh, the president of the TIA. “It seems that every time we do a class, we have someone new coming out,” says David Oom, the director of tennis at MVP Sportsplex in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The TIA is hoping to have at least 500 sites offering the free Cardio classes in June. Print ads in magazines such as Shape, Men’s Health, and Fitness, in addition to traditional tennis publications, will combine with commercials on ESPN, FIT TV and The Tennis Channel to drive consumers to the website www.cardiotennis.com, where they can find a location near them offering the free classes. “The benefit to the pro or facility with this free promotion is that they can’t lose,” says Krause. “We’re essentially doing the marketing and advertising for you.” Pros will, of course, want to supplement the national advertising with ads and stories in their local media, along with other local promotions.

FREE WORKSHOPS AND CLINICS
For a successful Cardio Tennis program, “It still comes down to the presence of the

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pro,” says Krause. “If it’s a bad experience for players, they won’t come back.” Cardio Tennis is fast-paced, yet fun. The idea is to keep players moving, and hitting, so a lot depends on the skill and knowledge of the pro. To that end, the TIA is running a series of free workshops and clinics across the country in 2006. Cardio Tennis Workshops: Last year, there were 27 workshops in the U.S. For 2006, the format of those workshops has been altered to meet the needs of the different experience levels of the pros, says Krause, since some pros have been running the program for six months, while others are just starting out. The free workshops now have morning and afternoon sessions, which each feature 1-1/2 hours in class and 1-1/2 hours on court. The morning sessions are for pros new to the program or who have never attended a Cardio workshop in the past. The afternoon sessions are for those

who have experience with the program. Pros attending the morning session can also stay for the afternoon session. Lunch is served in between, and attendees in the morning receive a free heart-rate monitor. Afternoon session attendees receive a new CD from PowerMusic designed specifically for Cardio Tennis workouts. Cardio Tennis Training Center Clinics: To reach more pros at the grassroots level

more frequently, the TIA is offering free clinics at Cardio Tennis Training Centers, says Krause. Currently, there are about 14 Cardio Tennis Training Centers, with more slated to join the list. The Training Centers will offer three-hour clinics twice a year to pros in their areas. Local pros also can go to these facilities throughout the year to participate in or observe pros doing Cardio Tennis classes. Again, this training is at no cost to the pros. Q

Cardio Tennis Clinics & Workshops
Upcoming Cardio Tennis Workshops and Clinics include the following. (For more information, to register, or to see the most updated list, visit www.partners.cardiotennis.com and click on “2006 Workshop Schedule.”)
April 28: Atlanta, Ga. April 29: Austin, Texas May 4: Chicago May 6: Berkeley, Calif. May 7: Eugene, Ore. May 8: MacLean, Va. May 11: Detroit, Mich. May 12: Punta Gorda, Fla. May 12: Flushing Meadows, N.Y. May 12: Grand Rapids, Mich. May 13: Anderson, S.C. May 19: Midland, Mich. May 21: Overland Park, Kan. June 10: Greensboro, N.C. June 11: Princeton, N.J. June 25: Lexington, S.C.

May 2006 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

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F

web wise

Payback Time: Affordable Ways to Reward Your Customers
nyone trying to make a dime certainly treasures their customers. Even when the customer isn't right, "the customer is always right." Right? Making your customers happy—and keeping them that way—is the secret to sustained business. As W. Edward Deming, Ph.D., a statistician best known as the father of the Japanese industrial revival, put it, “Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your product or service, and that bring friends with them.” Your first interaction with the customer can determine whether or not you’ll have repeat business. By delivering a quality product with efficient and pro-

BY LIZA HORAN

A

fessional service—whether that’s booking a lesson for them over the phone or taking the time to outfit them with the proper racquet and shoes—you win a chance to prove that they should spend their money at your establishment. Keeping them coming back for more becomes the next step, and research shows that they will be more likely to return to your place of business if it’s a rewarding experience. And today that literally means delivering “rewards.”

Loyalty programs abound these days. You probably have a frequent-flier account that earns you a point for every dollar you spend on your airline-branded credit card. American Airlines’ loyalty program helps travelers earn miles on all

Personalize Shopping With A Loyalty Program
Perhaps your key chain is full of tiny cards with bar codes that score you extra discounts when checking-out at Stop & Shop, PetSmart and CVS, or serve as your membership card at the gym. Every time you swipe that card, your actions are being tracked by that company for marketing reasons. Trading privacy for discounts and free merchandise is a concession America is willing to make. Rewarding customer loyalty is nothing new. Remember those S&H Green Stamps that used to earn prizes? Well, what started in 1896 as the Sperry & Hutchison Green Stamps loyalty program went digital in 2000 (www.greenpoints.com) and counts 9 million card holders. Customers can redeem their loyalty points on everything from blenders to airline vouchers. The S&H model calls for inviting your customers to join the loyalty program, then analyzing the data of their purchases. When you crunch the numbers and see trends, you can better serve your customers. “When people are playing tennis or witnessing a tennis event or shopping, the success of that particular endeavor is related directly to the experience,” says Ron Pederson, president and CEO of S&H. “And if the tennis experience is captivating and stimulating to a wide variety of people, you can translate that experience to a really wonderful loyalty program. For your best shoppers—the ones who are profitable and are loyal—their experience is enhanced. So loyalty marketing is simply personalizing the experience.” —L.H.

