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August 2007 Volume 35 Number 8 $5.

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Contents
2007 GUIDE TO STRINGING MACHINES 30 How to Find the Right Stringing Machine
Our Tips and exclusive guide will help you maximize your investment in a stringing machine.

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INDUSTRY NEWS 7 Tennis Forum to debut in NYC
during US Open

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Australian Open chooses Plexicushion Prestige surface Prince unveils “customizable” O3 Speedport racquets Whitney Kraft named new director at National Tennis Center Alpha Racquet Sports to distribute Stringway machines Dunlop picks winner in James Blake racquet contest Head offers accessories for Radical and Extreme lines New Ballistic racquetball from Penn Former USTA President Gordon Jorgensen dies Gamma introduces new overgrip, dampener Billie Jean King to headline NRPA Exposition Venus Williams debuts limitededition gold-leaf frame TIA expands insurance offerings for retailer, facility members

32 Stringing Machine Selection Guide
Use our comprehensive chart to help you choose the right stringing machine for you and your customers.

FEATURES 38 Forever Young
Get on the “boomer bandwagon” with your tennis programming, and you’ll find your business booming, too.

40 Returns of Service?
Dealing with returned merchandise and warranties can be a sticky thing for retailers.

DEPARTMENTS 4 Our Serve 20 Marketing Success 22 Racquet Sports: Pickleball 24 School Tennis

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Facility Manager’s Manual String Playtest: Gamma Asterisk 16 Ask the Experts Tips and Techniques Your Serve, by Kristen Daley
August 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

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Our Serve
Your Source for Industry News
(Incorporating Racquet Tech and Tennis Industry)

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he recent relaunch of our website, www.racquetsportsindustry.com, has been doing just what we had hoped—it’s keeping the industry informed about what’s going on in a very timely manner. In fact, the tagline we use on the home page of the website (and which is also found on the first page of Industry News in each printed issue of RSI) precisely sums up what we’re trying to provide: “Information to help you run your business.”
Information, in a timely manner, is the key to your business success. That’s why we’re pleased to be able to bring you an online version of the magazine that is updated daily with the stories you need to know about, from companies and organizations that can—and do—influence tennis in this country. “Knowing that we’re able to help those in the tennis industry run their businesses better using the information we provide on the website is really gratifying,” says Kristine Thom, RSI’s Design Director who, with Associate Editor Greg Raven, coordinates the online version of RSI. “At racquetsportsindustry.com, you get more news, on a more timely basis.” The RSI website also has news archived by categories. So, for instance, you can call up just news stories on racquets, or footwear, or ball machines, or strings. What’s unique about this is that you can see at a glance any trends that are happening in some of these areas. Virtually everything on the site is searchable, so you can find exactly what you need to help run your business. You can search articles by subject, category, names, associations, companies, etc. Also, the site has the largest archive of racquet sports business related stories anywhere on the web, along with links to the Tennis Industry Association and the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association. You’ve come to rely on the printed version of Racquet Sports Industry magazine for your news and information in this business. Now, with www.racquetsportsindustry.com, we’re able to supplement—and complement—the magazine with comprehensive coverage you can’t get anywhere else.

Publishers David Bone Jeff Williams Editor-in-Chief Crawford Lindsey Editorial Director Peter Francesconi Associate Editor Greg Raven Design/Art Director Kristine Thom Contributing Editors Robin Bateman Cynthia Cantrell Rod Cross Kristen Daley Joe Dinoffer Liza Horan James Martin Chris Nicholson Bob Patterson Cynthia Sherman 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 hanna@knowatlanta.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. August 2007, Volume 35, Number 7 © 2007 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.

Peter Francesconi Editorial Director
RSI is the official magazine of the USRSA, TIA,and ASBA

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RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY August 2007

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INDUSTRY NEWS
INFORMATION TO HELP YOU RUN YOUR BUSINESS

USTA Teachers Conference to Include Project 36/60
The 2007 USTA Tennis Teachers Conference, held Aug. 25-28 at the Grand Hyatt New York in Manhattan, will feature a preview of the new 10and-under initiative called Project 36/60. This year’s theme is “Working Smart, Working Together” and promotes the idea of presenting the latest techniques and technologies. Martina Navratilova will be the keynote speaker at the opening session. The Project 36/60 name is based on the 36-foot court used by players ages 8 and under and a 60-foot court for players 10 and under. Project 36/60 is tennis scaled to the size and abilities of young players and is based on six variables: court size, net height, age, ball speed and weight, size of racquet, and scoring. Four sessions at the conference focus on different aspects of Project 36/60:

Tennis Forum to Debut In NYC During Open
he first TIA Tennis Forum, presented by Tennis Magazine, will be on Monday, Aug. 27, at the Grand Hyatt in New York City, during the USTA Tennis Teachers Conference. The hour-long Forum, which is free to attendees, will “share the good news” in tennis and serve as a rallying point for the industry. “There’s been a demand for years to have a gathering place for those in the industry to network, hear the latest tennis news, and be brought up to date on industry happenings,” says Jolyn de Boer, the executive director of the TIA. “We see this Tennis Forum becoming an annual event to fulfill that need.” Some of the speakers at the event, which will be from 8:40 to 9:40 a.m. in Grand Ballroom B at the Grand Hyatt, will include USTA President Jane Brown Grimes, TIA President Dave Haggerty, USTA Community Tennis Chief Executive Kurt Kamperman, and Tennis Magazine Publisher Jeff Williams. Topics will include the latest research in tennis, an overview of key USTA and industry initiatives, and other good news in the sport. “We want to share the good news,” says de Boer. “So many people have been working so long to keep the sport growing and healthy.” Admission to the Forum is free and includes breakfast for all attendees, along with an information packet. Because of the tight schedule, there will not be a question-and-answer session. However, attendees will be able to submit questions for any speaker, which will then be answered online in an open forum. For more information on the TIA Tennis Forum, and to register, visit www.tennisindustry.org.

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Q “Developing Champions Through Project 36/60” will feature age-appropriate players who have been developing in USTA pilot programs. Q “Project 36/60: The Changes It Brings To Teaching Methods” will demonstrate how effective these revised methods are with skill development. Q “Project 36/60: Jr. Team Tennis and Tournament Competition” will examine the immediate success the formats have had. Q “Project 36/60: Today’s Toolkit for 10 & Under Development” will provide the ingredients necessary to implement the initiative.

Plexicushion Prestige Chosen for Aussie Open
ennis Australia officials have chosen a U.S. product, Plexicushion Prestige, as the new surface of the Australian Open. The decision to switch from Rebound Ace to Plexicushion came after a review of the upgrade of Melbourne Park, the site of the tournament. The new surface will be used at the 2008 Aussie Open in January. Removal of the existing surface started in June (right). Lead-up tournaments in Australia, New Zealand, and the Middle East also plan to convert their facilities to Plexicushion. Work is being done by Plexipave contractors in those areas. Plexipave officials say Tennis Australia does intend to have a signature court color for the Australian Open, which has yet to be decided. Plexicushion Prestige, which is classified by the International Tennis Federation as a Category 2 speed of play, will provide a medium pace for players. The Plexipave System is manufactured by Andover, Mass.-based California Products Corp.

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Other TTC sessions cover coaching skills, strategy and tactics, tennis techniques, health sciences and the tennis business. For more information or to register, visit www.usta.com/ttc, call 914-696-7004, or email ttc@usta.com.

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Prince Unveils ‘Customizable’ O3 Speedport Racquets
rince has introduced two new O3 Speedport frames—the Speedport Black and Speedport Tour—which are designed to meet the needs of advanced players, says the company. Prince says the two frames, designed with close collaboration of top touring pros, offer revolutionary “personal customization options.” Through the new Speedport Tuning System (STS), players can customize the Black and the Tour by using interchangeable string inserts for the exact feel and sound they prefer. Whether a crisp feel with increased string feedback, or a softer feel with improved string vibration damping, Prince says STS allows a player to tailor the frame to their game. The Black and Tour will come with two sets of inserts to be placed at 9, 12, and 3 o’clock. The String Port Inserts (which are pre-installed) will provide a softer hitting feel, more string damping and a sweet spot up to 59 percent larger than a traditional racquet while capitalizing on a racquet that moves up to 24 percent faster through the air, the company says. The String Hole Inserts have traditional pin-sized string holes incorporated into the Speedport opening. These inserts provide a firmer hitting feel, more string feedback and a more traditional sweetspot while still capitalizing on the aerodynamic benefits O3 Speedport provides, says Prince. “The new Black and Tour racquets provide customization options never before offered—two solid player frames capable of being strung different ways depending on personal preference,” says Doug Fonte, president of Prince Americas. The O3 Speedport Black has a 100-square-inch head, 16 x 19 string pattern and weighs 10.8 ounces unstrung. The Tour is 97 square inches with a 16 x 18 pattern and weighs 11.3 ounces. Both frames are 27 inches long and carry a suggested retail price of $220. For more information, visit www.princetennis.com.
O3 Speedport Tour

Prince Re-Launches Website
rince has completely revamped its website, www.princetennis.com, to be “designed with the interest and enjoyment of true tennis fans in mind,” says Linda Glassel, Prince’s vice president of marketing and communications. “The new website brings Prince to life online,” says Glassel. “It is a tool that can be utilized by all members of the tennis community— players, retailers, program directors, and teaching pros alike.” The site provides comprehensive player, product, and industry information and is tailor-made to meet the needs of players of all levels, the company says. The new site also is customized for multiple regions and countries. Aside from in-depth product information, stringing instructions, online newsletters, and a teaching pro locator, the site also offers pro player profile and equipment pages, a racquet selector, “Prince Plugged In” junior program information and application, locations and times of Prince demo events, various downloads and games, featured tennis academies and junior players, and tennis tips.

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RSI Wins Excellence Award
or the fourth straight year, Racquet Sports Industry has won an Apex Award for Publication Excellence. The February 2007 issue was honored for overall excellence in the CustomPublished category. The issue contained an “Outlook 2007” section with stories on racquets, shoes, apparel and the tennis business overall. It also had feature stories on changing markets in tennis and the “Seven Sins of Social Tennis.”

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O3 Speedport Black

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INDUSTRY NEWS

Whitney Kraft Named Director At USTA National Tennis Center
hitney Kraft is the new director of tennis programs at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the largest public tennis facility in the world. His responsibilities will include all tennis training and development programs along with special events at the NTC. In addition, Kraft will oversee all operations of the new, state-of-theart multi-purpose tennis facility now under construction, and scheduled to open in 2008/2009. It will have 36 outdoor courts and nine indoors. Kraft will report to Danny Zausner, the managing director of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Kraft replaces Bill Mountford, who left earlier this year for a coaching position with the Lawn Tennis Association in England. Kraft, 47, brings more than 20 years of tennis experience to his new position. Prior to joining the USTA, he served as director of tennis for the City of Fort Lauderdale, and before that as director of racquet sports for the Boca Point Country Club. An avid player, Kraft also has many affiliations in the tennis industry. He and his family will relocate to New York in August.

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Alpha to Distribute Stringway Machines
lpha Racquet Sports is the new U.S. distributor for Stringway stringing machines. Stringway, based out of the Netherlands, features a unique one-pull drop-weight system. For more information, visit Alpha’s website, www.alpahtennis.com.

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Classic Turf Completes Public Park Job
lassic Turf Co. of Woodbury, Conn., recently completed refurbishing 17 tennis courts at four public parks for the town of Trumbull, Conn. (below). The company used its patented Classic Turf System, a cushioned sheet-goods surfacing system. Six of the existing courts were ripped out and rebuilt from the ground up, including new fencing. The other courts had extensive cracks that were fixed with the Classic Turf Slipsheet System before the 6 mm rubber was applied and the courts were coated. Classic Turf also resurfaced a basketball court in one of the parks. “We made 13 of the courts brand new in less than a month using new technology we’ve been able to develop,” says John Eren, Classic Turf’s vice president and engineer. “The curing time has been decreased and allows for a shorter construction period, so players are back on the courts quicker.” For more information contact 800-246-7951 or visit www.Classicturf.org.

