How We Started The PTU Program
By: Scott Colebourne
“Procrastination is the grave in which opportunity is buried”
As the heavy snow of winter in Vermont started to pile up outside, I could also sense my daily procrastination piling up. I worried that it could soon bury my dreams of the following summer. At that moment I made two unbreakable commitments and the TPA program was forced upon me. Now I had 6 months to figure it all out!
It’s been my experience in life and in small business that sometimes the best way to get something done is to commit and then figure it out. That was certainly the case with the Tennis Professional Advancement (TPA) program, which went on to become Professional Tennis U (PTU). When the TPA program vision began, I had just finished my third summer as Director of Tennis at Stratton Mountain Resort in Vermont. I loved summer there, and I had some amazing camp counsellors work with me. I spent a lot of time helping them become better coaches, however at the end of every summer they would head back to college, move back home, or to other positions. I really wanted the coaches that had invested their time to be able to continue working with CDT, so that winter I said I’m doing it and I offered two young pros from abroad an opportunity to come to the USA and work. With that commitment in place now there was no turning back on the program.
Once we had the commitments there were many details to work out, such as where would they live, where would they go when the upcoming summer ended, and more importantly how would I train them?
Fear is a great motivator and having made the commitment with two pros for them to come from abroad I was very fearful it wouldn’t work out. Especially as they couldn’t just drive back home at the end of the summer. That winter I worked feverishly on the program and the many details that you need to consider when creating a training program and bringing in new international staff. I wanted to make sure the new pros were treated like family. By March I was feeling ready, then all of a sudden, the rug was pulled from under me, sort of.
I was offered the position of Director of Tennis at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation, a mere 1500 miles away from Vermont. The move to Amelia Island was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, however it did mean an extremely busy spring and first summer with no time for working on the TPA program.
The phone calls to the two incoming TPA pros went a little like this, “Hi, so, I won’t actually be in Vermont this summer when you get there, but I do have a place for you to go in the fall now.” Whilst I was sweating through my first summer in Florida the TPA pros were having a great time in Vermont, it just wasn’t with me training them as I had hoped. Fortunately, the director that replaced me is one of the nicest, most professional directors ever and did an amazing job of looking out for them and treating them like family.
When the summer ended and the TPA’s moved down to Florida there was more logistics to work out, housing to find, transport to arrange, and on and on it felt like. Fortunately for me, I had been recently joined at the club by an amazing coach and person Sal Barbaro. Together with the TPA pros we were diving headfirst into the challenging scenario of trying to revive a resort program with no resort (construction) and a dwindling player base. A valuable lesson I learnt from that period is that a strong team culture can be created when individuals go through shared struggles and adversity. For the four of us living in a new location going through daily professional challenges together, we all became closer and better for that experience.
As I look back on that first year of the TPA program I am amazed that the lessons of making commitments, fear setting, and building culture through adversity are principles I still live by today.
The TPA has become the PTU, we’ve seen many changes and we’ve had many pros come and go over the nine years. However, the commitment to trying to treat people like family is still there and those two first TPA’s now have families of their own and are the next generation of leaders.