28 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2006

PERSONALIZED PROPS
Take the digital photo idea one step further by printing them on T-shirts, greeting cards, and other merchandise. Just go to www.Zazzle.com to choose a product and upload a photo. Bonus: You can earn up to 17 percent commission from Zazzle when customers purchase through links on your website. Cost: $2.49 and up

retail spending, not just flights. The internet has created lots of opportunities for small businesses to offer thoughtful thanks to their customers, through gestures of simple means to large-scale reward programs. Putting forth a little more effort toward customers can work wonders for loyalty. Here are cool—and convenient— ways to reward your best customers:

GRAB BAG
Not sure what to give your long-standing customer who has referred lots of business, or even your hardworking employees? Check out www.GiftCertificates.com. An online voucher can be purchase in denominations to fit any budget, and there are solutions for small businesses seeking incentive programs. Cost: $5 and up

FROM ME TO YOU
If you don’t collect email addresses from your customers and members, start today. It’s the most convenient and affordable means of communications, and it provides an easy way to tell business contacts you are thinking of them. Send out tennis-themed ecards as invitations, thank-you’s, birthday greetings or other messages. Remember, it’s replacing a hand-written note, not a marketing pitch. Go to www.123Greetings.com for e-cards and www.Evite.com for invitations. Cost: Free

PASS-ALONG VALUE
Make bill payment a little more enjoyable for your customers and players by giving U.S. Postal Service postage. Sounds boring? Actually, tennisthemed stamps wed function and fame. Commemorate the great Arthur Ashe by purchasing his official stamps at www.USPS.com, and upload a league team’s photo or your store logo for custom stamps at www.PhotoStamps.com. (Remember that the 1-ounce rate for first-class postage is now 39 cents.) Cost: $7.40 for 20 Ashe stamps (37 cents); $17.99 for 20 custom photo stamps (39 cents)

YOU’RE THE STAR!
Grab a digital camera, or find a friend or club member who has one, and pick one day to photograph the goings-on at your facility. It could be a regular day where people are participating in clinics or league play, or a special event like a tennis festival or open house at your club or shop. Then upload the images to a photo website, such as www.KodakGallery.com. Your members will able to view the photo album online and purchase prints for 29 cents each. Cost: Free

Liza Horan is editor and founder of TENNISWIRE.org, an industry news site, and president of the U.S. Tennis Writers’ Association.

May 2006 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

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school

TENNIS

Extracurricular Aces
By “adopting” local schools, pros and facilities can attract children to after-school programs that will help grow the game and their businesses.
BY KRISTEN DALEY

T

he USTA is calling on teaching pros, parks, Community Tennis Association’s, coaches, and volunteers to carry on the momentum of its School Tennis initiative by keeping kids playing even after the last school bell of the day rings. With the help of increased funding from the USTA board of directors, School Tennis is emphasizing the development of after-school programs to supplement schools’ Physical Education tennis units being established across the country. The USTA has collaborated with leading physical education expert and curriculum writer Dr. Robert Pangrazi to develop student-friendly tennis units, especially for grades 3 through 6, providing racquets and easy-to-rally transition tennis balls to participating schools. “For the after-school programs, we’re focusing on team- and play-based programs, not just lessons,” says Jason Jamison, product manager for the USTA’s School Tennis program. “Every time these types of programs are offered, participation is quadruple that of lesson-based programs. People are drawn to playing the game.” The USTA is encouraging interested pros, organizations, and facilities to “adopt” schools in their area that can feed into their after-school programs. Getting to know phys-ed teachers in the schools, and even assisting with classes or hosting a field trip to a tennis facility, can get youngsters interested in the game, get your name out into the community, and help your revenue stream. Last spring, Chris “Mick” Michalowski, director of tennis at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Traverse City, Mich.,

saw more than 6,000 kids as he visited local schools to instruct phys-ed tennis units. By distributing information about the resort’s summer programs in the classes, Michalowski attracted more than 550 kids. “The key is to get them to sign up with their buddies from school,” he says, adding that going into the community to offer tennis programs has given the resort visibility, but more important, “it gives the sport visibility.” Responsibilities of after-school program organizers include recruiting volunteers, securing a site, program promotion and registration, training coaches, and scheduling practices and matches. USTA Junior Team Tennis, a six-week program with practice and match play, is a recommended format for an after-school program. “Kids love tennis when it’s introduced to them in a fun manner with a ball that’s easy to play with,” says Jamison. Charging a fee for an after-school program, Jamison says, helps tennis compare to other organized sports for children, like Little League baseball, and also helps the pro or facility generate some revenue. “The image in the past was that USTA School Tennis only focused on exposing kids to tennis in the P.E. class,” he says. “What we’re trying to do now is get kids into something more structured after school.” A fee of between $25 and $60 per child is recommended to cover

the cost of a tennis racquets, T-shirts, tennis balls, awards, fliers, coaching, insurance, and other expenses. Scholarships can be provided so no child is turned away. In addition to School Tennis and accompanying after-school programs, the USTA has launched “Rapid Rally,” a skill competition for boys and girls ages 8 to 13, to further encourage tennis activity among children. In Rapid Rally, players hit a low-compression tennis ball against a wall for as long as they can within 30 seconds. For tennis pros and facilities, administering Rapid Rally is free and easy—racquets and balls are provided, and any wall will do. There are three levels of competition—local, regional, and national. The National Finals are held at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. “Rapid Rally can serve as a spark to get kids playing,” says Jamison. “You don’t need traditional courts, and you can use it as a feeder into more structured organized play programs. We see it as a really effective way to get and keep kids in the game.” Q

30 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2006

TENNIS

tech

High-Tech Tennis Toys for Fun and Profit
DR.ROBERT HELLER
ance. It’s available through www.ultimatebalance.com for $195. A variety of accessories are available at additional cost.

BLOOD PRESSURE/ PULSE RATE MONITORS

A

s a sports psychology consultant and father of a 13- year old son, it’s hard to escape the fact that for better or worse, technology and electronics are a major part of our lives. Whether you own a store, manage a shop, direct a tennis facility, or teach lessons for a living, learning about different products and how to incorporate them into what you do can lead to increased fun and profits. In this article, I will describe a number of products I use or am familiar with. I have chosen to focus on products that are relatively low cost, easy to use, and do not require any extensive training. With a little research and a small amount of marketing, stores could allocate a “Peak Performance” corner and promote a variety of products tennis consumers would likely buy and benefit from, while tennis professionals could incorporate them into their lessons and clinics, generating more interest and income.

training more interesting by setting goals and objectively seeing how you are doing Generally, recommendations are for you to exercise between 65 percent and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. The standard heart-rate calculation is 220 minus your age multiplied by the desired percentage. Polar (www.polar-usa-sales.com) is probably the most popular manufacturer and has a series of monitors with various bells and whistles. Prices start at $39.95 for the basic A1 model and go up to $399.95 for the AXN 700. The products are widely available at sporting goods stores and department stores. Heart-rate monitors also can be a part of the TIA/USTA’s new Cardio Tennis program. As a revenue source, monitors can be sold or rented to participants.