Wilson Taps Miringoff for Western Manager
ike Miringoff has been named the Western regional sales manager for Wilson Racquet Sports, responsible for directing the sales and promotional efforts in the western U.S. Miringoff returns to Wilson from Nike, where he was a key account executive for apparel and also assisted the training of new Tennis Specialty reps. He had previously worked for Wilson from 1996 to 2001, beginning as the national coordinator for promotions before being promoted to South Florida territory manager, where he won the 2000 Dealer Survey Award. For more information, visit www.wilson.com.

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Winner Chosen in Dunlop Contest
n a contest sponsored by Dunlop Sports Group, thousands of contestants submitted their best guess as to which Dunlop Aerogel racquet top-ranked player James Blake would choose to play. At the end of June, Blake announced that he would play with the Aerogel 2Hundred, and with that decision, Ana Straub of West Palm Beach, Fla., won a trip to New York to attend the US Open. Straub’s name was picked by Greenville, S.C., Mayor Knox White (left) on a visit to Dunlop’s U.S. headquarters to conduct the draw from among the correct entries. Straub and a guest will fly to New York for a two-night stay to attend the Open. She also will receive a personally signed Blake Aerogel 2Hundred frame and a tennis bag filled with Dunlop gear. The total grand prize is valued at about $5,000.

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Link, Lai Win Titles At USPTA Clay Event

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ulien Link of Sarasota, Fla., defended his men’s open title at the $8,000 USPTA Clay Court Championships in May at the Ibis Golf and Country Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., after defeating Adrians Zguns of Port St. Lucie, Fla., 6-2, 7-5. Shareen Lai of Morrisville, Pa., defeated Sophie Alriksson of Lake Wales, Fla., 6-1, 6-1 to be crowned the women’s open champion, and later teamed up with Alriksson to win the women’s open doubles. Other winners are:
Q Men's 35-and-over Singles: Mark Palus, Tampa, Fla. Q Men's 45-and-over Singles: Pat Serret, Alexandria, La. Q Men's 55-and-over Singles: Geoff Moore, Boynton Beach, Fla. Q Men's Open Doubles: Aldo Burga, Port St. Lucie, Fla., and Cullen De Windt, Stuart, Fla. Q Men's 35-and-over Doubles: Tony Acosta and Innocent Modika, Orlando, Fla Q Men's 45-and-over Doubles: Pat Serret, Alexandria, La., and Greg Neuhart, Loxahatchee, Fla. Q Men's 55-and-over Doubles: Geoff Moore, Boynton Beach, Fla., and Joe Bouquin, Delray Beach, Fla. Q Women's 35-and-over Singles: Robin Keener, Melbourne, Fla. Q Women’s 35-and-over Doubles: Robin Keener, Melbourne, Fla., and Frances O’Sullivan, West Palm Beach, Fla.

Tennis Cart Now Designed for Transition Balls
ncourt Offcourt’s Deluxe Club Cart (below) now comes with a new mesh divider designed to separate different types of instructional tennis balls, making it easier for teaching pros to adapt their instructional programs to beginners and more advanced players. The divider is now standard on all Deluxe Club Carts and is available for a minimal charge for existing carts. Oncourt Offcourt carries a full line of transition balls, including high-density foam Spinners as well as low-compression and slow-bouncing pressureless Champs. For information and to receive a free color catalog, contact Oncourt Offcourt at 1-88-TENNIS-11 or visit www.oncourtoffcourt.com.

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The tournament was the first of five prize-money national tournaments on several court surfaces that the USPTA offers to its members as part of the USPTA National Surface Championship Series. The next event is the USPTA Grass Court Championships Aug. 2426 at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. For information, contact the USPTA at 800-USPTA-4U or visit the “members only” section of www.uspta.com.

Head Offers Radical, Extreme Accessories
omplementing its MicroGel Radical racquets, Head has also launched the new Radical Supercombi bag, in colors to match the new racquet. The Supercombi holds eight to 10 racquets in two compartments. It also has an accessories compartment and uses climate control technology. Also in the new Radical line, Head has a Radical cap, made of polyester and nylon with a sweat-absorbing inside lining and adjustable Velcro closing. And to go with Head’s new Extreme racquets, the company has come out with the new Extreme backpack, with a large central compartment, adjustable shoulder straps, and an end handle to hold upright. For more information, visit www.head.com.

Ashaway Offers Dynamite Strings
Designed for top amateur and professional players looking for more power and playability, Ashaway's Dynamite strings are available in 16-gauge Dynamite WB and the lighter Dynamite 17. Both feature a core of helically wound Zyex fibers overbraided with high tenacity multifilament microfibers for superior wear and easy stringing, says Ashaway. In addition, the string's Zyex fibers provide durability and a resistance to moisture and temperature. For more information, visit www.ashawayusa.com or call 800-556-7260.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

Head C3 Rocket String
Head says its new C3 Rocket is a mainstream string that features what the company calls “C3 technology.” The C’s stand for “Crystal,” which is a refined polymide in the string; “Coaxial,” a free inner moving monofilament core; and “Construction,” which provides maximum elasticity, says Head, leading to excellent touch and control. The string comes in 16 and 17 gauge. Visit www.head.com for more.

Penn Offers New Ballistic Racquetball
he Penn Ballistic is specially designed for outdoor racquetball, but also suitable for indoor play. The ball boasts increased durability and maximum visibility, says Penn. “Nobody has been able to produce an ultra-fast ball with a reliable bounce until now,” says Doug Ganim, racquetball promotions consultant for Head/Penn. “Penn engineers have done an outstanding job setting a new industry standard for outdoor ball performance.”

Bud Collins Out at NBC

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fter 35 years, NBC Sports has decided not to renew Bud Collins’ contract for Wimble-

don. "So I had 35 great years with them. I have no complaints about them, but I hope to stay in tennis," the 78-year-old Collins said during Wimbledon in July. "I’m not retiring. Too young to retire." Collins, who has been a writer for the Boston Globe since 1963, was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1994 and won the prestigious Red Smith Award presented by The Associated Press Sports Editors in 1999. In other news, NBC Sports has announced a long-term extension of its contract to broadcast Wimbledon. The network has been covering the tournament for the last 39 years. Details of the new contract extension were not announced.

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SHORT SETS
Head is now offering a complete “performance package” for badminton players at all levels. The company, which is the official partner of the Danish Badminton Association, has come out with new racquets using the Metallix, Airflow, Nano, and Titanium technologies. Head also has new badminton footwear, shuttlecocks, and accessories. For more information, visit www.head.com. The U.S. Davis Cup team will face Sweden on a carpeted court for the Sept. 21-23 semifinal, to be played at the 12,000-seat Scandinavium in Gothenburg, Sweden. Sweden’s captain, Mats Wilander, selected the fast surface. The winner will advance to the Nov. 30-Dec. 2 final against either defending champion Russia or Germany. The PTR magazine TennisPro recently won two Apex Awards for Publishing Excellence. Peggy Edwards, the PTR director of communications, is the editor of the magazine. Dunlop Tour Team player Alicia Molik, playing with the Dunlop Aerogel 5Hun-

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dred racquet, won the French Open women’s doubles match. It’s the third straight year that doubles title with Mara Santangelo. It was her the U.S. has won the World Team Cup title in second Grand Slam doubles title. the Quad division. The Invacare is the premier wheelchair tennis team-based international The tennis courts at Rockwood Park in Rich- competition, featuring teams from 32 nations. mond, Va., have been renamed in honor of Frank McDavid, the founder of Femco Corp., The six-person U.S. team defeated AusAdvantage Tennis Supply tralia, 24-3, in the 21st Bonnebell Cup inter(www.advantagetennissupply.com), of Rich- national girls’ team competition held in mond. The honor was bestowed on McDavid California recently. The event is for girls 14 by the Chesterfield County Board of Supervi- and under. Presented by the Maureen Consors and the Parks and Recreation Advisory nolly Brinker Tennis Foundation, the U.S. leads Commission. For many years, McDavid has the overall competition 18-3. been involved with youth sports, as well as playing competitive tennis. An online interactive multimedia community website for tennis launched during WimInternational tennis management firm Peter bledon, with support of the ATP. The new site, Burwash International has signed an agree- www.30Love.net, allows players and fans to ment to direct the tennis operation for the Emi- “share their passion” for the game. Visitors rates Palace Abu Dhabi beginning in October. can browse videos, gain a behind-the-scenes The agreement reflects PBI's continued expan- view of the pro tour, share photos and video, sion in the Middle East, which also includes and more. programs at deluxe hotels and resorts in Dubai, Qatar, Oman and Egypt. The first U.S.-published book on Swiss tennis superstar Roger Federer is now available. The U.S. won the Quad title at the 2007 “The Roger Federer Story, A Quest for PerfecInvacare World Team Cup, held in June in Swe- tion,” written by Swiss tennis journalist Rene den, by defeating the Netherlands in the final, Stauffer, chronicles the tennis star’s life from 2-1. David Wagner won his singles match then his junior tennis days to the present. For more teamed with Nick Taylor to win the deciding information and to purchase the book, visit www.rogerfedererbook.com.

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Former USTA President Jorgensen Dies
ormer USTA President Gordon Jorgensen of Indian Wells and Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., died June 10 at his home in Indian Wells. He was 86. A partner in a consulting engineering firm, Jorgensen was the USTA president from 1987-’88. He had also served as chairman of the U.S. Davis Cup Committee and chairman of the US Open, along with other positions in the USTA. For four years, he served as a vice president of the International Tennis Federation. He is survived by his wife, Ruth Barnes Jorgensen, three children, and a brother. Donations may be made to the Gordon Jorgensen Scholarship Fund at the Barnes Family Youth Tennis Center, 4490 W. Point Loma Blvd, San Diego, CA, 92107.

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Theme Art Captures US Open Spirit
he official 2007 US Open theme art was created by Joanne Hus of Stamford, Conn. It’s the first time in the 126-year history of the Open that a woman has designed the theme art. The design contains an uplifted tennis racquet alongside the Statue of Liberty’s raised torch, with the US Open flaming ball logo serving as the torch’s flame. The theme art will be incorporated into all 2007 US Open promotional material. Hus has created commissioned artwork for companies that include Chase Manhattan Bank, GE Captial, and more.

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INDUSTRY NEWS

Gamma Introduces New Products

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ew from Gamma is the Smart Grip Overgrip, with a micro-textured “DermaGrip” surface that Gamma says grips your hand for more traction and control. The elastic backing material stretches thin, providing exceptional performance with minimum grip buildup, says the company. The Smart Grip Overgrip is available in white, blue, or black three-packs. Also new is the Gamma Shocknot, which is a “Zorbicon” tie-on vibration dampener. The Shocknot can be installed on a racquet in multiple configurations to vary the amount of shock and vibration dampening. It’s available in red/blue, yellow/green, and black/white, in two-packs. For more information on these and other Gamma products, visit www.gammasports.com or call 8003330337.

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Sign Up for Court Activity Monitor
ign up your facility for the new Court Activity Monitor (CAM), which will provide a monthly count of tennis activity in your area and in the U.S. The simple—and free—online form at www.GrowingTennis.com takes just a few minutes to fill out, and all data provided is confidential. When you register your facility for the CAM, you’ll also be entered into a drawing to win one of five $200 gift certificates at the end of the year and receive a quarterly summary of grassroots tennis activity in your area from the TIA. In addition, your facility will qualify for a discounted rate on the online business system TennisConnect. Data from the CAM will be used to help keep track of tennis participation and help to develop grassroots tennis in the U.S.

