Hello everyone, my name is Adam Ford and I am the Co-Director of the Professional Tennis Management Program(PTM) here at Hope College. If you’re wondering what a Professional Tennis Management program is, it is a combination of academic coursework and practical experiences that prepare college students for a career in the tennis industry. Via accreditation through the United States Tennis Association (the governing body for tennis in the United States), ours is one of nine colleges in the entire country that offers this program. PTM students at Hope College can pick any major they want and add the PTM certificate via a specific Kinesiology minor while studying at Hope. Typically, PTM graduates have a 100% job placement rate due to a great demand for tennis-teaching professionals at clubs.

VandePoel-Heeringa Stadium Tennis Courts

 Every year, our other Co-Director, Jorge Capestany, runs the American Express Fan Experience court at the U.S. Open in New York City. In the past few years, Jorge has been allowed to bring his own supporting staff and tennis pros to assist him. Thus, many of our students have had the opportunity to teach at the U.S. Open, and participate in many other activities at this international tennis event.

A typical day of a PTM student begins when they arrive on-site around 10:30 a.m. They are given credentials when they first arrive, which allows them to get to just about anywhere on site. The professional matches begin at 11:00 a.m. However, there are six practice courts that are occupied all day by pros like Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Coco Gauff, and Novak Djokovic. If they are playing a match that day, they might not be on the practice courts. The practice courts are a great opportunity to get up close to the pros and potentially snag some autographs. At 1:00 p.m., Jorge and the PTM students teach their first class — a ten-and-under class. Any 10-year-old or younger at the Open may participate at the Fan Experience Court. This runs for about two hours, then there is a break from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. This allows the PTM students to watch some more professional tennis and also meet some very successful people in the tennis industry. Jorge and I try to set up a few of these short meetings for our students to show them all of the possible paths they can take to find their dream career in the tennis industry. Then they are back on the court at 5:00 p.m. to teach an adult tennis group for one more hour. Teaching at the U.S. Open can be a nerve-racking thing, but our students handled it well. After all their time on the court, the students are free to roam the grounds and view some more tennis.

American Express Fan Experience court

One of our senior PTM students, Amanda Bandrowski, was kind enough to share her very own experience with us:

         “My Uber driver dropped me off near the U.S. Open grounds, and the first thing I see is the massive globe. This globe reaches 140 feet high, 120 feet in diameter, and is surrounded by a large fountain. It stands there, overlooking the U.S. Open and the rest of Queens as a subtle tip of the hat to the 1964 World’s Fair, whose grounds were transformed into the very place I was standing. As I look past the globe, I see it, the historic epicenter of American Tennis: Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. My dreams of being at the U.S. Open had finally come true.

Through the front entrance, I walked through the court of champions, which is a courtyard-like area depicting all the greatest players who earned the title most dream of: champion. From Serena and Venus Williams to Jimmy Connors, this open area outlines the past, while making room for the future.

I entered before the general public was allowed in because of my credentials. I took this opportunity to take in the setting and explore. A beautiful fountain sprawled in front of Arthur Ashe Stadium, Arthur Ashe being the first African American to win the U.S. Open. It is the main court at the Open, seating 23,771. Looking around and seeing the different paths that led all over the grounds, I was elated that I finally made it. I meandered all over the grounds, trying to see as much as I could before the masses filled the space. I eventually found myself watching some of the professionals in the tournament warm-up. Now, in tennis, their warming up is almost as impressive as watching them play. The main difference is that you get to see more action in practice than in play, taking in the precision and athleticism only found in elite athletes.

Once people started gathering, I made my way to the American Express Fan Experience Court. This was the technical reason for my adventure, but in truth, it was more of a catalyst. I met up with the other people from Hope College who I was working with. Jorge gave us the lowdown on what to expect.”

American Express Fan Experience court

“The actual work was not much different than working at the Dewitt Tennis Center, back at Hope. Tennis is tennis, and at this point, I have learned how to work with all ages from kids to adults. With the adults, we did classic drills that Jorge devised early in his teaching career.  With the young kids, we worked on easy skills that led to quick success. The work was both tiring and gratifying, as teaching always is.”

In addition to the opportunities for our students at the U.S. Open, Jorge and I also take them on a trip to the United States Tennis Association National Campus in Orlando, Florida. The USTA National Campus is a 110 tennis court facility that USTA calls the “Home of American Tennis”. This trip is a bit more informal, with a lot of “meet and greet” opportunities with very important people in the tennis industry. Also, our students to hit/play on both the hard and clay courts found at the National Campus. This is a unique opportunity since clay courts are rare in the midwest.

Amanda at the United States Tennis Association National Tennis Campus in Orlando, Florida

While we were on our last visit to the National Campus, our PTM students met a woman named Kathy Woods, who is the Director of Tennis. It was through this meeting that Amanda was able to obtain a summer internship at the National Campus. Amanda remembers:

“Talking with Kathy Woods was a real treat because I had fantasies of working at the United States Tennis Association National Tennis Campus in Orlando Florida. It was because of the Hope College Professional Tennis Management (PTM) that this opportunity presented itself. PTM has opened so many doors for me that my problem has been picking which ones to go through. No matter the roads I take, I know that PTM has prepared me for the demands of the tennis world, and I am excited to get started.”

               Two years ago, the PTM program at Hope College didn’t exist. Now, we have eight students and we are growing fast. We are excited about the future for both our students and our program. If you want to receive more information, feel free to contact me at ford@hope.edu.

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