To assist in learning to control worry and tension, the Omron digital blood pressure monitor is simple to use, provides immediate results, and costs under $50. You wrap the cuff on your arm, hit a button, and it automatically inflates. A few moments later your blood pressure and pulse rate appear on the screen. To train, sit quietly for 15 minutes as you breathe slowly and deeply, concentrating only on your breath. Take your readings again and record them on a sheet of paper. After a few weeks of practice, you will see and feel the difference. It’s available at most drugstores chains.

COMPUTER AND VIDEO TENNIS GAMES
Kids love video games. Tennis video games can excite kids about playing tennis, can be used as part of a rainy-day program, or incorporated into a tennis camp program during lunch or quiet time. One popular game is Virtua Tennis by Sega. “Sega did an excellent job making sure even those unfamiliar with the rules and strategies of tennis will be able to jump right into the game,” says one reviewer. Virtua Tennis and similar products can be purchased through amazon.com. Used versions are available for under $10. Q
Dr. Robert F. Heller is a performance enhancement psychologist and trains athletes and business professionals to perform at their best. He is the author of "Managing Your Stress," "Mental Toughness," and "Mental Skills for Match Play." For information on telephone consulting, speaking engagements, and ordering products, call 561-451-2731 or e-mail robertheller@adelphia.net.

ULTIMATE BALANCE TRAINER
This new product is a bio-feedback type of device that let’s you know if you are bending or lunging “too much” and creating an “unbalanced” hitting plane. The device, which I tested as a prototype a few years ago, is attached to a sports cap, hat, or visor by a Velcro strip. The Ultimate Balance Trainer (above) is quiet when you move in balance, but when you are out of balance, you hear, “front,” “back,” “left,” or “right” to let you know you are moving out of position. The sensitivity level can be adjusted to the skills level of the player, permitting more or less movement before the warning goes off. It is battery operated and there are no wires. The device can be useful and motivating as part of a lesson on movement and bal-

HEART-RATE MONITORS
Portable heart-rate monitors have been around for a while. They consist of a belt or strap that attaches around your chest and transmits to a watch-style receiver worn on the wrist. These devices give you constant feedback on how hard your heart is working during exercise. The “beats per minute” number shows on your wristwatch screen and can be set to emit a sound if you go above or below a preset level. Heart-rate monitors allow you to train more efficiently to condition your heart and make

32 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2006

RACQUET CUSTOMIZATION

MADE TO ORDER
Building up and promoting a racquet customizing business will reap rewards for you, and give your players unparalleled service.
BY CRAWFORD LINDSEY
ost racquet manufacturers have many different frames available for all types of players. Generally, racquet makers cast a wide net and try to snare as many players as they can with their different models. But, as a stringer, teaching pro, or pro shop or facility operator, you know that rarely do your players fit perfectly into the racquet manufacturer’s mold when it comes to a frame that can best help their game. In just about every case, your customers’ games can benefit from some type of racquet customization. Players should never have to change their games to adapt to a frame that is wrong for their style of play. It’s like buying a new suit. Sure, there are off-the-rack suits that will fit fine, but to really look the best on you, the suit will need some tailoring. Certainly, touring pros—and many serious recreational or tournament players—“tailor” their frames to get the best performance possible. For your customers, a properly customized racquet can improve their games and help prevent or lessen injuries, such as arm and shoulder problems. For you, it can be a gold mine—possibly the greatest untapped gold mine in the tennis retailing and racquet service business. A customized racquet can add $20 to $50 to every sale, and it is the No. 1 service that you can provide to differentiate yourself as a consummate expert and to make your shop a truly “total” racquet-service establishment. Not only do you want to handle all your customers’ stringing needs, but for players looking for that “perfect” frame or looking to “match” their racquets, you need to let them know that adjustments you can make to their grip and racquet weight, balance, and swingweight will help them play better. Why do so few shops customize frames? Is it lack of knowledge and equipment, or is it fear of the unknown? It’s probably a mix of all of the above. But there are a number of resources that you can use to increase your knowledge in this area and help you become familiar with the customizing process. In this and subsequent articles in RSI, you’ll learn how you can customize your players’ frames, and build your customization business.

M

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Why Customize?
Customizing a racquet can affect a shot’s depth, spin, angle, and speed, as well as the feel, comfort, and safety of that shot to the player. It is truly a service that can make the technician/retailer/pro a hero to the customer. The first step in customizing a racquet is to help your customer purchase the right frame off the shelf to begin with. This, of course, is done with a subsequent view to “optimization,” for which you plant the seeds with the customer during the selection process with statements like, “This racquet best meets your requirements on average, and we can then adjust its power, control, and comfort to optimize and match it to your needs and abilities.” Again, like buying a new suit, you want the off-the-rack product to be a good base from which you can start making alterations. The off-the-shelf racquet is just the beginning of the racquet fitting process. The new racquet is just a template from which to create your customized work of art and to demonstrate your expertise. Even though all racquets should undergo some type of customization, today the most common reason to customize a frame is probably to match racquets. Player’s with multiple racquets want all of them to feel exactly the same for every movement in every direction. You can customize frames by adding the correct amount of weight to the correct locations, which usually involves adding lead tape to one to three locations on the racquet. The goal is to match all the so-called racquet “weights”: stationary weight, swingweight, twistweight, recoilweight, spinweight, and hittingweight, as well as the balance point. Keep in mind that it’s much easier to add weight to a frame than it is to take weight away. Also, you can’t change the stiffness of a frame, so when matching racquets, make sure your customer buys frames with the same stiffness. Another reason to customize a frame is to optimize performance. The goal is to alter feel, power, control, and/or comfort. Optimization involves experimenting with adding weight to various locations and then having the customer hit with the frame to see how that affects performance. By trial and error and intelligent lead-tape placements (i.e., knowing the probable effect of each placement), the player will find a combination that he or she likes best. In general, serve-and-volleyers like lighter more maneuverable setups and baseliners like a setup with greater weight and swingweight. A third reason to customize a frame is for stroke adjustment. For example, if a player is hitting too early, adding weight toward the tip will slow the head down. If the player is