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Wanted: USTA Executive Director & COO
ooking for a job in tennis? How about executive director of the USTA? The USTA recently listed the job opening— executive director and chief operating officer—as current Executive Director Lee Hamilton prepares to leave his position in 2008, after five years in the job. The ED, a position that is “subject to the direction of the [USTA] Board and fully accountable to it,” oversees the day-to-day operational programs, policies, and procedures of the USTA and the national office. “Job-specific success factors” include an “in-depth knowledge of managing the operations of sizeable and complex notfor-profit and for-profit organizations,” along with a working knowledge of tennis, and a working knowledge of the USTA and/or “experience with a major national sports organization.” For the full job description, visit USTA.com and click on “About Us” and “Job Listings.”

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King to Headline NRPA Expo
ennis legend and public park tennis advocate Billie Jean King will be the keynote speaker at the 2007 National Recreation and Park Association Congress & Exposition, to be held Sept. 25-29 in Indianapolis. Thousands of park and recreation professionals, citizen advocates, industry suppliers and others attend the NRPA event each year. The Congress & Expo includes hundreds of educational sessions, networking opportunities, and the latest products and services from nearly 500 exhibitors. For more information and to register, visit www.nrpa.org.

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Plexicushion at Aussie Open a “Carefully Considered” Decision
To the Editor: I have just read your announcement of the decision made by Tennis Australia to change the surface of the Australian Open to Plexicushion Prestige (July 2007, Industry News). This was a decision that was carefully considered by Tennis Australia to improve playing conditions at a Grand Slam event and to serve as an element in their program to improve player performance. The process of selection was defined and rigorous. The Plexicushion formula was developed independently of the other brand that we own. The committee was aware of the difference in the two systems. Plexicushion was selected in part because of the fine reputation of Melbourne-based installer Wm. Loud Co. and the reputation Plexicushion has earned in places such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, and at major U.S. universities. We are excited about this selection by Tennis Australia. The Australian Open will have a first-rate, consistent, and very playable surface this coming January. Art Tucker Vice President, Plexipave
We welcome your letters and comments. Please email them to rsi@racquetTECH.com or fax them to 760-5361171.

New DuraSoft+ from Prince
With its resilient foam technology, Prince’s new DuraSoft+ replacement grip offers a softer feel, improved shock absorption and resiliency, says the company. It carries a suggested retail price of $9.49. Visit www.prince.com.

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Ektelon Offers New ‘Customizable’ Racquetball Frames
ktelon offers three new O3 racquetball racquets, the O3 Copper (left), O3 White (right), and O3 Ruben Gonzalez (RG) (center), all of which incorporate the company’s new “Total Racquet Customization,” which allows players to fine-tune their racquets depending on power, stability, weight, and balance preferences they desire. All three racquets come with a set of four thermoplastic “power plugs” that can be inserted into the 12 o’clock O-ports to change the weight and balance of the frame. In addition to the power plugs, the O3 Copper comes with two interchangeable throat pieces called “power ring inserts” that allow players to string the racquet four different ways so they can customize the string bed for more power, control, and string life. For more on the frames or about customization, visit www.ektelon.com. Or call 800-283-2635.

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Help Us Find The Champions of Tennis
here’s still time to nominate people and organizations for RSI’s annual Champions of Tennis Awards, which recognize those who are making a difference in the business of tennis. For more information, and to see the list of award categories, visit www.racquetsportsindustry.com/ articles/2007/06/champions_of_tennis_2007.ht ml. Nominations can be emailed to RSI@racquettech.com (put “champions” in the subject line) or faxed to 760-536-1171. We need your nominations by Aug. 3, 2007. The Champions of Tennis will be announced in our November/December issue.

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Playing the Numbers
ennis lovers know that to grow the sport, the last thing anyone should do is take away the chance to play. And school coaches know that the last thing they want to do is to cut someone from a team. For more than 1,500 high school tennis teams across the country, neither of these is a problem, since they’ve established a “no-cut” policy for their tennis teams, ensuring that all students who want to play on a school tennis team have that opportunity. And with the new school year just around the corner, it’s not too late for your local high school to join in. “Anyone who wants to learn, we want to help them enjoy the game,” says Marian DeWane, head tennis coach at Centennial High School in Boise, Idaho, whose most recent squad boasted more than 100 players on three teams. For her program, DeWane has several assistant coaches, some of whom are volunteers who once played on her teams. “Everyone should have the right to play a sport,” says Luke Jordan, a member of a no-cut team at Kamiakin High School in Kennewick, Wash. “With practice and devotion, a player will get better at it. Without the opportunity to play, the student will never know how skilled they are or [could] become.” The USTA offers assistance to coaches looking to introduce a no-cut policy to their program, including an advisory committee made up of coaches who have experience and success with it. If you’re a high school coach, it’s easy to start a no-cut program at your school. Visit www.usta.com/no-cut for more information. —Kristen Daley

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Register Early for USPTA Conference and Save
ersons registering for the USPTA’s World Conference on Tennis before Aug. 15 can save up to $100. The event will be held Sept. 1722 at Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel, Fla., and will include seminars and specialty courses, along with a tennisonly buying show, awards presentation, and more. About 1,500 attendees are expected, including tennis pros, industry leaders, manufacturers, wholesalers, and media. During the conference, the USPTA will host its International Tennis Championships. For more information and to register, visit www.uspta.com or call 800-877-8248.

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RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY August 2007

INDUSTRYNEWS

A U G U S T

2 0 0 7

• Kent Kinnear of Champaign, Ill., has been named a USTA National Coach. Kinnear joins the men’s coaching staff and will work primarily from the USTA Player Development Headquarters in Key Biscayne, Fla., and will begin by working with the 2007 Pan Am Games team this summer. Prior to joining the USTA, Kinnear served as assistant coach for the men’s tennis team at the University of Illinois. • Head players Ivan Ljubicic (at left) and

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TIA Expands Insurance for Members
o help meet the needs of retailers and facilities, the TIA has expanded its insurance offerings to members with TIA TennisInsure. The new program includes liability, property, auto, umbrella, and workers’ compensation insurance. Previously, the TIA offered only product liability insurance for manufacturers. “Now, through the TIA, facility and retailer members will receive expanded coverage, at a great rate, with a highly rated national insurance company,” says TIA Executive Director Jolyn de Boer. Citadel Insurance Services will provide the comprehensive insurance package, and TIA members will receive a 5 percent to 10 percent package discount.

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Ivo Karlovic, both from Croatia, each won their first grass-court titles in June. Ljubicic plays with a Head MicroGel Extreme Pro racquet and Karlovic plays with a Flexpoint Instinct.

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• Tomas Berdych (right),
playing with a Dunlop Aerogel 2Hundred frame, won the Gerry Weber Open in Germany in June.

Williams Debuts Limited Edition Gold-Leaf Frame
ilson’s [K]Factor racquet technology dominated Centre Court at Wimbledon this year, as Venus Williams and Roger Federer came away with the titles. Williams played with a new [K]Factor gold limited edition racquet, made of real 22k gold leaf. Wilson created only 650 of these exclusive models, a white and gold one for Venus and a black and gold model for her sister, Serena. Both frames debuted at Wimbledon. In claiming his fifth straight Wimbledon crown, Federer played with the [K]Six.One Tour, a racquet that he helped to design, says Wilson.

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• Prince players Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic (below) met in the final of the DFS Classic in Birmingham, England in June, with Jankovic coming out on top. Jankovic was playing her first tournament with Prince’s Ozone Seven frame; Sharapova plays with the O3 White.

USRSA MEMBER CLASSIFIEDS FOR SALE: Gamma 5003 Stringer with Wise 2086 tension head. Good condition. $650. Call Russ Sheh (760) 408-0936 or (209) 465-9283.
18 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY August 2007

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marketing

SUCCESS

The Personal Touch
Providing good, old-fashioned customer service is rare these days, but it will make you stand out from the competition.
BY JOE DINOFFER

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was shocked. We purchased some large warehouse trailers about 10 years ago and are now moving offices and selling them back to the same company we purchased them from (for only pennies on the dollar, of course). Once I accepted the lower buy-back price, we still had to arrange pick up. We were haggling for a few minutes over what would be a convenient time for the company to send a driver. Schedules were tight and there was tension in the air. Then, all of a sudden, the buyer paused and said to me, “Hold on a minute, you’re the customer. Let’s work this out.” Immediately, I was totally pacified—and the other person got it pretty much the way they wanted anyway. Yes, being reminded that I was the customer was music to my ears. Since the business world is becoming more and more automated and less personal, and since real, old-fashioned customer service is becoming more rare, it’s easier than ever to excel. In order for your customers to actually feel special, rule No. 1 is that they have to have contact with a real live person. However, when you call most businesses these days, it’s surprising when you don’t find yourself talking to a machine. If you’re like me, it’s so infrequent to reach a live human being that when you do, you might even forget the reason you called in the first place! The point of this article is simple. People are people. And, people want to be treated like individuals. Here are some fundamentals of customer ser-

vice to help ensure your success, no matter what niche in the tennis industry your business is situated.

1. ANSWER THE PHONE
It may sound fundamental, but easily reaching people on the phone these days can be a huge selling point for your program. Voice mail is fine, but if you can avoid a computer response as the first impression a customer receives, you’ll be one more step ahead of your competition.

the cup dispenser being empty to discarded towels lying on the court, he would compensate his club members by giving them a free can of balls. It didn’t cost him nearly as much as he gained in goodwill and future business.

3. MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS
Ultimately, people are looking for friends. Get to know them. Know the names of their children. Learn the name of their dog. Care about them and they will naturally become loyal customers and care about you and your business. The bottom line is to remember how good it feels when you are treated like an important customer. It may be a rare occurrence to be treated like a special customer these days, but it does still happen from time to time. It’s just like the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Treat customers like you would like to be treated and everyone comes out a winner. Q
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.

2. YES, WHAT’S THE QUESTION?
Be a problem-solver. A “can-do” attitude goes a long way toward providing what people will perceive as high-quality customer service. In other words, when confronted with a problem, be sure your staff members are solution-oriented first. We all know the negative effect of a dissatisfied customer who tells others. It becomes a pervasive negative gossip chain that goes on and on for a long time. If someone has a problem, empower your staff to be able to solve it quickly and painlessly. I remember a tip by nationally recognized teaching pro and manager Fernando Velasco. He would manage by walking around the courts during busy times with a new can of balls. If someone had a problem with anything, from

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Racquet

SPORTS

In a Pickle
Named after a family pet more than 40 years ago, Pickleball is growing in the U.S.
here’s a new racquet sport in town, and it goes by the unlikely name of “Pickleball.” Pickleball takes just a short time to learn, so it’s a great way to introduce a newcomer to tennis. Plus, it helps develop good reflexes and coordination, and provides a cardio workout. The game is popular in retirement communities in the West, Southwest, and Southeast and has been introduced into many schools’ phys-ed programs as a way to involve every kid, whether they’re athletic or not. A combination of tennis, badminton, and Ping-Pong, Pickleball is played on a “court” that’s somewhat similar to a tennis court, only on a smaller scale. As I found out when I was introduced to Pickleball this past March in the Florida Keys, the game involves stamina, quickness, and agility. At Key Colony Beach in the Keys, 20 or more people show up a few times a week to play. Games are spirited and competitive. Ellen Albin, who’s on the Recreation Committee for Key Colony Beach (which approved the “cosmetic” remodeling of local basketball courts to

BY CYNTHIA SHERMAN

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accommodate Pickleball), says you can fit two Pickleball courts on a tennis court or eight on two basketball courts. “It’s a portable game that can be set up in a gym or on a driveway,” says Albin. “And it’s an inexpensive game to get into.” Kits, complete with Pickleball net, balls, racquets, and more are available for about $100. “Every skill level can play and be active,” says Sandy Danaher, another Pickleball regular at Key Colony. “It’s a game where you can optimize time with your kids, where folks who may be new to tennis can actually learn some fundamentals and treat it as a prelude to learning and playing tennis.” But don’t let the name, a diminutivesized tennis court, and wiffle-type balls mislead you into believing this is a pussycat game. There are some seriously

competitive Pickleball players out there who play on a circuit in organized tournaments. There are more than 30 registered courts in 12 states. Pickleball got its start in 1965 in Washington state, when Bill Bell and Joel Pritchard (later U.S. Congressman Pritchard) were trying to engage their bored children in learning badminton. Unable to find the appropriate equipment, the two men improvised. Using a wiffle ball and table tennis paddles, they started hitting the ball on an old asphaltsurfaced badminton court at Pritchard’s home. The wiffle ball turned out to be too big for the paddles, so the men fashioned four paddles of solid wood. Before long, the whole neighborhood joined in, and Pritchard, Bell and another man, Barney McCallum, devised the rules. Pickleball was officially born. Where does the name come from? It seems that Pritchard’s dog, Pickles, would run off with the ball whenever it was hit out of the court.

