What makes a successful Tennis Academy? Part 1 – What do you want and what do you need?

Updated: May 21

We’re all hustling to make a living, especially in an uncertain global economy. But doing it with passion means you are making a life instead of just a living. We’ve all seen that it’s a person’s passion for what they do that most often leads to success. This is true in all walks of life, and being a Tennis coach is no different.

So what does a successful coach look like? I guess it all depends on the way you look at life and what you value as important to you. Words like “a great coach” or “a much-loved coach” or “a happy coach” comes to mind. What is your definition of the above? And how would you measure if you have achieved it?

If you choose to be “a happy coach” you could end up also being a “much-loved coach” with many students, which in turn makes you a successful coach. Or you could be called “a great coach” because of your technical abilities, but without being loved by your players, which could or could not make you happy – although outwardly successful… So, ultimately I believe that your definition of what kind of Tennis Coach you want to be will greatly influence your vision and strategy for your Tennis Academy.

Remember ultimately your academy remains a business and all businesses need to be managed effectively with a vision, strategy, and action plan to achieve your plans.

Over the next few blogs, we will discuss various traits of running a business with particular reference to a professional Tennis Coach running his/her own tennis academy. We have broken the blog down into the following discussion points:

  • Principles of a successful business

  • Develop a vision, mission, and strategy for your Academy

  • How to market your service by “being your brand”

  • Be innovative - equipment and training gear

  • The characteristics and profile of a successful coach

I’m hoping that our blog might help you to better strategise and run a successful academy/business, be a happy coach with happy kids! Maybe you are there already, but it’s always good to re-evaluate where you are and where you want to be.

Let’s discuss the principles of a successful business and ask ourselves - How well do I know my business?

The Business Development Bank of Canada did a study on why some business es are more successful than others, and came up with a list of 5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts. I like this because it is something that you can easily refer to and use as a simple guide.

The research stated that – “a statistical correlation was found between the success of a business and these five do’s.”

· Do #1: Innovate.

· Do #2: Ask for outside advice.

· Do #3: Have a solid plan and measure your progress.

· Do #4: Hire the best and keep them engaged.

· Do #5: Build strong relationships with your key suppliers.

Their research further indicated the following five common don’ts:

· Don’t #1: Don’t rely on too few customers—diversify.

· Don’t #2: Don’t underestimate the importance of effective financial management.

· Don’t #3: Don’t leave contingency planning until it’s too late.

· Don’t #4: Don’t ignore what’s happening in your market.

· Don’t #5: Don’t wait too long to get help.

The Bank’s research tied in very well with other research which revealed innovation to be the single most important factor for business success. Although the business landscape is constantly changing, the need to innovate has remained a constant.

At this point you must ask yourself a few serious questions about your business to tackle the 5 Do’s and 5 Don’ts, so back to the question - How well do I know my business?


Back to our 5 Do’s…


Do #1 –Be innovative - Sit down and rethink what you are doing and ask yourself what you can do differently. According to the DBC the most successful businesses do the following:

- They offer new products and services more often

- They adopt new technology quicker

- They acknowledge that innovative practices are especially important to their business’ success

Do #2 - Ask for outside advice – It has been proven that people who ask for advice do better, so try and apply this to your business.

Do #3 - Have a solid plan and measure your progress – Do you have a business plan? How often do you revisit your plan and how do you measure yourself against your objectives? We’ll spend next month’s Blog on this important point.

Do #4 - Hire the best and keep them engaged—it takes more than money – Do you have the best staff working for you? Remember even if you are the best, your business is ultimately defined by the weakest link! Select them well, treat them well and evaluate them often to set standards.

Do #5: Build strong relationships with your key suppliers – I know we think this is not really applicable to our industry and the focus should be more customer focused, and I agree, but think who your suppliers are and try and improve your relationship with them. Who do you rent your courts from, where do I get my balls from, who supplies the best equipment etc.?

Now for the 5 Don’ts…

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Don’t #1: Don’t rely on too few customers—diversify – Never put all your eggs into one basket. Re-evaluate your business and make sure you are not in this position.

Don’t #2: Don’t underestimate the importance of effective financial management – Effective financial management means 2 things – 1) the right knowledge and 2) the right tools. Make sure you pay on time and get paid on time! Make sure your Financial plan and goals aligns with your overall business plan and measure it regularly.

Don’t #3: Don’t leave contingency planning until it’s too late – This point is probably the most relevant issue in times like these. Who would have expected a Lock Down of this proportion or could have planned for something like this? Many businesses will go under but those with contingency plans and the will to adapt will have a better chance at survival. Think what could go wrong in your business and try to plan for this – Embrace Business continuity!

Don’t #4: Don’t ignore what’s happening in your market – Know the market you are in and constantly ask yourself what has changed, what could change or what can you change (innovation). This is a business killer!

Don’t #5: Don’t wait too long to get help – If you need help, get it as quickly as possible. Research again indicated that the longer you wait the less chance you have to recover. Make this applicable to every aspect of your business.

Next month we will discuss the importance of a Vision, a Mission, a Strategy, a Business Plan and most importantly the action plan to make it happen. Keep on coaching and enjoy life one tennis shot at a time.

It is worthwhile to do the following Business health check. Just read through the questions and rate yourself informally on how you are doing: click here - page 2 and 3 and review guidelines on page 4

Remember this is a general business health check but it will assist in showing you where your business might need some attention.








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About the Author - Juan-Philip van Antwerpen has been playing tennis since he was 7, and played tennis for Gauteng province for 10 years. Received a Tennis scholarship at the Davenport University in Michigan USA and played for them for 4 years. He was appointed as the assistant Tennis coach for this respected University whilst studying his MBA which he achieved in 2019. Currently living in Kalamazoo, Michigan USA still enjoying his tennis.





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