hitting too late, removing tape from the tip will speed up the tip, or adding it to the handle will slow the forearm in comparison to the tip, which brings the racquet through faster. And last, a racquet can be customized with an eye toward injury prevention. For example, shock and vibration can be lessened by adding weight in the head or lowering string tension. But adding weight to the head could also create a late impact point, straining the wrist and causing injury. Customization is never done in isolation—how the player reacts to the customization is the important thing.

Lead weight application to the handle

How to Customize

Handle sizing with heat-shrink sleeve

There are three basic ways to customize a racquet: Lead weight application. This will alter the overall weight of the frame and will alter how that weight is distributed throughout the racquet. The four properties of the racquet that you typically modify are the total weight, balance, twistweight, and swingweight. The overall weight of a racquet is easily measured on a scale. The balance of the racquet is the point along the length of the frame at which it balances. You can buy a balance board or you can make your own. The swingweight is measured using precise equipment, such as the Babolat RDC machine, the Prince Precision Tuning Center, or the Alpha Accuswing. (The higher the swingweight, the more difficult the frame is to swing.) While these machines can be a bit pricey, they’re definitely worth the investment if you’re planning on boosting your customization business. If buying a diagnostic machine is not in the budget right now, you can use the online tools available at www.racquettech.com (for USRSA members) to measure and calculate swingweight and twistweight (twistweight is not measured by any commercially available diagnostic machine). Handle shaping and sizing. This obviously affects grip, feel, and strokes, but it also will change the weight and weight distribution of the racquet, so it additionally affects how heavy the racquet is, its balance, swingweight, etc. Building up a grip is easy with heat-shrink sleeves or overgrips, but decreasing the handle size or taking weight out of the handle is a bit more challenging and may be limited by the type of handle the racquet has. You can slightly shave

36 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2006

A “Weighty” Issue
The four properties of the racquet that you typically modify are the total weight, balance, twistweight, and swingweight. The overall weight of a racquet is easily measured on a scale and modified by placing lead tape at various points on the racquet. The balance of the racquet is the point along the length of the frame at which it balances. You can buy a balance board such as the Alpha board below, or you can make your own. The swingweight is measured using precise equipment, such as the Babolat RDC machine or the Prince Precision Tuning Center.

Rules for Customization
Q Adding weight to the head changes the magnitude and size of the sweet area, simply by increasing the racquet’s resistance to being pushed, twisted, rotated, and bent by the ball. Q You have to have an overall strategy of attack because changing any one racquet property usually changes others. Q When experimenting with performance effects, don’t add more than 3 to 5 grams at a time. Placing just 5 grams of lead tape at the tip of the racquet adds about 17 units to swingweight and shifts the balance point by about a quarter-inch. Q Adding weight to the tip of the frame increases swingweight and balance the most, making the racquet more headheavy. Q Adding weight at or near the balance point will not change the balance, but will change the weight and swingweight. Q Adding weight to the handle will make the racquet more head-light and heavier overall, but it will only slightly increase swingweight. Q When adding lead tape to the hoop, add equal amounts to both sides of the frame and both sides of the strings. Q Adding weight to the 3 and 9 or 2 and 10 o’clock positions will have the doubly beneficial effect of increasing swingweight and twistweight (power and stability). Q Adding weight will always add both power and control by limiting how much the racquet rotates, twists, and bends on contact with the ball. With racquet frames, whatever increases power will tend to increase directional control (though it could lead to hitting too long). Q With strings, whatever increases power will diminish control. Softer stringbeds, which increase power, allow the ball to dwell on the strings longer. That means the ball has more time to change the orientation of the racquet face before it leaves the strings, compromising control. Stiffer stringbeds have more control because impact is shorter and the racquet face orientation is not altered as much.

May 2006 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

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Advantage: USRSA Members
The online tools available at www.racquettech.com (for USRSA members) do all the heavy lifting for you. From comparing every property of every racquet and string to every other and choosing the best for your customer, to calculating the amounts and locations of lead weight placement for customization, these tools are essential to your success and to making your customers happy.

Racquet Selector
Racquet Selector starts with all the specs of your current racquet, asks you how you would like each of those changed, and asks you to prioritize your desires. For the choices at left, the Racquet Selector returned two racquets that matched all eight of the priorities listed. If the “all” box for manufacturers to search is checked, Racquet Selector will return 20 racquets on the market matching all eight priorities. If Racquet Selector can’t find a match for all eight of your criteria, it will list the racquets that meet your top seven, or six, etc. It always finds the closest racquet on the market to your desires.

Join the USRSA
Full membership in the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association, allowing access to all the online tools listed here, and much more, is $109 a year. Web-only memberships, allowing access to the online tools, is $55 a year, or $9 a month. To join the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association, visit www.racquettech.com or call 760-536-1177.

Racquet Optimizer
The top three sliders set up the current specs of your racquet. The bottom four sliders allow you to do “what if” scenarios for different amounts and locations of lead tape placement. The results are displayed in the middle boxes. It is great for “tweaking” customizations preformed by the Racquet Customizer (below).