22 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY August 2007

Rules are similar to badminton but incorporate changes to meet the needs of the sport and the court. The net was lowered to tennis net height, underhand serving became the rule, points were scored only when you served, and the winner is the first team to 11 points. Because a player at the net had an immense advantage, they created a non-volley zone in front of the short service line (called “the kitchen” to inthe-know players). They also added a rule that each side had to hit at least one shot after the ball had bounced before any volleying was permitted during a rally. Additionally, a player could have one foot over the baseline when delivering a serve. Pritchard built the first "official" Pickleball court in his backyard in 1967, and a few other courts were built in and around Seattle over the next several years. Since Pickleball could be played on a badminton court with a lower net, some schools and colleges in the area also incorporated the sport into their intramural programs. In 1972, Bell, McCallum, and Pritchard formed the U.S. Pickle-Ball Association (USPA), copyrighted the rules, and registered the name as a trademark. (The hyphen was later dropped.) They sent specifications and rules to any interested person or organization. The USPA was replaced in 1984 by the USA Pickleball Association (visit www.usapa.org), which estimates there are at least 50,000 Pickleball players in the U.S. Many are in Washington state, where the USAPA is based, but USAPA President Mark Friedenberg says Pickleball is played in almost every state and in Canada and Mexico. “There’s been an explosion in Pickleball with baby-boomers who are about to retire,” says Friedenberg. There’s even talk of getting it sanctioned as a sport in the Senior Olympics. The USAPA is planning a national tournament in November 2008 in Surprise, Ariz. Whether it’s being used as a learning tool for tennis, school programs and family fun, or as an activity in retirement communities, Pickleball is gaining ground.
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school

TENNIS

Learning Curve
The USTA’s new school tennis curriculum can open up opportunities for local teaching pros and facilities, too.
BY KRISTEN DALEY

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ith its new curriculum, the USTA is looking to institutionalize tennis in school systems, a move that can mean impressive dividends for local tennis pros and facilities willing to supplement students’ tennis experiences after school. Since April, USTA School Tennis Curriculum kits have been distributed to schools eager to introduce a tennis unit to their physical education classes. To receive the kit, schools must participate in a three-hour, in-service teacher training and sign up as a USTA Organizational Member. The kit includes a teacher’s manual, which incorporates National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) standards, as well as a pocket guide. Both include eight teacher-friendly, illustrated lesson plans. Additionally, the package contains a DVD featuring basic tennis skills and how to teach them in a PE setting with a large number of students. “We utilized real-life PE teachers working in a true, unrehearsed setting to show that tennis can be taught in school,” says Jason Jamison, the USTA’s national manager of School Tennis. The USTA collaborated with renowned phys ed expert Dr. Robert Pangrazi and a team of PE specialists to develop the highly active curriculum. It was playtested by the PE specialists in indoor and outdoor settings, with both younger and older children, and reviewed by PE Central, the leading online resource for PE lesson plans. The School Tennis lesson plans are appropriate for children in grades 3 to 6, but can easily be modified for higher and lower grade levels and re-created in any school setting. “It’s a no-court required curriculum,” says Jamison. “We can now introduce tennis in any school environment, like a playground, cafeteria, or parking lot. Our goal is that every school in this country can become a center for tennis participation.” With the use of age-appropriate racquets, foam balls, and nets or other court dividers, tennis skills can be taught easily and safely even in large groups. “The use of modified equipment and easy-tofollow lesson plans allows students to experience a high degree of perceived competence when introduced to tennis for the first time,” Jamison adds. Before getting involved with the development of the USTA

School Tennis curriculum, PE teacher Leslie Robinson, who teaches grades 1 to 6 at Fitzgerald Elementary School in Arlington, Texas, did not have much experience with the game. She was trained in the curriculum two years ago, and has since implemented a tennis unit into her PE classes, managing up to 60 students at one time. To keep all students active, PE classes can use the curriculum’s station activities around the gym floor, using station signs found on a CD inside the curriculum kit. The activities are geared toward fitness, movement, and tennis skills. "Our tennis lessons are exciting, energetic, upbeat, and aerobically challenging," says Robinson, adding that children in her school district are excited to play the game again after their first PE tennis experience. Local pros and tennis facilities can capitalize on the new curriculum offering, while helping to grow the game, by providing tennis programming for students once the school day ends. “If we just introduce the PE curriculum and nothing beyond it, it’s a dead end,” says Jamison. “We need to make sure there is an after-school follow-up. We need to rely on the tennis community to take the lead on that.” Jamison suggests that teaching pros and their facilities “adopt” a local school. To develop a relationship with a school community, a teaching pro or after-school leader could offer to help with a PE class, conduct a tennis demonstration on campus, attend a teacher’s meeting or even meet with the school’s principal. Pros can even bring the school community to them, by hosting a field trip like a tennis carnival at their facilities. “It's good business,” says Jamison. “There’s no better way to get kids and parents involved than to establish a relationship with your local school. Additionally, the availability of play-based program opportunities including Junior Team Tennis and National Junior Tennis League will help ensure kids stay in the sport.” A number of Robinson’s students and others from the district have joined local NJTL or other city programs after participating in the tennis units in their PE classes. She has also seen the excitement that talented tennis teaching pros can generate among her students. "They want positive role models," says Robinson. "Tennis pros coming into the schools, giving tennis demonstrations and assemblies, have a lot of impact on the students and their future sports decisions." Q
For more information on USTA Schools Tennis, visit USTA.com/schooltennis.

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When We All Win N
othing is more satisfying for teaching pros than to receive public accolades for their achievements. Getting the credit for successful results—for instance, if a student wins a tournament—is a wonderful moment. For a teaching pro, these successes will stimulate demand for their teaching and can create a winning attitude throughout the facility. A club manager enjoys these times, too, but when it comes to a quality club teaching pro, having students who win tourneys is only one part of the picture. A manager hopes to have a pro who emphasizes the big picture. That means the pro needs to develop programs that lead not only to his or her success, but also to the success of the facility. Teaching pros, when looking for a job, often will highlight their playing careers and the quality of their teaching. True, they are both important. But they are not likely in themselves to generate more business or income for the club. What many teaching pros fail to realize is that becoming more popular may not translate to becoming a more successful club pro. The key words here are “club pro.” Certain teaching pros have learned that their stability and longevity really are based upon the success of the club they are working for. There are several characteristics a club pro can excel in that will have a positive impact on the facility.

Teaching pros must look at the bigger pic ROD ture and work for the successBY of HECKEL -facil the -

CREATING MEMBERS
If a club pro is running a good program, he will attract new players to the game, resulting in more members for the club. Too often, you see teaching pros work toward creating a greater number of loyal students. But not enough time is spent turning those students into club members. When a student becomes bonded with the pro, the student should in turn become attached to the club. This shouldn’t happen

just because of the student’s relationship with the pro, but rather because having a membership in the club enhances the impact of the lessons. For instance, a complete package for a student should include practice times and partners, an association with competitive programs, and access to meeting others to enjoy the sport. This way, the student improves through the increased playing opportunities he has by being a club member; the pro has students who continually take lessons and the pro himself sells memberships; and the club grows by having more members. This is where everyone wins.

RETAINING MEMBERS
Ask this question of a former player: Why did you quit playing or leave the club? The answer in most cases is, “I couldn’t find others to play with,” or “I couldn’t find enough competition,” or “I just got bored and couldn’t find the time.” Aren’t these areas supposed to be the responsibility of the club pro?

Member retention lies squarely on the shoulders of the teaching pro. Again, too many club pros see maintaining a full teaching schedule as a priority over anything else. These are the pros who last two or three years and then find themselves short on support from both the members and management. Should the pro be compensated for the efforts made to create a full package for the members? If a club can, it will, but often the pro must make the first move. If the pro takes the time to create quality programs, good management will recognize this and appropriately reward the pro. Short of that, the members may create the support needed and force the management to reward the teaching pro. If a pro starts off at a club expecting to be paid first and perform second, that will often create a barrier between the management and that pro, especially if the teaching pro has no track record at any prior jobs of performing in this fashion. Giving without getting may be difficult at first, but it is usu-

August 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

27

ally rewarding in the long run. Also, though, when it comes to creating and running programs, teaching pros need to remember that unless the manager has a good understanding of the game, they may not recognize the benefits of programming. Putting together a tournament, running a team tennis night, or having a social tennis event may cost money. A pro needs to show through examples that the money spent is worthwhile in order to attract new members and keep current members. It can be a diffi-

cult sell for a club pro to charge the club money for his services and add more expenses on the hopes of creating member satisfaction and retention.

KEEPING IT FUN
Another attribute of good club pros is the ability to have fun with the membership. More than just playing tennis with members, good pros take the time to talk with them about their games, watch their matches, and offer free advice when appropriate. If the club has social events, the pro will make

sure he’s seen at those events. Taking the time to “schmooze” with members is rewarding and makes the time spent at the club more enjoyable. This also becomes valuable when the pro needs to promote an event or program. Getting members to attend an activity will require more than just newsletters and fliers; sometimes personal contact by the teaching pro is needed to help persuade a member to take part. This relationship can also foster some valuable responsibilities. When issues arise or there are arguments among members, a teaching pro who has interacted with the members can use his familiarity to handle these issues more diplomatically, taking pressure off management. Take on enough of these situations, and members will likely come to the pro first to vent their frustration, instead of management or other staff. Reach this level and you have truly become a quality club pro. For a facility to be as successful as possible, the teaching pro needs to do more than simply teach tennis. Creating and retaining members is crucial. But effective pros also should have a willingness to voluntarily help when needed, for instance with maintenance issues around the facility, like picking up trash when they see it, or even pointing out other issues that have yet to be noticed by others. Or, since the teaching pro is in constant touch with players, bringing to management’s attention a situation that could turn into a problem down the road, such as a member who may seem disgruntled or treated unfairly. The teaching pro is a valuable part of the club and can be a primary reason for the facility to move in a positive direction. And that’s when you’ll have created an environment where everyone wins. Q
Rod Heckelman is the general manager and tennis pro at the Mount Tam Racquet Club in Marin County, Calif., where he has been for the last 31 years. His career in the industry started in 1967 at the famed John Gardiner’s Tennis Ranch. In 1970, when Gardiner opened his resort on Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz., Heckelman, at age 20, became one of the youngest head pros in the country. He created the “Facility Manager’s Manual” based on his years of experience in the tennis business.

