Originally Published: August 7, 2017 11 p.m.
Guess you’re getting older when you make a statement that you miss the “good old days.” You know, back in the day when kids still walked to school and rode their bikes to get around. You knew your neighbors, you ate family meals together fairly often and everything wasn’t completely organized for you.
As far as the world of tennis goes, if you wanted to run a program you touched base with the parks and recreation director (if there was one), put up posters — maybe flyers in an enclosed plastic box to grab with directions on the details and how to sign up, and you were off and running.
It didn’t hurt if your local sports editor would run a blurb to help you out as well.
In today’s world it’s a bit different. You better be a certified instructor to start with, even if you’ve worked in the business for years.
Want to run a program? First submit your credentials for approval. Your application might go through the following channels. Human resources, dean, athletic director, local tennis association board, facilities rental director - and if approved you’ll need an insurance policy of one million dollars with a rider naming the facility, contracts signed and then documentation of who has signed up and for what amount of money.
Now you can start promoting your program.
In the old days in a small city or town, if the public tennis facility needed a facelift (and money was almost always an issue) or some work done, once again you talked with the parks director or athletic director told them what you’d like to do to help the facility and most always they gave approval to go ahead.
You got your group of volunteers, donated or raised a little money for supplies, and filled the cracks, built a shed, patio or sidewalk with pavers - shoveled the snow off the shaded areas of the courts, put railroad ties down to divert water and mud from coming inside the fence lines, trimmed trees and took care of the grounds....just to help the cause.
You and your group cared enough to help take care of your own public facility - within reason.
Fast forward to 2017 and it’s not the same world. Red tape and levels of bureaucracy might make you pull your hair out.
The courts get locked up because of liability when it snows a bit or mud gets on the courts. The chain of command to even talk with the right person is a job within itself to get straight.
The dean/superintendent, principal/athletic director, facilities director, construction manager, their assistant, the safety, risk manager and then maybe the grounds and landscaping manger.
Personally I’m a firm believer in safety, small user-fees to help maintain recreation facilities, reservation systems, programs that really utilize these expensive facilities - but man, in my opinion there is some real overkill in how many people are involved in making what seems like easy decisions that can be dragged out until no one even cares any more. It’s demoralizing, and that’s a sad state of affairs.
Public entities are worried about being sued - that’s our society it seems today. Some better laws should be passed where people who use public recreational facilities have to take on their own responsibility for the possibility of paying attention to the weather conditions and their actions of playing when maybe they shouldn’t.
There should be times when a group of volunteer people can help maintain recreational facilities - if they’re trained properly? It would save money and give pride of ownership to the community. Both are important.
Whatever happened to the “good old days?”
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.