Racquet Customizer
This is your ultimate tool. You tell the Customizer what the specs of your racquet are, then what you want them to be, and it will tell you how much and where to add weights. In the example here, Customizer says to add 0.02 gm at 68.58 cm (the tip), 4.93 gm at 53.34 cm (approximately 3 and 4 o’clock), and 12.05 gm at 2.54 cm (in the handle).

38 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2006

down handles made of wood or polyurethane, but you can’t shave down graphite, plastic, or composite cushioned handles. Stringbed customization. Stringing a frame is obviously also a method of customization. You can alter stringbed stiffness by varying the string material, gauge, tension, and if buying a new racquet, pattern. Stringing customization alters playing characteristics by affecting one thing—stringbed stiffness. The stiffness of all strings has been measured by the USRSA and can be found at www.racquettech.com/members/tools/string_selector.html. Most stringers and retailers see themselves and market themselves as just that—stringers and retailers. If both presented themselves as “racquet performance optimizers,” customers would see their services in a new light and would be more curious and aware of the possibilities to improve.

Marketing Customization
It’s all about marketing your services effectively. Master racquet customizer Bob Patterson of Birmingham, Ala., who was RSI’s 2005 Stringer of the Year, says you should create a “Racquet Service Center” in your shop and “flaunt” your customization services (see RSI, February 2006, page 13). Here are some other tips that can help you build-up your customizing business and offer real value to your players: Be different. Offering “stringing” and “racquet sales” is about as exciting and different as, well, stringing and racquet sales! Everyone can and does do that, and if that’s what you advertise, that’s all customers will expect. But, corny as it

might sound, what if you promoted your expertise as “Performance Optimizing Services” or “Performance Enhancement Experts”? Make it the star. Create a customization center in your store, highlight it, display it, “trick it out,” and direct traffic to it. Integrate it. Your performance services (stringing, weighting and balancing, racquet selection, handle adjustments, etc.) are a package and should be promoted as such. Market the benefits. Don’t call it “racquet customization” or “racquet optimization.” Rather, emphasize the benefits: “Power boosting,” “control tuning,” “comfort-izing,” “feel enhancement.” Guarantee satisfaction. With every racquet purchase, guarantee the customer will prefer the performance-enhanced racquet to the off-the-shelf racquet, or the customization (attempt) is free of charge. Offer “performance enhancement days.” These are just like demo days, except players demo their own racquets but with lead tape added to change the racquet’s characteristics. The procedure is simply to apply lead tape to players’ racquets and send them out to hit a few dozen balls and then to relate their experiences to you. Based on the feedback, you will or will not change the amount and/or location of lead tape and send them back out again. You can probably orchestrate this with four to eight players per court. Racquet customization can and should be a big part of your business. Your players need to know that, as good as the off-the-shelf frames may be, your expertise can help them tune the frame to exactly fit their games.Q

Resources for Customizing Racquets
There are a number of resources available that are designed to give you all you need to know to service racquets effectively for your players. For the skills and techniques involved in fine-tuning racquets, check out these media (available from the USRSA at www.racquettech.com or 760-536-1177): Q “Racquet Service Interactive” CD Q “Total Racquet Service” DVD Q Racquet Service Techniques volume of the Stringer’s Digest. The scientific concepts behind the racquet customization techniques are contained in two books (available from Racquet Tech Publishing at www.racquettech.com or 760-536-1177): Q “The Physics and Technology of Tennis” Q “Technical Tennis: Racquets, Strings, Balls, Courts, Spin, and Bounce” The measuring equipment comes in high-tech and low-tech flavors. High-tech equipment to measure weight, balance, and swingweight are Q Babolat Racquet Diagnostic Center Q Prince Precision Tuning Center Q Alpha Accuswing The low-tech, no-cost methods are provided at www.racquettech.com tools center (for USRSA members): Q Swingweight: www.racquettech.com/members/tools/swing_weight.html Q Twistweight: www.racquettech.com/members/tools/twist_weight.html Q Recoilweight: www.racquettech.com/members/tools/recoil_weight.html Q Hittingweight: www.racquettech.com/members/tools/hitting_weight.html Q No shock sweetspot: www.racquettech.com/members/tools/cop.html Racquet and string selector tools: Q Selecting the best off-the-shelf racquet template: www.racquettech.com/members/tools/racquet_selector.html Q Selecting the best string: www.racquettech.com/members/tools/string_selector.html Calculation tools for customization: Q Calculating amount and location of lead weights for frame matching: www.racquettech.com/members/tools/racquet_customizer.html Q Calculating trial and error, simple adjustments: www.racquettech.com/members/tools/optimizer/optimizer.html Q Turning one racquet by any company into any racquet from the same or any other company: www.racquettech.com/members/tools/morphinator.html
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TEACHING TENNIS

THE SOFT SELL
“Transition balls” are gaining in popularity and exposure, and can help your business make gains, too.
BY CYNTHIA CANTRELL
ball on every shot. “After a while, I definitely thought we were all hitting the ball cleaner. We just had to give the [transition ball] a chance.” Chuck Kriese, head coach of men’s tennis at Clemson University for the last 30 years, says he’s used transition balls for about two years to help players regain some of the lost artistry in tennis—particularly in the men’s game—due to its lightning-fast tempo. While high-tech racquets allow advanced players to experience success despite “hacking, slicing, and pushing” a regulation ball back, he says the transition ball slows down the game in a manner that forces players to develop good shot selection and technically sound mechanics. “Tennis players are the worst at trying new things, but you see results right away with transition balls,” says Kriese, who experimented with them at his beginners’ camps before quickly incorporating it into his work with advanced players. “I think it’s one of the best teaching tools out there.” While transition balls and other low-compression balls from a variety of manufacturers are becoming more popular in the U.S., they have been used in Europe for years, according to Kirk Anderson, the USTA’s director of recreational coaches and programs, who also sits on the International Tennis Federation’s Tennis Participation Task Force and Transition Ball Subcommittee. In England, for example, Anderson says players use transition balls that generate three increasing levels of speed before graduating to a regulation ball. In Belgium, juniors play sanctioned tournaments using seven kinds of transition balls in seven corresponding tennis court boundaries. With about 90 different transition balls used worldwide, he says the ITF is working to standardize ball specifications and corresponding court sizes, rules, and regulations. Here in the U.S., Anderson says transition balls present endless