28 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY August 2007

Our tips and exclusive guide will help you maximize your stringing-machine investment.
f you’re in the business of stringing racquets, your tools should be very important to you. As with any craft, to turn out your best work you must have confidence in your equipment, and for a racquet technician, no tool is more important than his or her stringing machine. No matter how skillful a technician is, an inadequate or unreliable machine will result in a less than perfect job. As you’ll see in RSI’s exclusive 2007 Guide to Stringing Machines on the following pages, stringing machines are more varied than ever. They range in price from $129 for hobby stringers to several thousands of dollars for the top end professional models. Even the professional models offer a lot of variety, with different tensioning mechanisms, mounting vises, and other features. So how do you choose the right tool for your business? Well, this issue is filled with tons of information about stringing machines, and it’s an excellent place to begin your search. But first, you need to evaluate your business and your particular needs before beginning your quest for the perfect machine.

HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT MACHINE
GUIDE TO STRINGING MACHINES
BY BOB PATTERSON, MRT
your investment, you should buy the best machine you can afford. So is the highest price machine the best? Not necessarily. Compare your buying decision to helping your customer decide on the right racquet to purchase. Price certainly has to be considered, but it should not be the deciding factor. Just as it is important to help your customer find the right racquet to suit his or her game, the same is true when buying a stringing machine for your business. It is not about getting the cheapest or the most expensive machine. You want the one that will provide all the features you need to sustain and grow your business by providing quality racquet service to your customers. That’s the one that will prove to be a solid investment and provide a good return for years to come. In making your assessment, start with your current stringing volume—the number of racquets you string each month. If you are stringing a high volume or plan to grow your business into a higher volume, you will need a machine that can stand up to the workload. High-volume shops should consider machine features such as quick mounting vises that will help speed up the stringing process without sacrificing quality.

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Assess Your Business
As a stringer yourself, or as a shop that offers stringing services to your customers, your stringing machine is at the heart of your business. The purchase of a machine should be considered an investment in your business, so to make a wise investment, you first need to evaluate your operation, taking into consideration any growth or changes you plan to implement. Depending on your stringing volume, a quality machine should provide good service for five to 10 years or longer. To make the most of your investment, consider everything carefully—from the type of machine to the warranty and the service the manufacturer provides. To maximize the return on

Maximizing Your Potential
Consider other features that you need to maximize your potential and provide the very best service to your customers. Height adjustment is important if you have more than one technician using the machine. A comfortable operating height is a key component for long hours behind the machine. Clamping systems are also an important consideration. Swivel clamps are especially helpful for fan patterns. If you mainly string conventional tennis racquets, this may not be as important as a shop that strings a lot of racquetball frames. Weight and mobility of the machine are important attributes

30 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY August 2007

to consider if you travel to tournaments or move your machine often. Once you have a list of features that are important to your operation, use the information in this issue to compare machines from various manufacturers. When you’ve narrowed your list, try to string on those machines as a final evaluation. Nothing beats a good test drive. If the manufacturer cannot provide a test period for a machine, you may be able to find another shop that uses the machine you are considering. Make arrangements with the owner to string a few sticks on the machine during a time when it is not in use by the business. Be sure to bring your own tools and a few different racquets and string so that you can get a good feel for the machine’s operation. You can also glean information from the owner about any problems with that particular model or any issues with service or warranty from the manufacturer.

Protecting Your Investment
After buying a professional quality stringing machine, make sure it continues to perform at peak efficiency by performing routine cleaning and maintenance. You should consult your owner’s manual for exact details of the maintenance routine for your machine, but here are some basic guidelines:

Warranty and Service
One very important consideration is the manufacturer’s warranty and service after the sale. The return on your investment is dependent upon the machine working for you day in and day out. Gather enough research on the machines you are considering to find out the length of the limited warranty and exactly what is covered. Just as important is how the warranty claims and service work or repairs are handled. If the manufacturer makes the needed repairs but takes four weeks to return your machine, how will you serve your customers during the down time? If you are a one-machine business, a month without it could put you out of business. If the company ships parts or a new machine to you overnight, who pays the shipping? Again, it is hard to stay in business if your primary tool is out of commission. Service after the sale is extremely important. By considering your machine purchase as an investment in your business, make sure your investment will provide a good return and help you grow your business.Q

Q Keep it clean. Clean glide rails/turntables and clamps every 20 to 30 racquets or weekly, whichever is more frequent. This is also a good time to clean other tools such as pliers, cutters and starting clamps.

Q Check calibration. Use a quality calibration scale to check the tension pull after each cleaning. This will ensure consistency in your work. Q Keep it dust free. A can of compressed air will do wonders to keep the dust and grime out of tight places and moving parts. Also, keeping your machine covered when not in use will also help. Q Lubricate only according to manufacturer’s direction. Lube in the wrong place can be disastrous, but if a part needs regular lubrication, it is important to perform this on a routine basis and with the proper type of oil.

Q Keep maintenance records. Record routine maintenance and cleaning as well as repairs and service.

Master Racquet Technician Bob Patterson of Birmingham, Ala., owns Players Choice Tennis and the racquet customization company Racquetmaxx. In 2005, he was named RSI’s Stringer of the Year.

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GUIDE TO STRINGING MACHINES

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uying a stringing machine is one of the most important purchases you can make for your business. It is also one of the most difficult. With the plethora of machines, technologies, and features available, selecting a machine is a daunting task. Our Stringing Machine Selection Guide will guide you through the minefields and help you choose the best machine for your business. Below we explain the essential machine features, and the chart on pages 36-39 displays the features of almost every professional machine on the market.

360o Rotation Turntable.

Allows you to turn the racquet all the way around during stringing.

3-D Rotation Turntable. Allows the turntable to tilt so that each string gets pulled straight through the grommet. This is designed to reduce the friction of the string against the grommet when tension is being pulled.

Stringway MS200 T92

TENSIONING SYSTEMS
There are two main types of tensioning systems available today—lockout and constant pull. Lockout means that the machine pulls the string to the desired tension and then locks the length of the string until you clamp it and release the tension head. So, as soon as you lock the length of the string, it starts equalizing and losing tension. Constant-pull machines pull the string to the desired tension, but when the string starts to equalize and lose tension, it pulls a little more to stay at reference tension. Constant-pull machines generally achieve slightly higher stringbed stiffness (we find the difference to be about 5 percent to 10 percent).

Alpha Revo

MOUNTING SYSTEMS
The chart lists machines with 2-, 4-, 5-, or 6-point mounting systems. This refers to how many places they support the frame. There are many subtle differences in mounting systems. The three most common types of mounting systems are the 2-point, 4-point and 6-point, though each of them is safe. Fans of 6-point systems will tell you that more points of contact must be better. Six-point systems do support the frame in more places, which means it is a little easier to lock the racquet in place so it does not slide back and forth during stringing. It also allows a better view of the grommets at the head and throat of a racquet. Six-point systems can require fewer adapters for frames of different shapes. Finally, some of these systems have side arms that can be adjusted simultaneously, making it easier to center a racquet.

6-Point Mounting.

2-Point & 4-Point Mounting. Fans of two-point and fourpoint systems suggest that it is quicker to mount a racquet on a these machines because there are fewer mounting points to be adjusted. They will also say that these systems offer more support at 6 o'clock and 12 o'clock, (the two most important points to support), because the amount of surface contact with the frame is greater at these locations. Turntable Lock. This allows you to stop the turntable in one
position. Helpful for calibrating, tying knots, and stringing O3 and Rollers frames.

Drop Weight. These machines use a lever (with a weight attached to it) to pull tension on ATS Traveler each string. Moving the weight on the bar determines how much tension it pulls. These machines qualify as constant pull because the weight continues to pull the string as the string stretches.
Tension is pulled by hand crank. These machines lockout when the desired tension has been reached.

Hand Crank.

Electric. These machines require electricity to pull tension. Most of these machines are constant pull, but a few allow you to choose between constant-pull and lockout modes.

Babolat Star 5

32 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY August 2007

Klipper 440-CS

Some offer multiple pull speeds and a prestretch mode.
Gamma 8800 Els

Linear Pull & Rotational Tensioners. Machines that pull tension in
a straight line away from the machine are said to be linear pull. The alternative is a rotational tensioner, which wraps the string around a spool, then rotates the spool to pull tension on the string.

SAM ProMaster

Diablo/Nosecone. The string is wrapped around the diablo or nosecone before it is put in the tension head, allowing the tension head to grip the string more gently and ensuring the string enters the tension jaws at the same angle each time. Foot Tension.
head. Foot-activated tension

Manual Calibration.
Pacific Digital X8

Allows you to adjust (correct) the pulling force manually, as opposed to a few machines that are designed to calibrate themselves automatically.

Fixed Clamps that Swivel. These clamps are attached to the machine and can be turned in any direction, especially helpful when stringing fan patterns. They also allow you to switch from main strings to cross strings without having to remove and replace glide bars. There are two kinds: dual swivel, dual action fixed clamps that require you to lock two levers to clamp a string; and dual swivel, single-action fixed clamps that require you to lock one lever. 360º glide bar clamps are clamps that rotate 360 degrees, but they are mounted on glide bars. Single swivel fixed refers to machines with only one clamp attached to the machine. Machines with this type of clamp will generally require a starting clamp or flying clamp for part of each string job. Fixed Clamps that Don't Swivel.
These are clamps that are attached to the machine by glide bars, but can only be turned in two directions (90 degrees and 0 degrees). These require removing and repositioning glide bars to switch from main strings to cross strings. Holds a string with less pressure, avoiding string crushing but can scar surface of string if they are adjusted too loosely and allow the string to slip through them.

Mutual Power Alpine 2600

Grips the string with less pressure.

Diamond Coated Tension Head.

Tension Sets. Three types: dial tension set,
+/- key tension set, and numeric keypad.

Prince 3000

Diamond Dust.

Knot Tensioning.

The machine can be instructed to pull the last string before a knot tighter than the reference tension to allow for the tension that is lost between the clamp and the knot.

Silent Partner Opus

WEIGHT
Categories indicate whether the machine weighs less than 50 pounds, between 50 and 75 pounds, or over 75 pounds. Heavier machines can be more stable and solid, but they can be less convenient when moving or traveling.

CLAMPING SYSTEMS
The clamping system is meant to hold strings in the racquet under tension. If clamps slip, or allow strings to slip through them, a string job can be ruined. There are many different clamps, but all will fall into one of three categories. These clamps are not attached to the machine. They use one string to hold tension on another string. They generally do not hold tension as consistently as the other two types of clamps. The low price tag makes them attractive to new stringers testing the waters.

Tecnifibre TF-8000

Flying Clamps.

TOOLS INCLUDED
This final category indicates which supplies and tools are included with the machine. For descriptions of each tool, see pages 9-10 of the USRSA Racquet Service Techniques book. Q
Wise 2086 Professional ETH
August 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

Yonex ES5 Pro

33

Sports

Height

Mounting

Tensioning

Price War(MSR ranty
601F www.gutermanint 602F 602S l.com 603GB 800-343-6096 604S 603S 607

AG

$219 $269 $379 $549 $569 $699 $799

5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5

x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Alpha

String Pal $129 www.alphatennis.Pioneer DC Plus $399 com Revo 4000 $549 800-922-9024 Axis Pro $749 Apex II $995 Equinox $2,495

ATS

Super Stringer II $135 $189 www.atssports.coTraveler

Life x x x x Life x x x x

Sensor $5,200 $8,500 www.babolat.com Sensor Expert Star 5 $3,000

Babolat

5 5 3

xx x x xx x x xx x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x 5 x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Gamma
www.gammaspor ts.com 800-333-0337

X-2 $139 Life x Progression 602 $299 5 x X-6 $329 5 x Progression 602 $469 5 FC x X-6 FC $499 5 x Progression ST II $629 5 x X-ST $659 5 x 5003 w/6pt $799 5 x 5003 w/2pt SC System 999 5 $ Progression Es $899 5 II+ x X-Es $949 5 x $1,199 5 x 6004 w/6pt SC System $1,199 5 x 6004 w/2pt SC System w/6pt SC System $1,699 5 6500 Els 6500 Els w/2pt SC System $1,699 x 5800 Els w/6pt $1,999 5 x w/2pt SC System $2,199 5 5800 Els 8800 Els w/6pt SC System $3,299 5 8800 Els w/2pt SC System $3,299 5

Klipper USA
www.klipperusa.cKlippermate Klippermate om x 280-CS Master 440-CS $149 Life x x x x Bad?ton $155 Life $245 $445 10 10 5 5 xx x x xx x x xx x x xx x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Sports
$395 www.mastersport SAM G-Force R1 SAM G-Force R2 $495

34 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY August 2007

T enni s R acquet l Squash bal Badm i t n no St nd I c a n l St nd A vauded a l e T abl T opiabl e a T abl T o St ndard e i H ei ht A p O pt onal g dj st bl u a e 2 -Poi t M n i 4 -Poi t M ount ng n i 5 -Poi t M ount ng n i 6 -Poi t M ount ng n i T urnt bl ount ng a e 3 6 0 … R ot Lock i 3 -D T urnat on T urnt bl t b l R ot a e a e at on i D rop W ei ght Ful C l t l uc R achet S h-D rop y e H and C ra st m -D rop n 2 -Si ed C k d El ct c rank e ri M ul i l tp e S C onst nt peed Pul l a l Lockout Pul Prest t h re c Li ear Pu n l l
x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

x

x x

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

x

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x xx x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x xx x x x x xx x x x x

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x xx x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x xx x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x xx x x xx x x xx x x xx x x x xx x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x xx x x x x xx x x xx x x xx x x xx x xx x xx x xx x xx x xx x xx x xx x xx x x xx x x xx x x xx x x xx

x x

x

x x x

x

x x x x x

x x

x

x x x x

x

x x x x

Tensioning

x x x x x x x x x x xx x x x xx x

x x

x x x x

x

x

x

x x x

x

x

x

x x x

x

x

Clamping

x

x x x

x

x x

x

x

x x x x

x x

x x

x

x x x x

x

x

x x xx x x x x xx x x x xx x x x xx

Extra FeaturesWeight

x x

x

x x x

x x

x x

x

x

Sel -El v f e i n A ut m atat ng Li ear Pul o l D i bl /Ned T ensi n R el a o a o os e se econe R ot t on ai a o Foot Ped l T ensi ner a Pounds & l T ensi n A ct v o i l M anual C K ios T ensi n aalbrat on o i i Sel -C al f i b i D i m ond rat ng a K nob/D i C oat T ensi n o al o Pl s/M i T ensi n Set i g u tn n u s T ou c h Ful K eyp l ad T ensi Pad T enLED /LC D on Set i o K not T en T ensi n D i plt ng s ay o n R em ovabsi ni g l El ct i e e rc T enFl i g C l yn am Fi ed C l ps x am ps on D ual Sw i G lde Bar i v D ual Sw i el D oubl A ct on s i vel Si gl e n 3 6 0 D eg i ree C l me A ct on a p s on Si gl Sw n e v x D i m ond i el Fi ed C l m p a a A ut m at D ust C l m ps o ed Base a R el ase M agnet c e i o a N o T ool A ut C l m p Ba se N eeded t o A dj st u T ool T ra y C over I ncl ded St i g M u rn e Buit i Rasurer l - n ul R eel R ac er R acquetk a C abi et St nd n w t Levelng i h D raw ers i Pads on Base U nder 5 0 b 5 0 -7 5 l l s b O ver 7 5 s ls b

x x x

x

x x x x x

x x x x

x x x x

x x x x

x x x x

x x x x x x x x x

x x x x x x x x x x x

x x x x

x x x x

x x x x x x x x xx

August 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

x

x x x x

x x x x

C albrat i o St rt ng r a i Cl D i gonal am p a t N eedl no C ut ers e se Pl i rs e Aw l Fl i g C l yn a A ssem bl m p y I st uc n r to O w ners i ns/V d G ui i g M anual V i eo i eo d n Aw l / d Bent N os i A ssem ble Plers y s Fl i g C l T ool yn am p St r a t ng Pi i ns
x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Tools Included

35

x x x x x x x x x

x x x x x x x

x x

x x

x

Sports

Height

Mounting

Tensioning

Price War-

Master Sports Mutual Power
www.mutualpowe r.com 832-868-0168

SAM SAM SAM SAM SAM

XLR8 $795 XLR8+ $995 NRG $1,795 NRG+ $1,995 ProMaster 2,495 $

5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 2

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

x x x x x x x x x

Pacific N. America Prince

Hercules 680 $319 Alpine 2600 $499 Alpine 6600 $569 Hercules 870 $609 Hercules 770 $529 Hercules 880 $549 Titan 7600 $649 Atlas 8600 $899 Atlas 9600 $999 Digital X8 Call

x x x

xx x x

www.princetennis Neos 1000 .com 3000 Silent Part 5000 -

$1,099 $2,995 $3,499

5 3 5

xx x x xx x x xx x x x x x x x x x x x 5 x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

ner Swing $199 5 www.sptennis.co e.Stringer $249 5 m e.Stringer 6 point $299 5 800-662-1809 e.Stringer CL $469 5 Jazz $599 5 e.Stringer FL $699 5 Maestro $799 5 e.Stringer DG $999 5 Silent Partner $1,5995 Aria $2,799 Silent Partner Opus Stringway
info@alphatennis ML 100 T98 $779 10 .com ML 100 T92 $879 10 800-922-9024 MS 200 T98 $1,300 10 MS 200 T92 $1,415 10 EM450-N T98 $2,450 10 EM450-N T92 $2,570 10 EM450-L T98$3,200 10 Tecnifibre EM450-L T92$3,320 10 www.tecnifibre.c om TF-6000 $4,800 2 TF-7000 $6,000 3 $7,0003 TF-7000 with Cabinet Wise USA TF-8000 $7,800 3 www.tennishead. com 2086 $495 2 Professional Electronic

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Yonex

xx x Tension Head

www.yonex.com

36 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY August 2007

St nd I c a n l St nd A vauded a l e T abl T opiabl e a T abl T o St ndard e i H ei ht A p O pt onal g dj st bl u a e 2 -Poi t M n i 4 -Poi t M ount ng n i 5 -Poi t M ount ng n i 6 -Poi t M ount ng n i T urnt bl ount ng a e 3 6 0 … R ot Lock ai 3 -D T urn t on T urnt bl t b l R ot a e a e at on i D rop W ei ght Ful C l t l uc R achet S h-D rop y e H and C ra st m -D rop n 2 -Si ed C k d El ct c rank e ri M ul i l tp e S C onst nt peed Pul l a l Lockout Pul Prest t re c Li ear Puh n l l
x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

T enni s R acquet l Squash bal Badm i t n no

x

x

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x xx x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x no xx x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

x x x x x x x x x x

x x

x x x x

x x x x

x x x x

Tensioning

x

x x x x

x x x x

x

x x x x

x x x x

x x x x

x

x x x x

x x x x

x

x

x x

x

x

x

x

x

Clamping

x

x x x x

x x x x x x

x x x x

x x x x x

x x x x

x x

x x x x x x

Extra FeaturesWeight

x

x x

x x x x

x x x x

Sel -El v f e ai n A ut m at t ng Li ear Pul o l D i bl /Ned T ensi n R el o a o os ease econe R ot t on ai a o Foot Ped l T ensi ner a o Pounds & l T ensi n A ct va i l M anual C K ios T ensi n albrat on o i i Sel -C al f i b i D i m ond rat ng a K nob/D i C oat T ensi n o o Pl s/M i al T ensi n Set i u t ng n u s T ou c h Ful K eyp l ad T ensi Pad T enLED /LC D on Set n t o K not T en T ensi n D i pl i g s ay si ni g o n R em ovab l El ct i e e rc T enFl i g C l yn am Fi ed C l ps x a D ual Sw im ps on G lde Ba i v D ual Sw i el D oubl A ct o rs in vel Si gl e n e 3 6 0 D eg i ree C l m A ct on a p s on Si gl Sw n e v x D i m ond i el Fi ed C l m p a a A ut m at D ust C l m ps o ed Base a M agnet c R el ase e i o a N o T ool A ut C l m p Ba se N eeded t o A dj st u T ool T ra y C over I ncl ded St i g M u rn e Buit i Rasurer l- n u e R eel R ac l r R acquetk a C abi et St nd n w ih t D raw e Levelng rs i Pads on Base U nder 5 0 b 5 0 -7 5 l l s bs O ver 7 5 ls b

x x x x x x x x

x x x x x x x x

x x x x x x x x

x x x x x x x x

x x x x

x x x x x x x x

x

x x x x

August 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x xx

C albrat i o St rt ng r a i Cl D i gonal am p a t N eedl no C ut ers e se Pl i rs e Aw l Fl i g C l yn a A ssem bl m p y I st uc n r to O w ners i ns/V d G ui i g M anual V i eo i eo d n Aw l / d Bent N os i A ssem ble Plers y s Fl i g C l T ool yn am p St r a t ng Pi i ns
x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x

Tools Included

37

x x x x x x x x

x x x x

THE TENNIS MARKET

FOREVER YOUNG
Get on the ‘boomer bandwagon’ with your tennis programming, and you’ll find your business booming, too.
BY ANNE DAVIS

I

t is hard not to notice all the articles and news stories about the “baby boomers.” As the fastest-growing segment of our population, this group of 50- to 60-year-olds is changing the way things are done, the way things are sold, and the way things are presented. To say this is a hot topic would be an understatement. How is tennis handling this phenomenon? Let’s just say that there doesn’t seem to be a long line to jump on the “boomer” bandwagon! It is not too late, and those wise enough to look at this trend will reap the financial rewards. “Why bother? My lesson book is full. It’s more exciting to
2007

train juniors who I can mold and help become champions.” That’s what some teaching pros might say. What they don’t realize is the perception of what is “old” is changing dramatically. People in their 50s and 60s at one time were considered to be “old”; now that is considered middle age. Every seven seconds someone turns 50. Over the next 15 years, the number of people between 50 and 69 will increase 87 percent, according to the Administration on Aging at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If those numbers don’t impress you, how about these: The net worth of seniors is five times that of the average American, and they

38 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY August

control 70 percent of all wealth in America. This group will account for more than 79 percent of all leisure travel spending and spend $29 billion yearly on grandchildren. In 2006, according to Boomer Marketing News, this group spent more than $3 trillion. Do these folks have your attention yet?