J

ane Webb of Sherman, Conn., learned to play tennis in her high school physical education class, but gave up the sport because she considered the hit-miss-run-after-the-ball beginner’s experience too tedious. Now 52, Webb credits a single piece of equipment with her return to tennis: a “transition ball,” an oversized,foam ball with an inner core that slows down its flight while allowing it to bounce like a traditional tennis ball. “Chasing balls all the time got frustrating,” Webb recalls. “I thought, ‘I’m just not very good at this. When you’re playing with the [transition ball], you get proficient very fast. It gets you excited about the game when you can play with some degree of coordination. Now I see why people think tennis is fun.” While it took only 15 minutes for Webb and her husband to successfully rally with their tennis instructor and his wife over a portable net in a church parking lot, Indiana University senior Neil Kenner says he and his teammates also benefit from practicing with transition balls. “We weren’t too happy when [assistant men’s tennis coach] Randy [Bloemendaal] had us hit with them for the first time. We wanted to play with regular balls,” says Kenner, admitting that warming up with the softer balls across three-quarters of the court helps him focus on proper positioning and swinging through the

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opportunities for growing modified versions of tennis, just as half-court basketball, slowpitch softball, no-check hockey, and flag and touch football maximize participation rates in those respective sports. Transitionball advantages include more moving and hitting made possible by longer rallies, fewer injuries as a result of the lighter ball imparting less stress on joints, reduced player intimidation since the balls are made of foam and other soft materials, and appeal to all age groups. Aside from the ball, according to Anderson, no special equipment is necessary. Regulation size or modified tennis courts may be used, in addition to gymnasiums, parking lots and even some carpeted areas. To spread the word, according to Jason Jamison, the USTA’s school tennis product manager, transition balls are being promoted at conventions, recreational coach workshops, and school programs. In fact, the USTA now includes transition balls along with racquets and a portable net in its equipment kit distributed to schools. “The [transition ball] offers a play-based approach that helps players develop the confidence to stay with the game,” says Jamison. “Beginners are actually more fun to coach, too, because they’re having fun and they’re motivated to learn more.” An added bonus, he notes, is that pros can make more money teaching with transition balls by dividing a court into six parts, teaching more players in the same amount of time. “Everything about [transition balls] is good,” says Harry Gilbert, a USPTA-certified teaching pro at the Waccabuc Country Club in Waccabuc, N.Y., who has used the softer balls in his Little Tennis classes for several years. The balls look like standard tennis balls and produce a lively and predictable bounce, but their low-compression core produces a slow-moving effect that gives players more time to prepare for and react to each stroke. “I like them because they’re visual and they don’t bounce over the kids’ heads,” Gilbert says. “They’re easy to control, but even if one goes flying, it’s safer than a regular ball.” Craig Jones, tennis director at Idle Hour Country Club in Macon, Ga., says he keeps a separate basket of transition balls on hand at all times to use with the 4- and 5-year-olds in his programs. “They help grow the game because players experience success right from the beginning,” he says. While Jones says the beginner adults at his club shun transition balls once they see youngsters playing with them, tennis director Will Hoag of the Coral Ridge Country Club in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., says that is a mistake. The two-tone balls are easier for all ages to track, he notes, allowing players to shed their self-consciousness in the process of focusing on the ball. “Adults are always afraid of hitting balls over the fence, but I’m not sure Roger Federer could do it with these balls,” says Hoag, who attributes his club’s growing adult membership with the success their children experience with transition balls. While there are many transition balls on the market, both the USPTA and the PTR have partnered with different manufacturers. Tim Heckler, chief executive officer of the USPTA, says transi-

tion balls are steadily gaining popularity—with good reason. “I’ve always called it a miracle ball because they’re very forgiving—you can hit it off center, which most beginners do, and it comes off the racquet fairly straight,” says Heckler. The USPTA endorses Pro Penn Stars, which are available through the organization for $10.95 per dozen. “There’s hardly a situation in the world that these balls wouldn’t help, whether a player is a beginner, coming back from injury, or looking for more control,” Heckler adds. “To a certain extent, [transition balls] have revolutionized the game.” Similarly, PTR CEO Dan Santorum says the Dunlop SpeedBall is so beneficial to players of all ages and abilities that the PTR assisted in its development and designated it as the organization’s official teaching and training ball. “I think the best testimonial is the number we sell,” says Santorum, noting the PTR sold more than $40,000 in Speedballs (at $25 per dozen) in 2004, a 63 percent increase from the previous year. Members can also purchase SpeedBall court tape and spot markers, and a three-part video series instructing them how to use SpeedBalls in coaching inexperienced, developmental, and tournamentlevel players. “I believe [transition balls are] here to stay,” Santorum says. Q
Bob Kenas

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Private Retreats
RSI/ASBA 2005 FACILITY-OF-THE-YEAR AWARDS
veryone knows that the first rule in real estate is “location, location, location.” That maxim certainly applies to the six residential court winners of the Racquet Sports Industry/American Sports Builders Association 2005 Facility-of-the-Year Awards. All are in wonderful locations, and all these courts enhance the value of the properties on which they’re located. But, certainly with residential courts, “location” can also mean particular difficulties for court contractors. In fact, all of the nominating companies listed difficulties that they had to overcome to produce these winning courts. Maybe one of the most difficult was the private Har-Tru court in Oakley, Utah, which was cut out of the side of a mountain in a remote area. The result, though, complete with stone perimeter to blend into the surroundings and a special wire fencing with wood posts, is impressive. The hard court in Lemon Heights, Calif., also had difficult hillside access, set back from the street. Retaining walls, a concrete cantilever founda-

For these residential awardwinners, location is king.
tion, and other construction support methods were employed to complete the job. For the Har-Tru court at Harbour Island in the Bahamas, all materials and equipment had to be shipped from the U.S. in containers by freight boat. The work was completed during the harsh weather of hurricane season. The cushioned acrylic court in Norwell, Mass., also required excessive site work and preparation, since the chosen location had a 7-foot change in elevation within the court limits, and a more than 10-foot elevation change throughout the excavation. The contractors also needed to remove (and later replace) a pergola and stone wall, then build a 50-foot gravel road to the site to gain access. The private Har-Tru court in Miami is right in the city, so work space was limited, and a privacy wall was installed. And the Gywnedd, Pa., hard court required a retaining wall that the township specified as “natural only.” All this just proves that when you have a great location for a court, you’ll go to great lengths to make it perfect. —Peter Francesconi

E

Miami, Fla.
(Nominated by Fast Dry Courts, Pompano Beach, Fla.) Architect & Contractor: Fast Dry Courts Surface: Lee Tennis Har-Tru (Hydroblend) Subsurface Irrigation: Lee Tennis Net, Net Posts, Center Strap: BP International Windscreens: J.A. Cissel Trench Drain: Zurn Industries Lights: RLS Lighting TE 1000 System

Harbour Island, Eleuthera, Bahamas
(Nominated by Fast Dry Courts, Pompano Beach, Fla.) Architect & Contractor: Fast Dry Courts Surface: Lee Tennis Har-Tru (Hydroblend) Subsurface Irrigation: Lee Tennis Net Posts, Line Tapes: Lee Tennis Net, Windscreens: J.A. Cissel Trench Drain: Zurn Industries

42 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2006

Oakley, Utah
(Nominated by Welch Tennis Courts Inc., Sun City, Fla.) Contractor: Welch Tennis Courts Inc. Surface: Lee Tennis Har-Tru (Hydroblend) Subsurface Irrigation: Welch Tennis Courts (Hydrogrid) Net, Net Posts: BP International

Norwell, Mass.
(Nominated by Boston Tennis Court Construction Co. Inc., Hanover, Mass.) Contractor: Boston Tennis Court Construction Co. Inc. Surface: Nova Sports USA Net Posts: BP International Net, Center Strap: J.A. Cissel Lights: LSI Courtsider Sports Lighting

Gywnedd, Pa.
(Nominated by Pro-Sport Construction Inc., Devon, Pa.) Contractor: Pro-Sport Construction Surface: Nova Net, Windscreens: BP International Net Posts: Douglas Industries Lights: LSI Industries

Lemon Heights, Calif.
(Nominated by Zaino Tennis Courts Inc., Orange, Calif.) Contractor: Zaino Tennis Courts Surface: California Products Net, Net Posts: Edwards

For details on the 2006 Outstanding Tennis Facility Awards, contact the ASBA at 866-501-ASBA or info@sportsbuilders.org.
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Readers’ Know-How in Action
USE THE DARK SIDE
Thank you, Prince, for marking both sides of your newer frames with dots that show which grommets and grommet holes get main strings, but on the two-tone racquets, the dark dots on the side with the light background are not as visible as the light dots on the side with the dark background. Mount the racquet “dark side” up and you’ll be able to see the dots better. 5 sets of Gamma Zo Power 16L, Gamma Hat & Gamma T-Shirt to: Glenn Brewer, Marietta, GA

tips

and TECHNIQUES

CATCHING BOX PATTERN MISWEAVES
When stringing a racquet using a box pattern, you weave at least one of the bottom crosses before you weave the first cross at the top. If you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to weave that top cross incorrectly compared to the bottom cross, which is difficult to catch until you have almost all the rest of the crosses installed. One way you can easily double-check to see that you are on the right track is to count the remaining grommet holes for cross strings, after weaving the top two or three crosses. Even though it means more work if I’m wrong to wait this long, by this time all the mains will be in, so I know I don’t have to worry about counting grommet holes for main strings while I’m trying to count only grommet holes for the crosses. When I do the counting, I say “easy” or “hard” for each open grommet hole, depending on whether the weave is an easy weave or hard weave, based on

BLOCKED HOLE STAND-OFF
When you are stringing the mains, and realize that you are going to block a hole, instead of looping a string around the string that blocks, try this: Take a piece of string and make a loop. Place this loop of string between the frame and the string that will be blocking the hole. This will give you the perfect size opening to slip the cross string through. Then, instead of just

pulling the string out, clip the "U" in half so that you won't have as much string to pull through. This helps prevent burning a notch in the blocking string. 5 sets of Head FiberGEL Power 16 to: Steve Huff, Mechanicsville, VA

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the crosses I’ve already installed. The last hole should be “hard.” If it’s not, the top cross was woven the wrong way. I know some stringers who count the remaining grommet holes as “over” or “under,” depending on the orientation of the cross as it encounters the first outside main, however, you’ll get thrown off if the remaining crosses don’t all start outside the outside main. I find this technique particularly helpful when stringing at tournaments, where not every racquet is what it appears to be. Even given the variety of stringing patterns and the fact that any racquet can have either an odd or even number of crosses, it only takes a couple of seconds to verify that the crosses will finish correctly. 5 sets of Prince Premier w/ Softflex 16 to: Casey Maus, Cathedral City, CA

different string characteristics, and a 16gauge natural gut is not going to clamp the same as 16-gauge polyester. When you also consider that some natural gut strings have a lubrication on them, and that it’s easier to spot clamp slippage on the mains than on the crosses, you have a situation where you might not find out the clamps were slipping on the crosses until after the racquet is off the machine. Therefore, no matter how well your clamps held the main strings on a hybrid job, always check clamp slippage when you get to the crosses. If you spend the time to pay attention to how the clamps are holding the first couple of crosses, you won’t need to spend time later redoing the string job correctly. 5 sets of Gosen Polylon 16 & Gosen TShirt to: Chase Oliphant, Cathedral City, CA

matching racquets, if I need to add weight in the handle I’ll take off the butt cap, make the modifications, and then reattach the butt cap. But at tournaments, time is of the essence, and if the racquet needs only a couple of grams of lead tape at the butt cap, I’ll stick the tape to the outside of the butt cap, and then cover it with one of our logo stickers. 5 sets of Forten Dynamix 16 to: David Mindell, Cathedral City, CA —Greg Raven
Tips and Techniques submitted since 2000 by USRSA members, and appearing in this column, have all been gathered into a single volume of the Stringer’s Digest— Racquet Service Techniques which is a benefit of USRSA membership. Submit tips to: Greg Raven, USRSA, 330 Main St., Vista, CA 92804; or email greg@racquettech.com.