Life in the Fast Lane
What was once thought of as an age where people would slow down and retire just isn’t happening anymore. Many people in their 50s are raising first and second families. Look at the leadership of our country, our businesses, and the age of the individuals having the impact—there are not many 30-year-olds. Individuals in their 50s and 60s are ”reinventing” themselves, according to Dr. Ken Dychtwald, in his book “The Power Years— A Users Guide to the Rest of Your Life.” Instead of sitting and watching the sunset, they are riding off into the sunset on HarleyDavidson’s (that age group, after all, is the largest purchaser of those motorcycles). The notion that this age group is inactive and frail is just another idea we need to get out of our heads. They feel being active is critical to enjoying life. According to AARP Magazine, “So many of what we thought were symptoms of aging are actually symptoms of disuse. This means that health isn’t just a genetic throw of the dice, but a factor that is largely under our control.” As people age, they realize this and are taking steps to stay healthy and fit. It is already known that regular physical activity reduces the risk of early death, developing diabetes, high blood pressure and many other health problems associated with aging. (See Medicine & Science in Sport and Exercise, Vol. 30, # 6 1998.) It shouldn’t be that hard to get those over 50 involved in tennis. Many in this age group remember the sport from the tennis boom of the 1970s. They have the available time and resources, are looking to increase physical activity, and want to learn new things. Can anyone think of something that might be perfect for the millions of baby-boomers looking for a healthy activity?

Also, we’ll need teaching that is designed for them. And we need to make sure the teaching is relationship-centric. Members of this group may have had two or three professions in their lifetimes, and they expect a certain level of professionalism from those with whom they deal. This active baby-boomer group is big, and it’s only going to get bigger. If, in your local area, you can get tennis on their menu of choices, your business will be booming for years to come. Q

Anne Davis is the national manager of Tennis Organizers in the USTA’s Recreational Coaches and Programs Department and also is in charge of the Welcome Back to Tennis Program. A PTR pro and past Florida Section volunteer, Davis has coached adults, juniors, and college players. She has a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a master’s in educational counseling from the University of South Florida.

Don’t Lose Them
The 2005 TIA participation survey stated that those over age 50 were 24 percent of frequent tennis players, the largest percentage of any age group. In 2006, that number was down to 22 percent. That is not a good thing when you consider the growing number of people over 50 and the fact that they are getting more involved in physical activities. Can we afford to ignore half of the adult population? You can’t hit this group if you don’t take careful aim. We need to develop specific programs targeted to this group. The Wall Street Journal sees the potential. An article in August 2006 stated, “There may yet be an untapped market, some tennis experts say, particularly among baby-boomer recreational players.…” So what is it going to take for us to get this group back into tennis? First, we need programs designed for them. Maybe a senior version of Cardio Tennis or the USTA’s Welcome Back to Tennis Event. Next, make sure they have equipment designed for them. Like it or not, the body starts to break down as we age—it’s not will we feel aches and pains, it’s when. So softer courts designed for older players will be important, as will racquets that are more forgiving.

August 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

39

YOUR BUSINESS

RETURNS OF SERVICE?
ike most product on your retailer's shelves, tennis racquets, shoes, and apparel weren't meant to last forever. Even the most high-tech racquet cracks on occasion, and hours of chasing tennis balls will inevitably wear the rubber off any shoe. And what if buyer's remorse leads you to realize that you just don't look good in that peach warm-up jacket? Returns and warranty claims are a fact of life for tennis retailers large and small. But that doesn't mean it's not a tricky business, or worse, a total headache. There's a fine line between keeping your customers happy and handing out freebies. “Dealing with returns and warranties is part of what we do here, it’s just part of the service, we're the middleman,” says Chris Gaudreau, owner of The Racquet Koop in New Haven, Conn., who's quick to add what’s likely a common sentiment among many retailers: “Sometimes it's a royal pain.” Until tennis products are made indestructible, returns will continue to be a fact of life for the industry. Here's a closer look at the ups and downs of warranties and returns, and how best to handle them.

Dealing with returned merchandise and warranties can be a sticky thing for retailers.

BY MITCH RUSTAD

L

Keep 'em Smiling
In the best-case scenarios, returns are a merely a blip on the radar for the tennis retailer, at least if they're dealing with a tennis-savvy customer. “Each case is different, but we only have about three returns [with racquets] per month,” says Peg Rogers, coowner of Advantage Yours, a specialty shop in Clearwater, Fla. “The customer understands that the manufacturer actually replaces the product, but we will replace it ourselves right away if they've just bought it, and then we go back to the manufacturer. So returns aren't stressful for us at all, because we have great manufacturers in the tennis industry.” Rogers says they won't charge a fee for processing returns, either. “I don't think we've ever had an unhappy customer,” she says. In another “glass is half full” slant on the issue, a return may even pose an opportunity to build relationships with current customers—or even attract new ones. Ken DeHart of San Jose Racquet and Swim in San Jose, Calif., says that by helping a club member return a cracked racquet that the customer

40 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY August 2007

had bought online—not at the club’s retail shop—and get a “but we'll always take them back and send them back to the replacement, he earned not only their respect, but their busi- manufacturer.” ness as well. “Since then, they’ve brought all their stringing Adds Gaudreau: “The whole thing is a sticky subject for and racquet business to us,” says DeHart. retailers. Stuff wears out, that happens in every facet of the And when it comes to the manufacturers, returns and war- sports world, but people still expect their stuff to last forever, ranty policies may vary slightly, but the old adage “the cus- and so if something happens to their equipment, they feel tomer is always right” seems to rule the day. entitled to a new one.” “The No. 1 thing is making our consumers happy with our Manufacturers are often inclined to simply replace the product, so we’re going to err on the side of our consumers,” product rather than alienate their customers, says one manufacturer. “We in general tend to be very says Jeffery Adams, national sales manager of racquet sports for Wilson. “It's a lenient on our warranties only because very simple marketing rule: If you have you can't legitimately prove how a raca positive experience with a company, quet gets cracked, and we always want While this brand of debate is sure to you'll tell two people, and if you have a to err on the side of the customer,” says continue, Head’s Ryan Walsh offers this negative one, you'll tell 10.” Ryan Walsh, warranty manager for advice for retailers looking to make their Head. life a little easier when they do return However, Gaudreau says too many manufacturers take an “ask no quesTaking care of customers is always product under warranty. tions” approach when it comes to going to be a priority for both retailers replacing product. “There are isolated and manufacturers, but what happens “Send your packages in a trackable companies out there that do look for the when a less-than-honest customer is just manner,” he says. Take the time to fishing for a freebie? Gaudreau says that organize your returns, including receipts, receipt and do not ship product back unless it's a legitimate defect, but most the potential for abuse is cause for properly labeling everything. Using UPS just automatically replace what comes alarm, because it can hit retailers where or Fed-Ex, so the package can be in.” it hurts them the most—at the cash reg- tracked, is essential. Instead, manufacturers should be ister. much more aware of what is actually “Every product a dealer replaces that “People are more inclined to go to the defective and what is not defective, says is not a viable product defect is hurting post office than UPS, so they just throw Gaudreau. “They tend to be very liberal the small retailer,” says Gaudreau. “If it in a box and slap some postage on it and just ship new product back without someone cracks a racquet on the and hope for the best,” says Walsh. really looking to see if there's a defect or ground, and it's clearly not a product “That's definitely not advisable.” a receipt. It's almost too easy.” defect, but the manufacturer replaces it Adams disagrees: “Normal usage anyway, the retailers lose a new sale. Check with the manufacturer, too, to Even if it amounts to just 3 to 5 percent see what procedures they would like you does not mean you break your racquet on a net post. We're actually pretty of sales in one year, its still a big piece of to follow, and to see whether they may strict when evaluating returns. We have the puzzle, and this has been going on cover the cost of shipping product back. a protocol in place and trained technifor years.” Adams, however, says the onus to cians who can tell the difference sniff out abuse logically falls on the retailer, rather than the between cracking a racquet on the ground and a racquet with manufacturer, because retailers act so often as the liaison. legitimate defects.” “We know that less than 1 percent of returns are coming Unhappy retailers can alert manufacturers to potential directly from consumers and the majority come from the abuse as well. “We encourage our dealers to act as middlemiddleman, so we feel the retailers should let us know if men, and if there's any additional insight to the warranty there are abuses,” says Adams. “They have the obligation to claim, we take that into consideration,” says Adams. “If the themselves and everyone involved.” shop owner feels it’s not a legitimate claim, they should let dealers know.” Wilson’s goods and services are warranted from any manClearly, there’s a gray area for everyone to navigate when it ufacturer defects from one year after proof of purchase— comes to returns; the judgment call on whether a customer is which is a common industry standard—but warranty claims stepping over the line is rarely an obvious one. When, for one make up a small percentage (only 3 percent) of their annual example, does normal wear and tear come into play? Each sales, according to Adams. Walsh says he’s not that concerned about consumer retailer has to decide for himself or herself how to handle a customer looking for a freebie, but Rogers says she’s unlike- abuse, because he sees it as minimal: “About 98 percent of the product we get back is a legitimate return, so the decision ly to challenge a customer. “Some people will wear a shoe for a few weeks and then to replace it isn't too involved. Most cases are pretty clear say they got a blister and want to return them,” says Rogers, cut.”Q

Happy Returns

Potential for Abuse?

Shades of Gray

August 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

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string

PLAYTEST

Gamma Asterisk 16
Asterisk is a nylon string with a center core made up of six large wedge-shaped filaments that are arranged in the shape of an asterisk (hence the name). These fibers are encased in a high tenacity polyamide matrix that is surrounded by an outer wrap. As you might expect, Gamma applies its patented TNT2 processing to Asterisk.
Gamma claims that Asterisk holds tension and offers superior playability longer, has crisp vibration-free feel for ultimate comfort, is extremely resilient for extra power and added control, has improved ball bite for spin and slice, and is easy to install. Gamma tells us that Asterisk is for players of all ability levels, from NTRP 2.5 on up. Asterisk is available in 16 (1.30), 17 1.27), and Spin 16 (1.30) gauge in natural only. It is priced from $16 per set of 40 feet, and $144 for reels of 360 feet. For more information or to order, contact Gamma at 800-333-0337, or visit www.gammasports.com. Be sure to read the conclusion for more information about getting a free set to try for yourself. by 40 USRSA playtesters, with NTRP ratings from 3.0 to 6.0. These are blind tests, with playtesters receiving unmarked strings in unmarked packages. Average number of hours playtested was 32.1. Gamma claims easy installation for Asterisk, and it’s correct: This would be a great string to use in a speed stringing competition. It feels smooth and soft, so it floats through grommets and crosses EASE OF STRINGING
(compared to other strings) Number of testers who said it was: much easier 8 somewhat easier 18 about as easy 11 not quite as easy 3 not nearly as easy 0

glide across the mains, but we had no problem with blocked holes. No playtester broke his sample during stringing, one reported problems with coil memory, one reported problems tying knots, and two reported friction burn.

ON THE COURT
Our playtest team agreed that Gamma Asterisk is a comfortable string to use, ranking it seventh place overall out of the 113 strings we’ve playtested to date. Our playtesters also ranked Asterisk well above average for Playability, Power, Control, Touch/Feel, and Spin Potential, and above average for Durability. Five playtesters broke the sample during play, one each at .5, 5, 8, 9, and 16 hours.