HYBRID CLAMPING
Hybrid jobs are nice because you have two shorter pieces of string to work with, instead of one long piece. However, you also have two different strings, which means you might have two different gauges. You might even have

MARKETING

MULTIPURPOSE STICKERS
We have press-on stickers featuring our store logo, which we can apply to anything from racquet bags to shoe boxes. One of their many uses is on racquet butt caps after customizing a racquet. Under normal conditions, when customizing or

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ask
Q A

the EXPERTS

Your Equipment Hotline
MATCHING OLDER FRAMES
A LOT OF THE GUYS I PLAY WITH at my local public courts use ancient racquets. They obviously love these racquets, but they wouldn’t be opposed to buying new racquets if they could find something that matched— without having to demo every frame under the sun. I should mention that these frames are so old that there are no specs on RacquetTECH.com. ance are pretty easy to obtain, so at a minimum you should have that information. However, to really winnow down the new-racquet options, you need to get the swingweight of the old racquet. This means finding someone who has a swingweight tester, although USRSA members can also use a stopwatch and the Swingweight Calculator on-line at RacquetTECH.com. If you can also get a flex reading, that’s great, but even without knowing the flex, you’re way ahead of the game. Look for racquets that have similar weight, balance, swingweight, and whatever other characteristics are beloved in the old racquet. USRSA members can use the Racquet Selector feature on-line at RacquetTECH.com to speed up this step. Once you find some likely replacements, start playtesting the most flexible frames first, and work up to the stiffer frames if your customer needs more power, keeping in mind that denser stringbed patterns will have less power than more open stringbed patterns. Finally, take comfort in the fact that even if we had the specs of the old racquet on RacquetTECH.com, and matched it exactly to the specs of a new racquet, you’d still need to playtest the new frame to ensure that it is what your customer is seeking because some of the specs of the old frame may have changed since it was new. For example, the stiffness has probably gone down after years of use. But, following these procedures should help to narrow down the universe of racquets, and to just a handful to demo.

MOST OF THE SPECS ON RacquetTECH.com are for racquets released since the mid-1994 arrival of the Babolat RDC machine, which allowed us to get the specs for new racquets quickly and easily. It seems as if we’ve been publishing these specs forever, but there are still a lot of older frames running around out there. To make the process of finding a new racquet as painless as possible, you need to get as much information as you can about the old racquet. Weight and bal-

VIBRATION DAMPENERS

Q

COULD YOU PLEASE GIVE ME A ruling on placement of anti-vibrators? My understanding is that a player may place an anti-vibrating device under the lowest horizontal, over the highest horizontal, left of the farthest left vertical, and right of the farthest right horizontal. I've been

46 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY May 2006

told by a few players that the ruling stipulates that they be confined to lower than the lowest horizontal only.

A

You are correct. According to the official Rules of Tennis, Section 4 (The Racket): "Case 3. Can vibration dampening devices be placed on the strings of a racket and if so, where can they be placed? Decision. Yes; but such devices may be placed only outside the pattern of crossed strings."

GUT ALTERNATIVES

ments closest to those of gut. Even different strings with similar measurements can have different characteristics, so you’ll have to playtest synthetic candidates at different tensions to find the feel and longevity you seek. Of course, there is nothing else quite like gut, so you might want to get your customer to try one. The minor additional cost of a gut hybrid is nothing compared to not being able to play tennis, and whatever loss there is in durability may well be made up by longevity and playability.

the tool won’t return any results. All you need to do to get it to work is to fill in a number for the missing data. In this case, the data for balance is missing. If, for example, you manually typed “33” in this field, the tool would have returned 75 racquets with similar swingweight.

SOFT WEAVE

Q A

WHAT STRING OTHER THAN natural gut or a hybrid with gut would be best for the arm? I've heard that a thin-gauge string is better than a thicker gauge, but wouldn't a thicker gauge absorb more shock at impact than a thinner string? One of my customers has some arm and shoulder problems. YOUR BEST APPROACH WILL BE TO check through the string lab test results that we publish each year (USRSA members can also find these results online). You can see from the lab results for gut what measurements are desirable, and then try synthetics with measure-

USING RACQUET SELECTOR

Q A

I HAD A CUSTOMER BRING ME A Profile-type frame from Germany, and he asked for a similar frame available today. I clicked Wilson for the manufacturer and Profile 2.7 110 for the frame. I picked swingweight as priority one. When I clicked “Find My New Racquet,” nothing happened. What's going on? I tried the tool for other manufacturers and it works fine.

Q A

I'VE BEEN STRINGING FOR A LOT of years, but never ran across the term "soft weave." I can find references to it but not how you do it.

A SOFT WEAVE IS JUST THE opposite of a hard weave. A soft weave is when the string (normally, a cross) goes over a lower string and under a raised string. This term is most frequently used in reference to racquets with staggered string patterns. USRSA members can find a picture of this in the racquet service techniques chapter of the Racquet Service Techniques book in their Stringer’s Digest series. —Greg Raven Q

THERE’S A QUIRK IN THE RACQUET Selector, where if there is data missing in the “Current Specs” column,

We welcome your questions. Please send them to Racquet Sports Industry, 330 Main St., Vista, CA, 92084; fax: 760-536-1171; email: greg@racquettech.com.

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