OVERALL PLAYABILITY
(compared to string played most often) Number of testers who said it was: much better 0 somewhat better 12 about as playable 12 not quite as playable 12 not nearly as playable 3

IN THE LAB
We tested the 16-gauge Asterisk. The coil measured 40’ 2”. The diameter measured 1.29-1.32 mm prior to stringing, and 1.24-1.26 mm after stringing. We recorded a stringbed stiffness of 72 RDC units immediately after stringing at 60 pounds in a Wilson Pro Staff 6.1 95 (16 x 18 pattern) on a constant-pull machine. After 24 hours (no playing), stringbed stiffness measured 63 RDC units, representing a 13 percent tension loss. Our control string, Prince Synthetic Gut Original Gold 16, measured 78 RDC units immediately after stringing and 71 RDC units after 24 hours, representing a 9 percent tension loss. Asterisk added 14 grams to the weight of our unstrung frame. The string was tested for five weeks

OVERALL DURABILITY
(compared to other strings of similar gauge) Number of testers who said it was: much better 0 somewhat better 11 about as durable 20 not quite as durable 6 not nearly as durable 2

CONCLUSION
It has been a couple of years since we tested a string that was this easy to install. In fact, our playtest team’s rankings make Gamma Asterisk the secondeasiest string we’ve tested to date. This is especially significant considering how many positive comparisons our playtesters made of Asterisk’s playability versus natural gut. Bolstering this comparison is Asterisk’s high score in the Comfort category, accompanied by wellabove-average scores in other key categories. If you think that Gamma Asterisk might be for you, fill out the coupon to get a free set to try. —Greg Raven Q

RATING AVERAGES
From 1 to 5 (best) Playability Durability Power Control Comfort Touch/Feel Spin Potential Holding Tension Resistance to Movement 3.5 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.8 3.4 3.3 3.1 2.7

42 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY August 2007

TESTERS

TALK

This is an extremely comfortable string. Great touch, playability and power. This is a great comfort option for those without durability concerns. 5.5 male all-court player using Dunlop Aerogel 300 strung at 63 pounds LO (Nylon 16)

As a Kevlar user, I anticipated a mushy trampoline. This, however, turned out to be a very crisp, responsive string. The combination of comfort and control is very impressive. 5.0 male all-court player using Wilson nSix Two strung at 64 pounds LO (Ashaway Crossfire I 16)

This string notches early, but this minimizes string movement. The lack of tension loss surprises me to no end. The resilience and playability are, predictably, the most noticeable qualities. This would be the perfect compliment to a stiff polyester main. 4.5 male all-court player using Wilson nBlade strung at 60 pounds CP (Wilson NXT 16)

Big hitters and string breakers might want to hybrid this one. My heavy topspin strokes chewed through this string pretty quickly. 6.0 male using Wilson nSix-One Tour 90 strung at 53 pounds CP (Polyester 17)

“ “ “

This is a comfortable string with a high degree of control. Not quite as much spin as a poly, but adjustments are easily made. 4.0 male baseliner with heavy spin using Yonex RDS 003 strung at 55 pounds CP (Polyester/Nylon 16)

String movement starts early. Control is adequate, but the tension loss is significant and the spin potential is poor. 4.5 male all-court player using Wilson n4 OS strung at 50 pounds LO (Polyester 16)

This is a great string, ideal for doubles and all-court play. From heavy baseline exchanges to angled touch shots, this string has a wonderful all-around playability. Perhaps the best string I’ve tested. 5.5 male all-court player using Wilson Hyper Pro Staff 5.1 Surge strung at 60 pounds CP (Klip Screamer 17)

String movement is quite high. This is an arm friendly string with tons of control. The spin and comfort are there from the first hit to the last. This is recommended to those in search of a comfortable string with low power. 3.5 male serve-and-volleyer using Head Liquidmetal 5 strung at 56 pounds CP (Gamma Live Wire Professional 16)

This string does not reach out and grab you. It has tons of comfort, though, and appears to be quite durable. It would definitely add some comfort to a hybrid. 4.0 male all-court player using Prince Triple Threat Graphite MP strung at 62 pounds CP (Polyester/Natural Gut 16)

For the rest of the tester comments, USRSA members can visit www.racquetsportsindustry.com.

Gamma has generously offered to send a free set of the Asterisk 16 to the first 500 USRSA members who request it. Just cut out (or copy) this coupon and mail it to: USRSA, Attn: Gamma Asterisk 16 String Offer, 330 Main Street, Vista, CA 92084 or fax to 760-536-1171, or email the info below to stringsample@racquettech.com Offer expires 15 August 07 Offer only available to USRSA members in the US.

FREE PLAYTEST STRING PROGRAM

Name: USRSA Member number: Phone: Email:
If you print your email clearly, we will notify you when your sample will be sent.

August 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

43

ask
Q

the EXPERTS

Your Equipment Hotline
RACQUET REPAIR
AFTER 12 YEARS AND OVER 10,000 string jobs without running into this situation, I'm starting to see problems on oversized, thin-wall racquets, where the grommet barrels are forcing their way through the carbon fiber at the shoulders of the racquet, usually on the mains. I have contacted manufacturers to see if there are any known manufacturing defects, but I’m always told there isn't. In each case, the racquets have been replaced immediately. Do you have a way of repairing these racquets? return these damaged racquets to the manufacturer. At the very least, you get a replacement racquet, and it’s possible that your feedback will encourage them to reinforce this area or make some other design modification in future racquets.

MINIMIZING WASTED STRING

Q A

A

REPAIRING ANY DAMAGE to carbon fiber is going to be tricky — especially so in a tennis racquet because you can’t simply scrape away the finish, slather on a big, heavy patch, blend the edges with a little sandpaper, and expect the customer to thank you. Therefore, your best bet will be to

IS THERE AN EFFICIENT AND accurate way to measure how much string a given racquet will require so that there is a minimum amount of waste when using string from a reel? I look up the measurements in the Digest, but I still sometimes have several feet of string left over after completing the racquet. ALTHOUGH THE STRING LENGTHS in the Digest are meant to supply the information you are requesting, we have to take into account several factors when arriving at these measurements. There are different types of machines, which take different

lengths of “extra” string to reach the tension head, and different strings will have different elongation properties. This means that if we published lengths assuming that everyone was using a stretchy nylon string and a lock-out machine, anyone using those measurements for poly or aramid strings on a machine with a rotational tensioner would find themselves running short. Therefore, we try to publish measurements that will allow everyone to complete the job without running out of string. If you are consulting your Digest every time before stringing anyway, though, you could make notations based on experience that might help you get an additional racquet’s worth of string out of that reel.

CHANGING THE FLEX

Q

YOU HAVE ALL THESE ON-LINE tools and all this information about how to change the weight, balance, and swingweight of a racquet, but nothing

44 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY August 2007

about how to change the flex. What can I do to change the flex of my racquet?

A

different from his. Why does the lead tape feel so much better on his racquet than it does on mine?

THERE IS NO NON-DESTRUCTIVE way to change the flex of a racquet, aside from the small increase in flexibility that comes from stringing. That is, an unstrung racquet is stiffer than a strung racquet because the pull of the main strings augments any bending force applied to the racquet — either through flex testing or through impact with the ball.

A

THERE’S NO “ONE SIZE FITS ALL” amount of lead tape that works on every racquet. If your racquet is a different make and/or model, only by sheer luck would copying someone else’s modifications work the same way on your racquet. If the two racquets are the same make and model, there can still be large variances, depending on grip size, manufacturing tolerances, replacement and overgrip selec-

tion, string, tension, etc. In order to match racquets the way you are trying to do it, you need to know the weight, balance, and swingweight of each racquet, and then you’ll need to use the online tools at RacquetTECH.com to calculate where to apply the lead tape. Keep in mind that not every racquet can be matched to every other racquet, but if your racquet can be matched to the other racquet, merely copying the placement of lead tape you see on the other racquet is virtually guaranteed to result in failure. —Greg Raven Q

RELEASING CLAMPS

Q

I HAD A DISCUSSION WITH A couple other techs regarding the best way to lock and release the fixed clamps after tensioning each string. One told me that there is no difference in the order you lock and release the base of the clamp and upper part of it. The other tech said that the correct order is to unlock the base first and then the clamp, in order to avoid string slippage. Elsewhere, I read that the best way is to unlock the base and the upper part at the same time. What is the USRSA's position regarding this matter? THE USRSA HAS NO OFFICIAL position on this. All other things being equal, it makes no difference in terms of slippage. However, if you are releasing the clamp using only one hand (that is, when your other hand is doing something else), it makes more sense to release the base first and then the string clamp. One handed, if you release the string clamp first, you may have more trouble fully releasing the base clamp if it starts to rotate after you get it partially released. Note that this only applies to machines with dual-action fixed clamps.

A

COPY-CAT RACQUET MATCHING

Q

A FRIEND OF MINE HAD HIS cousin visit from out of town, and because my friend doesn’t play tennis, he asked if I would hit with his cousin. His cousin was really good, and I noticed that he had lead tape on his racquet. He let me hit with his racquet, and I really liked the way it felt. I looked where he put the lead tape, and copied it on my racquet the next day. Even with the identical amount and placement of lead tape, my racquet feels completely
August 2007 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY

45

Your Serve
Going the Distance
For this industry observer, the dedication of one longtime volunteer serves BY KRISTEN DALEY as an inspiration for all involved in tennis.

I

get paid for this in dollars, but I sure get f there’s one thing I dislike, it’s being shortpaid back in peoples’ gratitude,” she told sighted. For that reason, I’ve grabbed quickly me. “If I can help somebody, my living will and held onto the lesson that tennis can affect not be in vain. I love doing what I do.” the human condition not only in the physical For me, it calls to mind a quote from sense, but emotionally as well. I knew that tennis is one of the many ways that our society can stay Arthur Ashe, one that I used for my college entrance essay, by which I was greatactive and fit, but I’ve learned that the sport’s ly inspired but at the time didn’t realize effect can run even deeper. Tennis is a unifier would be so relevant just a few years and confidence booster, at times when people, later, when I saw it inscribed on a wall at especially the young, need it the most. the US Open on my first day of work as a That idea became especially real to me tennis writer. “From what we get, we can after talking with Dee Henry, the head make a living; what we give, however, coach of women’s tennis at Biola University makes a life,” Ashe said. Dee is a shining in La Mirada, Calif. Dee received the USTA example of the truth of this statement. Eve F. Kraft Community Service Award in Her use of the resources she has at Biola February, and for good reason. In her more to enhance the lives of others as a volunthan 25 years at the university, she has grown and improved the facility upon which teer when the school day, or year, ends should inspire others in the industry to do she was hired to coach, and invoking the adage “build it and they will come,” she has the same. Yes, making a living is important, espeshepherded scores of new players to the cially today when the cost of living can be tennis courts as one of Southern California disheartening. Yet so tennis’s most making life. While notable volun“I don’t get paid for this is may notabolster it teers. your bottom line, The accomin dollars, but I sure get imagine what affordplishments of the able, accessible, and paid back in peoples’ players she’s exciting tennis procoached in the gratitude,” says tennis grams could do to NJTL, Wheelchair bolster a young Tennis, Challenger coach and longtime child’s confidence and Tennis, and other happiness. Now, programs at Biola volunteer Dee Henry. are great. Players have gone through the programs to become high school and college players, nationally- and internationally-ranked tennis aces, Special Olympics medal winners, coaches, and teaching pros. Yet Dee (right) is modest about her role in the achievements, having in conversation chalked up her players’ successes to their own athleticism. Her tennis mission, she says, is “to provide opportunities and guidance to individuals as they pursue their tennis dreams.” It’s a noble mission, and just as inspiring is her attitude toward the hard work and dedication she’s expended for more than two decades. “I don’t

imagine the many potential outcomes of your extra time and work as a local tennis volunteer—among them the development of frequent players, future teaching pros, and even champions. As teaching professionals, facility managers, and others involved in this industry, many of you have at your disposal the courts, equipment, and know-how to run a successful tennis program. Even if it’s only an hour a week, any way that you could volunteer time and resources to foster a love of the game in a player will have a ripple effect, one that could reach hundreds or thousands of people in a lifetime. Take the time to think of how you can use your time, talent, and resources to help build the lives of the next generation of players. Be farsighted. It may not be your best source of revenue, but, like Dee, you’ll be paid in endless supplies of gratitude. Q

Kristen Daley is a contributing editor to Racquet Sports Industry magazine. She is also the associate editor of USTA Magazine.
We welcome your opinions. Please email comments to rsi@racquetTECH.com or fax them to 760-536-1171.

48 RACQUET SPORTS INDUSTRY August 2007